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People hike to gain perspective, but in San Antonio, that’s typically a metaphor. The trails here are often flanked by walls of brush blocking all vistas.
It might not be the biggest park or have the most challenging trails, but the wide-angle views at the top put the City’s Comanche Lookout Park in league with some trails in bigger and wilder parks, such as Government Canyon State Natural Area. In all, the 96-acre park offers 2.3 miles of mixed-surface trails.
Comanche Loop, Library Loop, and the Tower Trail are the main trails. The mile-long Comanche Loop transitions among paved trail, asphalt, and gravel. The 0.86-mile Library Loop connects the hill to Semmes Library, which offers an amphitheater, playground, port-a-potty, and drinking fountain near the trailhead. The Nacogdoches Road trailhead also has a port-a-potty.
Most of the trails follow corridors shaded by oak, Ashe juniper, mesquite, mountain laurel, and other native trees. The park has few of the invasive Ligustrum or chinaberry trees that grow rampantly in some areas. Numerous dirt paths branch off through the trees and connect the main trails.
The roughly half-mile Tower Loop takes you from Comanche Loop to the roughly 30-foot castle-style tower made of rock and mortar. Most of that trail is paved or asphalt and wheelchair-accessible. After scaling the hill, the trail continues past the stone tower and loops around the rim of the hill, passing under stands of 20-foot oak trees.
In Bexar County, where thick tree canopies, steep hills, and development often block views, it can be difficult to gain perspective from a high elevation. But from the top of Comanche Lookout, visitors can see the Tower of the Americas, the valley cut through by Cibolo Creek, and the rolling horizon of the southern edge of the Hill Country.
This is a place where you can, for a second, imagine this terrain before it was full of neighborhoods and businesses. Native Americans could easily have used the 1034-foot hill as a strategic vantage point against other groups and the wild game would have grazed the grasslands sloping down to Cibolo Creek.
Later, the frontier found its way to the area and left behind its remnants according to an interpretive sign at the park developed as an Eagle Scout project by a young man named Prakash Phillip.
El Camino Real de los Tejas, the 18th-century Spanish route that connected the Rio Grande to what is now Natchitoches, Louisiana, passes by the base of the hill. Spanish soldiers stationed at the presidio in the village used the hill as a lookout for Comanche.
The tower didn’t come until the 20th century, however. A retired Army colonel named Edward Coppock, after purchasing the land in 1923, set about building a medieval-style castle on the property. He died in 1948, leaving the project unfinished. The City purchased the property in 1994.
Aside from Coppock’s tower, at least six or seven picnic tables, benches, and drinking fountains are scattered around the hilltop. If I ever have large group I want to take on a picnic with a view in San Antonio, I’ll probably take them to Comanche Lookout.