No shortage of outdoor activities in Waco | waco today

Cameron Park has miles of hiking and biking trails to enjoy. Mountain bikers Brett Swartz (left) and Matt Monroy ride the Ranch course at Cameron Park. Photo by Jerry Larson.

One of the few positive aspects of the pandemic is that it has created an even bigger boom in local outdoor activities, according to Jonathan Cook, the city’s director of parks and recreation.

“When COVID-19 arrived, we saw a lot of people looking for outdoor activities, and that became a snowball effect with our parks,” Cook said. “Combine that with the growth of the town and the way our community takes great pride in it, it leads to greater use of the park, especially in our registrations for softball and other programs.

“We’re surpassing our pre-pandemic numbers primarily because Waco is a city that loves its parks and the outdoors, whether it’s biking, hiking or playing sports.”

Several of the city’s walking trails have an added ride with QR Fit stations that offer workouts via a QR code accessible by a person’s cell phone.

“These stations are a collaborative project with funding from the McLennan County Public Health District, placing signs in many of our neighborhood parks with walking paths using phone codes to display different workout videos,” Cook explained. . “Our data indicates many people are reading signs with phones, taking our parks to the next level as another community benefit.”

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The City of Waco has implemented several QR Fit road signs that have a QR code that smartphones can unlock to provide workout videos. Photo by Rod Aydelotte.

Plans are also in place for a citywide Master Trails program to improve local hiking and biking and connect key areas and attractions, starting with a $2.8 million East Waco trail next three miles from the old Missouri-Kansas-Texas railroad bed.

“We want to provide a gateway to future activities and local transportation by meeting community needs,” adds Cook. “Over the next five years, we will continue to improve our park system, adding one near China Spring and another elsewhere with five more park renovations, primarily in South and West Waco. As the city grows, we want to grow with it and give more people access to parks.

The city has a “crown jewel” for outdoor activities, namely Cameron Park on the Brazos River, with its challenging Jacob’s Ladder Steps, miles of hiking and biking trails, and trails of disc golf.

Greater Waco Sports Commission executive director Mike Vogelaar said Cameron Park is truly special.

“Waco has a competitive advantage over most cities with a downtown river through the second largest downtown park in the United States behind Central Park in New York City,” he says. “From my perspective, we want to drive local economic impact by making better use of Cameron Park to attract even more people from across the country and around the world. We had competitors from 29 different countries in our recent Ironman alone.

leg work

Of the many trail users at Cameron Park, runners are near the top, especially the Waco Striders. The non-profit organization, established in the 1970s, is committed to the health and well-being of its members and focused on sharing its love of running with all walks of life and fitness levels physical.

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A jogger and cyclist pass the ‘Wise Elephant’ sculpture, located along the Brazos River near the entrance to Cameron Park. Photo by Rod Aydelotte.

Its members range from Boston Marathon qualifiers to walkers like President Jason Coffee, who used to run before back and knee problems forced him to slow down. The Striders hold an annual fundraiser to buy bikes for Christmas and provide scholarships to various high school students.

The club also hosts an annual trail running series, the Huaco Cuatro, consisting of four trail runs of varying lengths and courses. It meets on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays for collective races with direction of the course and water. It also offers a half-marathon training program to prepare for upcoming races, as well as monthly mileage tracking.

“We hope to use our passion for running to build lasting friendships, encourage each other, improve ourselves and improve our community,” says Coffee. “Our annual membership, which includes all members of the household, is only $25 and helps us maintain RRCA (Road Runners Club of America) insurance and provide ice, water, mugs, etc. for our group runs, as well as any social events we hold.”

More information can be found at or on Facebook.

The Waco Bicycle Club promotes cycling for all ages and skill levels with weekly rides of varying lengths.

Members include organizers of organized long rides in the area, triathletes, competitive cyclists and supportive family members

Group information is at

Mountain biking is also popular on the hills of Cameron Park, with the XTERRA race series scheduled for June 2022. Cameron Park Ranch is a 66-acre terrain that attracts mountain bikers from across the state to experience its hills and ramps .

On the water

The park’s 20 miles of hiking and biking trails plus river kayaking, paddleboarding, and canoeing in Les Brazos make it a true outdoor paradise with plenty of opportunities and more on the horizon.

Although Waco Paddle Company and Pura Vida Paddle are both closed for the spring, Pura Vida has added a store at 3332 Franklin Ave. open from noon to 6 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday. Owner Erin Ward said she plans to open a second paddle site at Woodway Park in 2022.

Another local exercise option is rowing. This is usually associated with Ivy League schools, but there are hopes of changing that in Central Texas.

“I think the next big thing that Waco can be known for is rowing because our river has 5,000 yards of straight water, unheard of in the rowing community, so we need to invest in a shed to premium rowing boats to attract more trade and bring people to compete. here from all over the United States and around the world,” says Vogelaar, the head of the Greater Waco Sports Commission. “As the rivers freeze over in winter in the north, no one can row there, so teams would kill for a chance to compete between December and late January and come here for six to 13 days to train.”

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The Brazos River has been a popular draw for rowers, including this group from China who were training in 2019 for the 2020 Summer Olympics. Photo by Rod Aydelotte.

He also sees rowing’s potential to reach not just elite competitors, but also area adults and students, like Waco Rowing Club manager Matt Scheuritzel.

“Ultimately, our club intends to send a dozen male and female athletes from all local school districts to top American universities through rowing scholarships,” Scheuritzel said. “Our goal is that over the next year, the citizens of Waco will watch their own young people row and compete along the Brazos along with elite rowers from universities across the country and current and aspiring Olympians. “

He encourages adults with rowing experience or anyone wishing to learn the sport to come and try it out.

“We have memberships available and have ordered top-flight equipment and boats from one of the world’s top boat builders, Hudson Boatworks,” he said.

Waco Rowing Club can be found on Facebook.

Much more

If running, biking and water sports aren’t enough, there’s always a place for outdoor yoga, horseshoes at Brazos Park East, disc golf at five local courses and even archery. the bow.

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Waco has hosted professional disc golf competitions that have drawn crowds to Brazos Park East. Photo by Jerry Larson.

The Waco Disc Golf Association recently installed three nine-hole courses at Dewey Park, Amsler Park in McGregor and the new Trailblazer Park on the Cotton Belt Trail. The Brazos Parks East course will host a professional competition from March 11-13. At this event, more than 80,000 professional members will play on 9,000 courses around the world. ESPN will air some of the disc golf, according to course coordinator Joey Harrell.

The Huaco Bowmen Archery Club grounds are off Park Lake Drive in Cameron Park with 28 course targets in the field and 10 practice targets with distances from 10 to 80 yards.

Membership costs $35 per year for individuals and $50 per family. The club offers 3D foam animal shoots for all ages from January to October. Information can be found on Facebook.

If you’re looking for a little exercise or a full outdoor workout, there’s no shortage of options around Waco.