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Take a Hike! A Guide to Austin's Best Trails

Source: Austin Family


Austin is awesome for so many reasons, not the least of which is its natural beauty. Here we present a list of hiking trails for your enjoyment. Start at the beginning for a leisurely stroll befitting beginners, or work your way to the end of the list for a real challenge. Either way, you’ll find a place to connect with nature and recharge your batteries.


BUTLER HIKE AND BIKE TRAIL

With the completion in June 2014 of a mile-long boardwalk, the Butler Hike and Bike Trail now makes a complete 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake, stretching from MoPac on the western edge to Pleasant Valley on the eastern edge. This wide, flat trail passes numerous Austin landmarks, including Zilker Park, the Long Center, and the towers of downtown.


Good for: All ages. Stroller-friendly.


Bikes okay? Yes.


Dogs okay? Yes, if leashed.


Parking: Available at any of the access points along the trail—Butler Park (1000 Barton Springs Rd.), Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.), Auditorium Shores (920 Riverside Dr.), Fiesta Gardens (2100 Jesse E. Segovia St.), Roy Guerrero Park (400 Grove Blvd.) or Lamar Beach (1200 Cesar Chavez St.).


Admission: FREE.



MOUNT BONNELL STAIRCASE

This spot in Northwest Austin, officially known as Covert Park, is more tourist destination than hiking trail, but we include it here because it offers a steep climb of 106 steps, which is some great exercise, rewarded with a sweeping view at the top. You’ll see Lake Austin below, the Hill Country to the west, and downtown Austin to the east.


Good for: All ages, but not stroller-friendly.


Bikes okay? No.


Dogs okay? Yes, if leashed.


Parking: Available along the street at 3800 Mount Bonnell Rd.


Admission: FREE.



BARTON CREEK GREENBELT

This trail stretches nearly 8 miles, making a V-shaped southerly dip from Zilker Park to the Lost Creek neighborhood in West Lake Hills. The trail follows Barton Creek, and varying spots are wide and flat or narrow and rugged. The trail is popular with mountain bikers, rock climbers and those who enjoy its seasonal swimming holes. The length and ruggedness of the trail make it a great place to train youth groups for long hikes and backpacking.


Good for: All ages, depending on the section of the trail. Near Zilker Park, the trail is wide and flat. Further west, the trail at times becomes rugged and steep, more appropriate for school-aged children. The steepest and most rocky parts are at the Scottish Woods end of the trail, which is appropriate for middle school and high school-aged children.


Bikes okay? Yes.


Dogs okay? Yes, if leashed.


Parking: Available at multiple access points—Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.), Spyglass (1500 Spyglass Dr.), Homedale (2010 Homedale Dr.), Gus Fruh (2642 Barton Hills Dr.), Loop 360 (3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy.), Twin Falls (3918 S. Mopac Expy) and Scottish Woods Trail (1710 Camp Craft Rd.).


Admission: FREE.



BULL CREEK GREENBELT TRAIL

This park has such a history of the dramatic results of flash flooding that you can now see the jumbled concrete walls of an abandoned attempt to dam the creek for swimming. This is a great location to explore water; the creek runs shallow and rapid in some spots, but collects in gentle pools in others. The 3.5-mile trail crosses the creek multiple times, requiring balance to keep from getting wet. Depending on the time of year and recent rains, there are several waterfalls and swimming spots along the trail.


Good for: All ages, depending on the length of the hike. Not stroller-friendly.


Bikes okay? Yes.


Dogs okay? Yes, if leashed.


Parking: Available at 6701 Lakewood Dr.


Admission: FREE.



ST. EDWARDS PARK TRAILS

This little gem of a park lies west of Capital of Texas Hwy. along Spicewood Springs Rd. The 80-acre park follows a portion of Bull Creek and provides about 4 miles of interconnecting, well-marked trails. This is a great place to learn trail signs and work on map-reading skills.


Good for: School-aged kids ready for a little adventure. Not stroller-friendly.

Bikes okay? Yes.


Dogs okay? Yes, if leashed.


Parking: Available in the park lot at 7301 Spicewood Springs Rd.


Admission: FREE.



WILD BASIN PRESERVE

This Travis County Park in West Lake Hills is home to 2.5 miles of trails on 227 acres and an outdoor education venue managed by St. Edward’s University. The trails offer striking views of protected woodland, grassland, and stream side habitats. On weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., drop by the small Visitor’s Center and peruse the collection of guidebooks on native rocks, plants, and animals.

Good for: All ages, but most of the trails are not stroller-friendly.


Bikes okay? No.


Dogs okay? No.


Parking: Available at the Visitor Center at 805 N. Capital of Texas Hwy.


Admission: Suggested donation of $3 per adult, $2 for seniors and children 5-12. Spring for the $1 brochure to make the Arroyo Vista Loop an interpretive hike.

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