Great Outdoor Adventures to Make the Most of Summer in Austin

Hiking, rowing, swimming, sports and more ways to stay active and keep cool

Austin Outdoors Summer Adventures
Photo by Knox Kronenberg

It’s no secret that Austin is growing by leaps and bounds. Many of those who are moving here are drawn to this city’s endless opportunities to have a great time outside. From hiking, swimming, rowing, sports and indulging in the relaxing lake lifestyle, the myriad of options are part of what makes Austin an amazing place to live. Make the most of summertime in the city with our recommendations for awesome outdoor adventures below:

Best Local Hikes

By Alex Reichek

Blanco State Park

The hour drive to Blanco winds down beautiful Hill Country highways. Make sure to reserve a pass in advance or use your Texas State Parks Pass, which you can apply to overnight camping. The water is a bit warmer here in the middle of summer and shallow enough for a relaxing float with a sandwich or cold beverage. The limestone ledges and waterfalls make for easy hanging, jumping and one-of-a-kind photos. Picnic tables are available, as is a 1-mile hike.

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

A nature preserve located past Bee Cave, Wild Basin protects 227 acres of Texas Hill Country habitat. Guests can hike along shaded paths, hop through some water passages and see the grand beauty of the rolling hills at the climactic scenic overlook. The trail has more elevation than the greenbelt and nice views that will make you feel as though you’ve escaped the city. The waterfall round-trip hike is 1 mile, and the overlook is just 0.4 miles from the parking lot.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park 

This is a fun place for a water day on Lake Austin with boat ramp access, swimming and floating areas, camping and grilling sites. It’s perfect for big groups, plus the whole family. The park features expansive open spaces and access to hike the Turkey Creek Trail. Open from 7 a.m. to 10 p.m.; guests must reserve a pass in advance for Friday through Sunday entry.

Chalk Ridge Falls Park Trail

This hike right off I-35 offers many directions in which to venture, so make sure you see the gorgeous rapids and flowing river before you leave. One path leads up to a meadow with flowers, while another goes over a light suspension bridge that ends at a larger body of water where the dogs can cool off. This is an easy day hike and features an ample area for parking.

Commons Ford Ranch

This is a 25-minute drive from downtown and a free place to access the cold Lake Austin water. Watching the sunset on a casual weekday evening is a truly magical experience, one you can sometimes have mostly to yourself. Pack a picnic and bring a football or even your pup! There is a large grassy area where you can hang and a few gravel trails for sauntering around.

Be sure to check each trail or park website for updated information about reservations.

Best Outdoor Activities

By Alex Reichek and Hannah J. Phillips

Rowing Dock

Located on Lady Bird Lake, the Rowing Dock is open daily from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. with kayak, canoe and SUP rentals. Take a fun guided tour to Barton Springs with ecological-focused highlights and history, or to Red Bud Isle and back, or opt for a bat tour at the Congress Avenue Bridge. The standout events are the monthly full moon paddle, getting you on the water while the sky is glowing, plus the Fourth of July firework paddle and Wellness Wednesdays with yoga, meditation and pilates. Make sure to grab tickets in advance.

Sand Volleyball

Whether joining with a team of friends or as an individual, the Austin Sports & Social Club (Austin SSC) is a great way to be active and social at the same time. The volleyball leagues offer multiple options for adult co-ed volleyball groups (indoor and outdoor) from Round Rock to South Austin, and the club hosts regular happy hours. Be sure to check the Austin SSC website for other sports, including pickleball.

Bike and Brew ATX

Why just exercise when you can add sightseeing and beer tasting to the mix? Combining all three for locals and visitors alike, Bike and Brew ATX’s mission is to provide informative city tours while exposing Austin’s love of craft beer, wine and spirits. With four route options, ranging from easy to moderate, each tour is uniquely designed to cover different libations as well as different aspects of the city—from well-known tourist destinations to hidden gems.

Texas Rowing Center

Located right by Austin High, the Rowing Center offers lessons, which begin with an Introduction to Rowing Course for $199, and memberships (six months, at $399; 12 months, at $599), which include the rowing course and unlimited access to rowing, kayaking, canoeing and SUP.

Best Lake Activities

Photo by Knox Kronenberg

Ride the Wave

Pack up your YETI with beloved Austin brands, such as breakfast tacos from Taco Deli and Ranch Water from Epic Western. Tacos will fuel your aquatic adventures while a refreshing sip of Epic Western is sure to set the mood for a sunny day on the lake.

Rent A Boat 

There are numerous avenues for renting a boat for your day on the lake. If you’re planning to cruise Lake Travis, look up Float On – Lake Travis Boat Rentals. Located at Hurst Harbor Marina in Lakeway, the company offers new boats, great rates and a friendly staff for all your needs.

Full Swing

If you stick to the Lake Austin area, be sure to seek out the famous rope swing near the 360 Bridge. No lake adventure is complete without that feeling of free falling from the rocky launching point, plunging into the cool waters and swimming back to shore for more.

Catch the Sunset at the Oasis

For unparalleled panoramic views, shopping and delicious food, head to the Oasis on Lake Travis after your day on the water. Sip a margarita on one of the restaurant’s three decks, soaking up the last rays of a gorgeous and unforgettable Texas sunset.


Read More From the Outdoors Issue | Summer 2021


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