Top Austin Trails for Hikes & Nature Walks
With miles and miles of trails to choose from, Austin offers outdoor fitness enthusiasts an abundance of options for trail running, biking, and hiking. For those just looking for a fresh air and a simple nature walk, Austin has that, too! We’ve rounded up a list of some popular local spots to hit the trails and enjoy some of the city’s beautiful landscapes.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
multiple access points (view here)
For your ultimate city trail walk or run, you can’t beat the miles of terrain along the Barton Creek Greenbelt. In addition to being great for hiking and trail running, sections of the trail are perfect for mountain biking and rock climbing, and here you’ll find some of Austin’s best swimming holes, too. With such close proximity to the center of the city, this lush landscape of trees, limestone and water, offers a great outdoor excursion so close to home. There are 7.5 miles, out and back with trail access at Spyglass, the 360 Bridge, Gaines Creek and Hill of Life. There are no admission fees along the Greenbelt.
McKinney Falls State Park
5808 McKinney Falls Parkway
McKinney Falls State Park is a gorgeous parkland within Austin city limits, located near the airport. Here you’ll find almost 9 miles of trails, two of which take you through winding paths in the woods, by ruins of the McKinney homestead, originally built between 1850 and 1852. McKinney Falls State Park is also a great place to camp overnight. Additionally, you can swim, fish, mountain bike, geocache, or just enjoy a picnic by the falls at Onion Creek. Note the admission charge before you go or pre-purchase a day pass to guarantee your entry.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail & Boardwalk Trail
multiple access points (view here)
The most popular trail for running, biking, walking dogs, and pushing a stroller in Austin is downtown’s Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Situated along Lady Bird Lake, this 10-mile trail offers perfect skyline views as you traverse through classic Austin destinations such as Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores. The Boardwalk portion of the trail features a paved raised pathway over the water completing a 1.3 mile gap along the south shore of the trail. An asset to Austin, this trail offers easy access to free outdoor exercise and wonderful people-watching, too.
River Place Nature Trail
8820 Big View Dr.
Take it to the next level at River Place Nature Trail with hill training aplenty. With nearly 900 feet of vertical gain in three miles, the elevation gain will challenge anyone from beginner to expert. For extra mileage, add on the Panther trail, which has idyllic swimming holes. Expect 5.5 miles out and back. Street parking is available. There is a $10 fee per person on weekends.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park
12138 N Lamar Blvd.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park boasts 15 miles of wooded trails leading to the waters of Walnut Creek which is surrounded by limestone bluffs. Choose from many trails routes. Walnut Creek is very popular for off-leash dogs walks, so expect to see plenty of pups on the trails and splashing through the water. If you prefer to ride bikes or jog along a paved trail, there is a section that runs for 3.5 miles, from Walnut Creek Metro Park to Balcones District Park. There is no fee to access the trails in this park.
St. Edward’s Park & Greenbelt
7301 Spicewood Springs Rd.
Located in northwest Austin, St. Edward’s Greenbelt offers a few trail options from an easy walk to a more challenging hill trail. Enjoy shaded woodsy paths along the creek, where you’ll find a small waterfall, too, along with swimmers in spring and summer months. You can also opt a hike up a steep path up the park’s limestone bluffs for more of a challenge. Parking is limited and there are no bathroom facilities. This park is also free of change to visit.
Emma Long Metro Park – Turkey Creek Trail
2100 City Park Rd.
Known as a popular spot to take your dogs, Turkey Creek Trail can be found just outside of Emma Long Park. This trail is mostly shaded, crosses the creek at several points and is approximately 2 miles of easy hiking. Note that the trail can be crowded on weekends, so parking can be a challenge. Because it’s just outside of Emma Long Park, you do not need to pay to access the trail, however, if you choose to enter the park, you will need to pay the admission fee. Note that there are no restroom facilities at this trail.
Commons Ford Ranch
614 N. Commons Ford Rd.
The Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park trail route is as accommodating as it is charming. Stay on the flat and wide trail for a nice walk or beginner run with 4 miles of mixed loops. If you want to add more challenge to your routine, you can escape into the woods. Diversity of texture and terrain is on hand thanks to the Colorado River, pecan trees, and even a waterfall.
3505 W. 35th St.
This spot boasts lovely gardens in springtime around a historic cottage, with ponds full of lily pads and peacocks roaming freely. You might not immediately think of visiting Mayfield Preserve for a little hike, but there is a one-mile trail on the grounds that leads down to shores of Lake Austin. It’s a short shaded trail, but provides a nice spot for a nature walk. There is a small onsite parking lot, and admission is free.