Austin is a great example of a city that balances urban life with natural landscapes, offering beautiful hiking opportunities to city dwellers. Locals have access to great running trails and visitors can see some of Texas Hill Country’s natural beauty from the comfort of Austin! The Colorado river feeds Austin and has been dammed in two places to create Lake Austin and Lady Bird Lake, a popular kayaking and rowing destination! Read more to see some of the best hikes to escape outdoors in Austin parks this Summer.
Hiking Tips – Be prepared, and know your limits.
Hiking is a popular pastime for a reason—it’s more accessible than other outdoor sports, it can take you out into the most beautiful parts of nature, and it’s, of course, a great way of staying fit and healthy. No matter where you plan to hike or the difficulty of the trail, there are basic guidelines you should follow so you can be best prepared to hit the trailhead. Here are some suggestions before you leave for your hike in Austin:
Pack extra water
First and foremost, always pack water! Carrying a 32 oz Nalgene bottle is the best way to stay hydrated during a long day in nature. Some trails have water sources—just be sure to always filter your water if you choose to draw from them.
Always bring snacks
Throw some small, handheld snacks in your backpack for a surefire way to stay energized on your hike. Whether it’s a granola bar or a bag of carrots, you should bring something light to keep you going. You may not need snacks if you’re exploring a shorter trail, but for treks longer than 2 miles, it’s smart to have a stash of something healthy to fall back on in case you get hungry.
Don’t be in a rush to get to the end of your trail! Hiking can be taxing on your body, and a quick 5-minute break can be a great chance to hydrate, stretch, and have a quick snack.
Carry in–Carry out
The items that you take with you on a hike should leave with you when you reach your car to head home. Any trash that you leave behind adds up, especially in a place like Austin, which gets millions of visitors every year. Don’t add to the problem; in fact, bonus points if you pick up trash on the trail!
Wear the proper footwear and sun protection
You don’t need pricy ankle-protection hiking boots, but supportive shoewear makes all the difference when it comes to traversing through Austin’s terrain. If you don’t have hiking boots, tennis shoes or hiking sandals like Chacos are great options as well. Sun protection is another must: wear sunscreen, a hat, and shades whenever possible!
Have a plan, share your plan
An important part of being prepared for a hike is knowing where you are going and what challenges you may face. If you’re going on a hike, it’s smart to share your plans with others before you go. Let them know where you’re going, when you plan to hike, and when you expect to be in contact again.
Hiking in Austin
One of Austin’s most unique qualities is the opportunity for locals and visitors to start their day downtown and spend the rest of their day forest bathing under massive oaks. There are only a handful of urban environments in the US that allow for such easy outdoor escape and Austin is one of the top. Check out our listing of vacation homes in Austin and our list of convenient trails nearby!
This 5.1-acre mountain park isn’t strictly a hiking trail, but it will give you a decent walk by the time you get to the top of Mount Bonnel. Take the stairs to access several viewpoints of Austin and the Colorado River! This popular date spot has a limestone pavilion sitting at 775 ft of elevation gain.
Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve
Mayfield Park is a beautiful spot for a stroll on the edge of Austin proper. This is a popular spot for small weddings around the historic cottages and gardens where peacocks free-roam. The nature preserve beyond has 3 easy walking trails among 21 acres. All 3 trails are less than a mile long but are not paved. This nature preserve is a popular spot for birding, so keep an eye out on your way to Lookout Point to see the river!
Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
The Ann and Roy Butler trail follows Lady Bird Lake for 10 miles. This urban trail has a crushed granite path and boardwalk over the water that also leads to Zilker Park. Take your dog with you and let them wade in the river when you get to Auditorium Shores on the other end of the trail!
Blunn Creek Preserve
Blunn Creek Preserve is a beautiful stretch of land in South Austin. Follow the Blunn Creek Greenbelt Trail for an easy 1-mile loop around the preserve. This trail can get rugged but is mostly shaded while you traverse rocky terrain and a couple creek crossings. You can find wildflowers, cacti, and views of downtown and St. Edwards University from Blunn Creek. Leave your dogs at home this time, there are no dogs allowed on this trail.
