When you think of Austin, hiking trails probably aren’t the first thing that comes to your mind. Instead, most people associate the city with upbeat live music, weird artwork, and food that will wow your tastebuds. Even though the city doesn’t have a lot of elevation, it’s nestled into some of the prettiest country in central Texas. In fact, getting just outside the Austin city limits opens up a world of mellow hiking opportunities — some ending in stunning waterfalls and crystal clear pools.
While the Walnut Creek Trail, Colorado River strolls, and the Barton Creek Greenbelt are Austin favorites, consider exploring the further reaches of the Austin area on your next hike. Here are some of the best hikes near Austin from McKinney Falls State Park to excursions over rolling green hills and dips in hidden coves.
The 10 Best Hikes Near Austin
While popular trails such as the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in the Austin city limits are among the best hiking in Austin, getting outside the city offers even more opportunities to immerse yourself in the great outdoors. From state parks to free walking trails north and south of the city to the famous Texas Hill Country, there are dozens of options when it comes to hiking.
You may not be bagging summits or racking up thousands of feet of elevation gain, but the hiking in Texas can be truly spectacular. Here are some of the best hikes near Austin to get your heart rate up and enjoy the beauty of the great outdoors.
1. Pedernales Falls
Distance from Austin: 30 miles west
Trail Length: 1 mile round trip
Part of the Pedernales Falls State Park, this waterfall is only one attraction in the nature area. Riders will delight in the numerous biking and horseback riding trails and water-lovers can enjoy tubing and kayaking in the Pedernales River.
To get to the falls, take the Pedernales Falls Access Trail, which is clearly signed. Stay right at the fork that will take you to an overlook of the falls where you can snap great photos. Head back to the fork and go the other direction to reach a second overlook. If you keep going, the trail will lead down to the base of the falls. Enjoy a refreshing swim or explore the limestone rock formations carved by the falls over the years. One thing to remember: the other side of the river is private property, so no swimming to the other bank for further exploration.
2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Distance from Austin: 96 miles northwest
Trail Length: 6.3 miles round trip
The name says it all. This state natural area is enchanting, captivating, and the perfect spot for a hike. It features 11 miles of trail in the heart of Texas Hill Country. Our favorite hike in the area is the Enchanted Rock loop. On this trail, you’ll summit Enchanted Rock — a granite dome that offers expansive views of the nearby rolling hills.
To make the trek shorter, just head back to your car from the summit the way you came in. For the longer 6 mile jaunt, you’ll take the Echo Canyon Trail to the Base Trail and then on to the Loop Trail. Along the way, you can add short detours to Moss Lake and scenic overlooks if desired.
Be sure to pack plenty of water and slather on the sunscreen as many areas of the trail are exposed. This is also one of the tougher hikes on the list. Clocking in at over six miles and with some steep sections, it’s best suited for experienced hikers and older children.
3. Hamilton Pool Loop
Distance from Austin: 30 miles northwest in Round Mountain
Trail Length: 0.6-mile round trip
This short 0.6-mile trail ends in a swimming hole where you can cool off or snap pics for Instagram. Located in the Hamilton Pool Preserve, this area is popular and one of the best hikes near Austin. You’ll need reservations if you’re visiting between March and October as well as on weekends and holidays during the rest of the year.
The hike is easy and suitable for just about any fitness level. The area is also nicely signed so you don’t have to worry about getting lost or going the wrong way. Once you get to the pool, you’ll drink in visions of a 50-foot waterfall and the crisp blue-green waters of Hamilton Pool. Explore the limestone cliffs behind the waterfall or pack a picnic and enjoy a snack along the water’s edge.
4. River Place Nature Trail
Distance from Austin: 15 miles northwest
Trail Length: 5.6 miles roundtrip
One of the best things about the River Place Nature Trail is that it is less traveled than other areas. When areas like the Barton Springs swimming hole are packed, this trail is a great place to head to get off the beaten path and away from the crowds. This comes with a price though — a $10 admission fee to be exact. Start by heading out on the easy Panther Hollow Trail, which winds around a pond and then takes you through the woods.
Half a mile in you’ll come to a fork, where you’ll see the Canyon Trail and Little Fern Trail. We like to head left on the singletrack Canyon Trail. Here the hike gets more rugged with a few stair sections and rocky technical areas — though nothing too intense. Keep going until you reach Canyon Creek which affords stunning views before heading back to your vehicle the way you came in.
5. Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Distance from Austin: 9 miles west
Trail Length: 3 miles
Co-owned by Travis County and St. Edward’s University, the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve offers free entry and offers a variety of hiking trails. You can also sign up for guided hikes and talks to learn more about the flora and fauna of the area. There are three miles of hiking trails in the nature preserve and it’s a great area for people who are new to hiking and looking to get out in nature.
6. Turkey Creek Trail
Distance from Austin: 15 miles northwest
Trail Length: 2.8-mile round trip
Located in Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Turkey Creek Trail is an alternative to the manicured paths and boardwalks in the heart of Austin. On this rocky 2.8 mile hike, the single track winds along Turkey Creek with some shady areas. It’s mellow enough for younger children, but the distance makes the trail ideal for more experienced walkers as well.
7. Rough Hollow Cove in Lakeway Canyonlands
Distance from Austin: 25 miles northwest
Trail Length: 6 miles round trip
Difficulty: Intermediate to Difficult
The Lakeway Canyonlands offers 20 acres of unspoiled nature waiting to be discovered along the many hiking trails — some of which are among the best hikes near Austin. Most of the trails in the area are shaded, making it a great choice for hiking in the hot summer months. To get to Rough Hollow Cove, it’s a good idea to download a park map or take a screenshot of the signs at the trailhead. You can go down several different trails leading to the Peninsula Pass Trail, which ends at Rough Hollow Cove. Reward your hard work with a swim and a snack by the water.
8. Hurst Hollow Preserve in Hamilton Greenbelt
Distance from Austin: 19 miles northwest
Trail Length: 4.2-miles roundtrip
Lesser-known compared to the Barton Springs Greenbelt, the Hamilton Greenbelt offers a trail system with dozens of easy and meandering trails suitable for all ages.
To get to Hurst Hollow, start on the gravel Hamilton I Greenbelt trail. Take the Hamilton II Greenbelt Trail and then switch to the Hurst Hollow Connector Trail which will lead to the Hurst Hollow Trail. This trail is a tad more technical with some rocky sections but still manageable for most individuals. If you’re lucky, you may even catch sight of a deer or two along the way. To return, you can head back the way you came or take the Hurst Hollow Loop Trail, then the Clubhouse Trail and Palos Verdes Trail to get back to your car via a loop
9. Homestead Trail Loop
Distance from Austin: 10 miles south
Trail Length: 3.4-mile loop round trip
Located in the Onion Creek area of McKinney Falls State Park, the Homestead Trail Loop is one of the most popular Austin getaways. Here, you won’t just find hiking. The area is also well-known for bouldering and biking and there are dozens of campsites for overnight stays.
The trail starts not on the classic dirt or gravel, but on a sloped piece of sandstone. The trail leads down to Lower McKinney Falls and a stone crossing over Onion Creek, which can be a bit treacherous after heavy rain. Here, you’ll also discover a small pool that’s perfect for a dip. Pass the lower falls, continue up the trail, and you’ll pass the old McKinney homestead and enjoy a brisk walk among live oak and juniper forests. You can always retrace your steps to the car or take the Flint rock Loop Trail for a different view on the way back.
10. St. Edwards Park
Distance from Austin: 15 miles north
Trail Length: 2 miles round trip
St. Edward’s Park is an 80-acre park featuring two main trails that wind along the creek bed. They’re among the best hikes near Austin. The Creek Trail is an easy, family-friendly option, but we prefer the Hill Trail. This challenging trail takes you to the top of the limestone bluffs with gorgeous overlooks of the neighboring countryside.
Take a Hike in Gorgeous Austin
Austin may not seem like a hiker’s destination at first glance, but there are tons of ways to get out and explore nature both inside and outside the city limits. If you’re staying in downtown Austin, check out Mount Bonnell for some of the best views in Austin, Zilker Park for a stroll amongst art and sculptures, or the Lake Austin area for a refreshing dip. The Lady Bird Hike and Bike Trail — named after Lady Bird Johnson — as well as the Violet Crown Trail and Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail are also fantastic options.
Outside the city, these are some of the best hikes near Austin. Grab a few friends and pack your gear for a fun day hike or an overnight camping trip. These hiking areas are just a short jaunt from the city lights and are a sure-fire way to get in some exercise and stretch your legs. Plus, if you time it right, you can see stunning wildflower blooms in the springtime or catch a meteor shower during a night hike.
Looking for more ways to enjoy Austin? Head to ATX Guides. There, you’ll find tips on where to get the best food and how to enjoy the natural surroundings. If you’re a nature-lover, don’t miss our guides to the best camping near Austin as well as the best parks in town.