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The Best Hiking In Austin: 12 Trails To Get Outside

Hiking is one of the best free and cheap things to do when visiting Austin, Texas. The city offers a variety of trails for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders to explore the natural surroundings. From the famous Lady Bird Lake Trail to city parks and natural reserves, Austin may not have the highest hiking, but it does provide excellent opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy nature. Whether you want to hike to waterfalls and swimming holes or discover wooded forests and expansive meadows with wildflowers, we’ve got you covered with this list of the best hiking in Austin.

photo 1476979735039 2fdea9e9e407 - The Best Hiking In Austin: 12 Trails To Get OutsideThe Best Hiking Trails In Austin

1. Turkey Creek Trail

https://www.austintexas.gov/sites/default/files/files/Parks/GIS/EmmaLongKioskMap_TurkeyCk.pdf 
Emma Long Metropolitan Park
2.8 miles crossing creek beds

This 3-mile out and back trail features multiple creek crossings so bring along water-proof shoes during the rainy season or prepare to get wet. This trail allows dogs to be off-leash, making it the perfect hike to bring along your furry friend.

2. River Place Nature Trail

http://friendsofriverplacetrail.com 
8820 Big View Dr.
5-6 miles

This dog-friendly nature trail is located in the Texas Hill Country and features five to six miles of rugged terrain for a strenuous workout. Much of the trail system consists of steep slopes and stair sections that will get your heart pumping and your muscles moving. Check out the Fern Trail if you like waterfalls or challenge yourself on the steep stairs of the Canyon Trail, which takes you past stunning rock formations. Panther Hollow is another great trail choice if you’re looking for something more strenuous and longer. The trail is free for Austin residents every day of the week while tourists and visitors will have to pay $10 to use the trail system on weekends.

3. Mckinney Falls State Park

https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls 
5808 McKinney Falls Parkway
7 miles

Located 13 miles from Austin, this state park offers camping, hiking, and mountain biking opportunities. Within the park, you can fish and swim in Onion Creek and find great spots for bouldering. The park features 6.8 miles of hiking including the short three-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail, the Homestead Trail, and the Rock Shelter Trail.

4. Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail

https://thetrailfoundation.org/explore/about-the-butler-trail/ 
Lady Bird Lake
A 10-mile trail system that can be shortened or lengthened depending on the route.

This hiking and biking trail in Town Lake consists of a 10-mile loop that can be customized to make each adventure a new one. Lady Bird Lake is actually a man-made reservoir in the Colorado River and serves as one of the highlights of the city. The trail is located near downtown Austin and can be joined form multiple access points. The boardwalk trail is made of crushed granite and offers stunning vistas. Enjoy a stroll through the woods and make sure to plan a stop down at Lady Bird Lake for fantastic views of the Austin skyline.

5. Slaughter Creek Trail

https://austinparks.org/slaughter-creek-trail/ 
9901 Farm Road to Market Road 1826
5 miles

This Austin trail can be used by mountain bikers, hikers, and horseback riders year-round. The trail meanders through meadows and plains and is an excellent spring hike thanks to the presence of wildflowers. Since this trail isn’t through the woods, it’s a good idea to pack extra sunscreen as shade is limited.

6. Violet Crown Trail

https://violetcrowntrail.com/explore/ 
4970 West Highway 290
6 miles of existing trail | Plans to increase to 30 miles of trail

The Violet Crown trail system is the result of over a decade of planning to create the longest regional trail park in Central Texas. While it’s presently just a six-mile trail system, plans include developing the area to include 30 miles of trails that will pass through the Barton Creek Wilderness Park Sunset Valley, and stretch all the way to Hays County.

The trail is located in the heart of the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It includes several trail hiking options from Zilker Park and Barton Springs to Gaines Creek and Deer Park.

7. Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/wild-basin 
805 North Capital of Texas Highway
2.5 miles roundtrip

The Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is home to more than 227 acres of protected land and features a 2.5-mile trail that ends at the Wild Basins Research Center, which is operated by St. Edwards University. The hike includes stunning vistas of creeks and waterfalls and offers opportunities to see the endangered Golden-cheeked warbler and other native wildlife.

8. St. Edwards Park

https://austinparks.org/stedwards-park/ 
7301 Spicewood Springs Rd
3 miles

St. Edwards Park and Greenbelt is dog-friendly and offers multi-use trails for mountain biking and hiking. Here, you’ll also find swimming holes you can cool off in during the hotter months. The main trail here includes access to Bull Creek, views of waterfalls, and plenty of cactus plants along the way.

