Phil Hardberger Park: A Picture-Perfect Urban Wilderness

A young family smiles and hugs in a glowing sunrise at Phil Hardberger Park.

As a photographer, I’ve spent a lot of time in some of our city’s prettiest parks. And I’m frequently surprised by the number of families who have never been to many of these spots. So I thought I’d share some info – and beautiful pictures – from some of my favorites. You can find links to more down at the bottom but for today: Hardberger Park.

Phil Hardberger Park – A Photographer Favorite

I’m not going to go into too much detail all about the park – it’s huge, offers a ton, and others have already covered it better! You should definitely go learn more about all this lovely spot has to offer – trails, a dog park, playgrounds, and ecology center, and an incredibly cool land bridge. But I’ll give you some basics as they pertain to doing photographs here.

Hardberger East vs Hardberger West

If you plug Hardberger Park into your maps, you’ll see a few different entrances. Again, this park is really large – 330 acres – and has a whole highway that runs through it. But the most common spot for photographers to visit is west entrance at 8400 NW Military. When you turn off the highway you’ll continue straight back through the stop sign until you see the ecology center. You can park for free here. There’s a little boardwalk off of the center, some different trailheads, and a field out to the left. You can find picturesque spots all over the place, but that field and the paths that wind their way around it are the most popular spots.

Hardberger Photography Tips

Phil Hardberger Park is really popular with photographers. To the point that I honestly just avoid it on weekends when I can. Luckily it is a big space and there are no shortage of your own private pockets to shoot in. But it can be a real turnoff to show up and have 10 other photographers in sight on a fall weekend. I highly recommend weekdays at Hardberger, and showing up for sunrise is the best. My two favorite shoots ever at Hardberger were morning sessions.

Hardberger is going to look different at different seasons (obviously) and you get different angles with morning light vs evening light. But this is definitely a location that is beautiful year-round and all day long.

It also has free entrance, free parking, bathrooms, and no photography permit required. But have common sense and keep nature natural – it is so frustrating to find confetti and other evidence of photoshoots left behind. Practices like that contribute to popular parks instituting expensive shooting permits to help keep their locations from being overrun, and I don’t blame them!


Would you like pictures taken at Hardberger Park? Reach out through the contract form on my site and I’d love to chat with you! Or go check out some other great San Antonio spots in my location series:

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