As I mentioned in my last two posts, here and here, the JJ family spent the Labor Day weekend in Austin. One of the places we visited was Mount Bonnell. Situated at an elevation of 775 feet above mean sea level, this promontory is one of Austin’s most popular spots. Overlooking the Lake Austin portion of the Colorado River, this limestone promontory has some fantastic views. After a hot afternoon spent at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, we took a break at the Fairmont and then set out to catch the sunset from Mount Bonnell.
According to the marker at the mount’s foot, the eponymous George W. Bonnell came to fight for Texas independence. He was the commissioner for Indian affairs under President Sam Houston and published “the Texas Sentinel” after moving to Austin. In 1839, a frontiersman, WAA “Bigfoot” Wallace, killed an Indian he came face to face while crossing a narrow ledge 50 feet above the river. He took refuge in a Mount Bonnell while recovering from some diarrheal disease. In the mid-1800s, the Mormons built a mill at the foot of Mount Bonnell on the Colorado River, which was washed away by floods, forcing the Mormons to move west. In the 1850s and 1860s, the mount was a popular site for picnics and outings. In 1898, Miss Hazel Keyes slid down a cable stretched between Mount Bonnell and the lake’s south banks.
Another marker records the origin of Covert Park. Mount Bonnell was part of a 54-acre tract of land owned by Austin pioneer and businessman, FM Covert, Sr. In 1934, negotiations began to give the summit of Mount Bonnell to the citizenry of Travis County. After his death, his children completed these negotiations, and this portion of Mount Bonnell is called Covert Park in his honor.
At the time of our visit, there were several cars parked on both sides of the road on a late Sunday evening. Fortunately, as we patiently drove on, we were able to locate an open spot. Although busy, few people were climbing with us, and many more were going down. There are 106 steps to reach the top of the mount. There is a railing along the middle for those who need support. It took us just a few minutes to the summit. There is an arbor at the top from where the views are fantastic. But the area was beginning to get crowded, so we moved away after a few minutes. To the left of the arbor, facing the lake, there was a small area with great views of downtown Austin in the distance.
We walked away from this central area following the rough trail that slowly descends to the arbor’s right. There were several viewpoints along this trail. But most were occupied by families or friends, many with beverages, food, and a picnic blanket, all set to enjoy fresh air, food, and conversation while awaiting a glorious sunset. We stopped at several places to enjoy the river’s views, admire the homes on either bank and revel in the setting’s beauty. We walked to the end of the trail, where hardly anyone hung out and watched the sunset while capturing photos. The track meets the parking lot area and is an alternate route to the summit for those who do not wish to climb the stairs.
I hope to be able to visit Mount Bonnell to enjoy a rising sun. But for now, I am happy to share photos of a sunset visit!