9. Barton Creek Greenbelt

https://www.texasoutside.com/bartongreenbelt.htm 
2100 Barton Springs Rd
7.8 miles

The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a popular spot for nature lovers in Austin. The main trail is an 8-mile hike that offers easy access to Sculpture Falls and Twin Falls along with areas for picnicking and relaxing. You’ll also find strenuous sections in the Greenbelt like the Hill of life to get your heart pumping. The area is the perfect place to get into watersports as you can kayak, paddleboard, and float down many of the waterways. You’ll even find great spots to climb if you want to take your workout out of the climbing gym.

10. Mount Bonnell

https://www.austintexas.org/austin-insider-blog/post/mount-bonnell-for-beginners/
Mount Bonnell Road
0.5 miles

Mount Bonnell is the highest peak in the Austin city limits and scaling this peak is one of the best things to do in Austin. The top of the mountain sits at 775 feet and the hiking trail features 102 steps before you reach the top. It’s a popular spot to watch the sunset and to get views of the Austin skyline. Pack a picnic and grab your friends and enjoy a fun evening while overlooking the city that likes to keep things weird.

11. Southern Walnut Creek Trail

http://www.austintexas.gov/department/southern-walnut-creek-trail 
Johnny Morris Road | Govalle Park
7.3 miles

Located in East Austin, the Southern Walnut Creek Trail is an accessible multi-use trail. The entire seven-mile path is paved, making it easy for bikers and hikers to enjoy the great outdoors. Along the way, you’ll cross five bridges and pass several signs explaining features along the trail. The trail can be accessed from Johnny Morris Road or Govalle Park and now connects to another seven-mile trail that can take you into Manor, Texas.

12. Mayfield Park

https://mayfieldpark.org 
3505 W 35th St
24 acres with numerous trail options

Mayfield is a nature preserve that offers 24 acres for hikers to get some fresh air and access to Lake Austin. The trails start at the Mayfield cottage where you can catch a glimpse of the peacocks that call the area home. The trails are all fairly mellow and easy, making it a good choice if you want to distress with a walk through water features, greenery, and wooded forests. Take the main trail or opt for one of the side trails to discover something new.

13. Lakeway Canyonlands

https://www.lakeway-tx.gov/131/Canyonlands 
6 miles out and back

The Lakeway Canyonlands areas offers extensive opportunities to get into nature away from the crowds. located 25 miles northwest of Austin central, this hike is just 6 miles round trip. Start the trek (or bike!) at the Trophy Drive parking area and follow the Trophy Trail until you reach the Rim Trail. Make a stop here for snacks or to use the restroom before heading farther into the natural area. Enjoy the canyon rim vies for half a mile before taking the Rough Hollow Connector Trail to connect to the Lakeside Greenbelt Trail. After one and a half miles of moderately technical terrain, you’ll reach the Peninsula Pass Trail which will wind down to Rough Hollow Cove. Take a refreshing swim before heading back to your vehicle. Dogs are allowed on leash.

14. Hamilton Pool

https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/hamilton-pool-preserve 
0.5 miles roundtrip

Hamilton Pool is located in the Round Mountain area northeast of Austin. it’s a stunning emerald green pool surrounded by limestone rock formations and the perfect spot to cool off on those hot summer days. The trail is a short jaunt up to the pool and is one of the most popular hikes in Austin. Between March and October as well as in the off-season on weekends and holidays, you’ll need a reservation to visit the pool. Make sure to check the Travis County website before you go as the pools may be closed due to high bacteria levels.

photo 1476611338391 6f395a0ebc7b - The Best Hiking In Austin: 12 Trails To Get OutsideDiscover Nature With the Best Hiking In Austin

You don’t have to spend a lot of money when visiting Austin, Texas. In fact, one of the best free things to do in Austin is to go hiking. Whether you’re a local or a tourist looking for a place to get outside, this list offers hiking trails to get you moving. From short and strenuous jaunts up Mount Bonnell to long, meandering trails through state parks and nature preserves, there are dozens of ways to experience nature in Austin. Best of all, most of the trails are also bike-friendly and dog-friendly. Hit the trails and discover the natural wonders of Austin on the best hiking trails.

Author
Erika Marty

Erika is an avid traveler who has been to more than 60 countries where she finds food, activities, and hidden locales for touring like a local. When she’s not writing, she enjoys mountain biking, hiking, and planning her next adventure.

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