Guide to Austin’s 10 Best Hiking Trails, from Greenbelt to McKinney Falls
If the only walks you take in Austin are scoring happy hour margaritas, you’re missing out. Austin is a city known for its outdoor spaces and expanses of greenery, but there is so much to explore that it can be hard to know where to start – and it’s easy to go back and forth to places we know and love. For anyone looking to dig a little deeper into the city’s natural beauty, here are 10 hikes you’ll want to put on your list.
Mayfield Nature Reserve
If you decide to take a hike in Mayfield Nature Preserve, you won’t be alone. About two dozen peacocks roam the grounds, sometimes perching on top of rooftops and trees. They are the main attraction of this western Austin park, which also features lily ponds filled with turtles, breathtaking gardens, and a historic cabin. All of this makes Mayfield a popular wedding destination, but you can swap the white dress for shorts and walk down the main park trail, which only takes about 30 minutes and takes you to a dock with a dazzling view of Lake Austin. .
Ann and Roy Butler Hiking and Biking Trail at Lady Bird Lake
Lady Bird Lake is perhaps best known to kayakers and paddleboarders who flock to its sparkling waters each summer, but it’s also a great place for those who want to exercise on land. The Ann and Roy Butler Trail traces the perimeter of the lake, and anyone who walks it can spot the best of Austin: lush foliage, serene water, theme parks, and the downtown skyline. The entire loop is 10 miles, but the bridges that span the lake make for a shorter hike that is easily customizable.
Turkey Creek Trail
You won’t find any wild turkeys roaming this trail, but you will find dogs – Turkey Creek Trail is the only off-leash area in Emma Long Metropolitan Park. About 5 km in length, this secluded and shaded trail winds above Turkey Creek. It’s a flat hike and not too difficult, but beware of slippery rocks. You may want to bring waterproof shoes, especially if it has been raining recently.
Also known as Covert Park, this peak is a proven spot for those looking for a relaxing hike that pays high rewards. Although the summit of Mount Bonnell is 775 feet high, a brief walk up to 102 steps will take you to the limestone front porch, where one of Austin’s best views awaits. Mount Bonnell has attracted tourists since the 1850s, and it has become a local tradition to venture to the top with a picnic basket and a date. Even without a boo, a view of the sunset from Bonnell is inevitable to make everyone feel romantic.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
A popular trail that it is simply known by one name, the Greenbelt is a must-see hiking spot for outdoor enthusiasts. As you drive through South Austin, the Greenbelt offers 12 miles of trails to hike, but there are plenty of entry points, so you can tackle as much or as little terrain as you want. It is also the perfect place for all biathletes and triathletes – the area is full of swimming holes like Campbell’s Hole and Sculpture Falls, is often frequented by mountain bikers and includes the Urban Assault, a limestone wall frequented by rock climbers. .
Wilderness reserve of the wild basin
Start your hike with an educational side at the Wild Basin Wildlife Preserve, managed by Travis County and St. Edward’s University. The reserve is the site of much of St. Edward’s field research, but is open to the public for hiking and learning. At the Visitor Center, you can get acquainted with the flora and fauna contained in the park, including the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, which you might spot if you’re lucky. Located off the 360 Loop and featuring a 2.5 mile boardwalk, this is one of the most accessible and scenic trails in Austin.
South Walnut Creek Trail
If you’re looking to get your head in nature without getting your feet too dirty, take a walk on the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. Longer than 7 miles, this trail consists of wide concrete paths that are great for those with poor bikes, strollers, or hiking boots. Although the sidewalk looks urban, foliage and trees surround the winding path, making it feel like an escape from the city. Be sure to bring your phone – the trail features various vantage points with Instagram compatible views.
McKinney Falls State Park
Austin only has one state park within its city limits, but it’s a good one. For those looking to get away from Austin’s cityscape, McKinney Falls State Park awaits with nearly nine miles of trails. History buffs will enjoy the 3-mile Homestead Trail, which winds through the old flour mill and the home of the namesake Thomas McKinney, and the shorter, sturdy Onion Creek hiking and biking trail for anyone looking for an easier walk. The park is full of campsites for anyone looking to spend a weekend exploring all the trails.
For those looking to avoid the crowds, St. Edward’s Park is a hidden gem tucked away in Northwest Austin. Around Bull Creek you’ll find waterfalls and cactus plots in this scenic park. St. Edward’s has tons of trails, with something for every type of hiker. The popular Creek Trail is a shaded walk through lush greenery, and for those looking for a challenge, Hill Trail offers a steep climb over limestone cliffs, rewarding those who undertake it with great views of the creek and town.
Slaughter Creek Trail
Most rides in Austin allow dogs, but few are suitable for your companion horse. Enter Slaughter Creek Trail, a 5 mile loop in South Austin that’s great for hikers, mountain bikers and, yes, horse riders. The trail winds through fields of wild flowers, which come to life in spring. It is well marked, which makes it suitable for hikers of all skill levels. Just be sure to pack sunscreen and sunglasses – this trail isn’t very shaded.