Violet Crown Trail
This 3.4-mile hiking trail is the first segment of a regional trail system in development in central Texas. Start at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center to take in the seasonal blooms before heading off on the Violet Crown Trail through the city of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands. The Violet Crown Trail system can take you a whole 13 miles to Zilker Park today, but if you want to stay in the Lady Bird Johnson area you can turn around at the Slaughter trailhead.
Southern Walnut Creek Trail
If you’re in need of a flat-accessible trail run to get some exercise, Southern Walnut Creek Trail in Govalle Park is a great option. The paved path stretches for 10.7 miles in East Austin and is 10 ft wide for plenty of room for bikes, runners, strollers, and wheelchairs. With access from several neighborhoods and off-shoot trails to the YMCA and Austin Tennis Center, this trail is a boon for Austinites to access local recreation.
Slaughter Creek Trail
You’ll find the Slaughter Creek Loop Trail on the other side of Slaughter Creek from the Violet Crown Trail. This 5-mile trail is a favorite for hikers, bikers, and horses alike. While much of this trail is not shaded, you can find a plethora of wildflowers in this area in the spring! Try to go in the morning for cooler weather and avoid crowds on this busy trail. The trail is flat but includes some rocky terrain throughout.
Shoal Creek Trail
The Shoal Creek Greenbelt trail is one of the oldest urban trails in Austin, Texas. Originally built in the 1960s, it connects with the Lady Bird Lake Trail on the Colorado River and follows the Shoal Creek north ending at Seider Springs at 3.7 miles long. This trail switches between gravel, packed dirt, and paved along the entire route, but it passes through Duncan Park and Pease park along the way and is easy enough to hop on and off throughout the trail. Hop onto this trail at Pease Park and use Shoal Creek as a loop trail or challenge yourself to the entire trail starting at Shoal Beach!
If you’re more into getting away from urban living, you may be more interested in the trails northwest of Austin. Enjoy sprawling trails with a smaller crowd! If you’re looking to stay in Northwest Austin, browse our house stays to make the most of these trails!
River Place Panther Hollow and Canyon Trail
Strap on your hiking boots for the River Place Nature Trail in West Lake Hills, Texas. Known to many as one of the hardest trails in Austin, you’ll need to bring plenty of water as you encounter plenty of inclines up and down along River Place’s 5-mile out-and-back hike. This trail is managed by the local neighborhood, which charges a $10 trail maintenance fee per hiker. Bring a credit card, they do not take cash!
St. Edwards Park
St. Edwards Park is a gorgeous 80-acre park that is a partial preserve. The non-preserved area is a great dog-friendly hiking spot with fewer crowds but beautiful scenery. If you take Hill Trail you can find cactus patches among the wildflowers and waterfalls along Bull Creek. You can easily fit in a 2-3 mile hike here for a decent escape into a natural area. Take the Hill Trail up to St. Edwards Park Overlook for a view!
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Seated on the western edge of Austin proper, the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve contains 227 acres of natural wildlands that aims to educate visitors on the importance of protecting their local flora and fauna. You can bring your youngsters to the educational attractions along this network including microscopes, bird-watching stations, and more! Visitors can easily access this hidden gem of a preserve from the Capital of Texas Highway to walk the branchwork of trails on the southern end of the preserve.
The outer loop of the network of trails is 1.8 miles long, but I would highly recommend exploring the other trails here. These trails are considered easy with some inclines. Find the basin overlook for a great view of the preserve and follow Bee Creek to find your own gem of a waterfall. Look out for the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, an endangered native species to this preserve! This park does not allow dogs and requires that you reserve a hiking slot for your group ahead of time. Check their website for openings and pricing!
Turkey Creek Trail
Visit Emma Long Metropolitan Park to hike the Turkey Creek Trail! Bring your dog for some off-leash fun along an almost 3-mile out-and-back hike. Follow the creek bed for a couple spots to cool off on your way to explore side trails and see the view from the bluffs! Emma Long Metropolitan Park also has a motocross trail that is mountain bike-friendly.
No matter where you choose to hike when you visit Austin, AvantStay has a collection of unique rentals around the city where you can experience an upscale hospitality experience with a home-like feel. Browse our locations in Austin to find your perfect vacation spot.