Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve
Mayfield Park’s colorful gardens, towering palm trees, brilliant peacocks, and delicate water lilies lift visitors’ spirits. In a historic setting, an 1870s cottage blends beautifully with ponds and gardens.
Where else around town are you going to see peacocks strutting their stuff alongside newly engaged couples or ladies in gorgeous white wedding gowns?
Mayfield Park includes “2 acres of colorful cottage gardens with towering palm trees, brilliant peacocks and delicate water lilies, all blending in beautiful harmony, as well as 21 acres of nature preserve, walking trails and wildlife habitat.” The description makes it sound like an idyllic place where the likes of Monet would have gone to paint, and that is not too far off the mark. Even with the toasty hot and dry summer that we had, the grounds were still beautiful, and I bet that it is even spiffier after the recent rains.
The Mayfield facility is centered on a home that once belonged to Allison Mayfield. Mr. Mayfield bequeathed the house to his adored daughter, Mary Frances, and her husband, Milton Gutsch. The exterior of the cottage has been restored to historical accuracy. The Mayfield-Gutschs added many lovely touches to the property, such as exterior rock walls, lovely gardens, and ponds shaped like flowers in the center of the property. In addition to the lovely developments, the pair is responsible for the beloved peacocks who now live on the property. When Mary Frances died in 1971, the house and property were given to the city to be used as a park.
The cottages and gardens are enclosed behind a gated stone wall like The Secret Garden, and the place may be reserved for private use so it is not always available to the public. The walking trails are mostly to the right of the parking lot, away from the garden area, and those are accessible at all times.
This is not a playground type park but more of an outdoor meditative space. Because so many photographers utilize the cottages and gardens as backdrops for their photo shoots, I would say that it is best not to bring your kids into the gardens at Mayfield Park if they are in a particularly unruly mood that day. Hit up the Zilker Botanical Gardens instead. The Mayfield gardens have several water ponds that require walking across small stepping stones which add nice artistic touches, but again for young uncoordinated kids who like to adventure on their own, supervision is required.
If you are able to come here and have the gardens to yourself, there are interesting textures (plants, buildings) that would make gorgeous holiday photo backdrops. Just call ahead to the Austin parks department to find out if the grounds have been reserved if you plan to photograph within the stone walls.
Hiking at Mayfield Park & Preserve
We did not make it on the trails this last visit. The last time that I walked them (years ago), it was a wonderful place to study native plants and wildlife.
To begin your hike at Mayfield, locate the picnic tables outside the main entrance to the gardens and proceed to the right — the trail will be visible next to the Mayfield Park and Preserve welcome sign. Peahens and peacocks are frequently seen dusting themselves here in the morning.
This hike is suitable for small children. The trail, however, is not suitable for strollers. The trails are littered with roots and large rocks, as well as mud and, in some places, stairs. If you believe your child will be eager to explore the creek, bring a towel to keep in the car for the ride home.
On the way out of Mayfield Park, you might want to stop by Mt. Bonnell as well and catch the view or visit Laguna Gloria (art museum). Both are but a stone’s throw away.
Hours: open on a daily basis and closed between 10 PM and 5 AM
Mayfield Park, Gardens, and Cottage
Mayfield Nature Preserve
3505 West 35th Street
Austin, TX 78703