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Austin Running Trails: Trail Roots’ Founder Erik Stanley Shares His Favorites

The running coach picks six destinations, including the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Slaughter Creek and Commons Ford Ranch

Trail Roots

In February, Tribeza is exploring the best of Austin’s diverse wellness resources, from a trove of holistic healers and services to communities that embrace fitness and fellowship to Austin-based brands that create thoughtful products for self-care routines. It may still be chilly out but spring is around the corner in our neck of the woods with its picture-perfect days that precede the summer heat. So, we wanted to share once again this story from our 2019 Outdoors issue that presents Trail Roots founder Erik Stanley’s favorite running trails. What better way to strive for wellness than getting outdoors — and your heart rate up — with new friends or in contemplative solitude to the sounds of running shoes hitting the trail.

The first act in my love story of the gritty pitter-patter transpired from a meet-cute between my trail shoes and the Colorado red clay gravel crunching beneath textured grip. Each step wild, adventurous and free. Before I knew it, my precipitous trail jog awoke a thirst quenched only by the rugged outback. However, once back in Texas, I was clueless how to immerse myself into trail running again. Where were the spots beyond the iconic Lady Bird Lake?

Erik Stanley, founder of Trail Roots and avid trail runner.

Erik Stanley, University of Texas All-American and Adidas Rogue Athletic Club professional runner, noticed a gap in the Austin running community: trail running resources. Founding Trail Roots in 2014, Stanley sought to create a local tribe of trail runners to demystify entry into this unhinged terrain through professional coaching and guided runs. Stanley explains, “With Trail Roots, we’ve created a trail community of over 100 runners. No matter your pace, we will find someone for you to run with. Each week we send out the route and details for all of our marked runs, hitting a different trail each Saturday.”

Stanley’s passion for trail running started in Colorado as well, where trails are as prevalent as Starbucks Coffee shops ‑ one on every corner. Here in Austin, you may need to swell your search muscles, but there are actually a surprising number of hidden treasures awaiting your next adventure run. Here are Stanley’s top picks…try all six and report back!

Barton Creek Greenbelt

At the top of Stanley’s list for your ultimate city trail run. Open the front door of your downtown apartment or hotel to a lush playground of green, limestone and dirt, as you thump along this seven mile out and back trail system for a city-meets-trail excursion.

Skill Level: Intermediate
Distance: 7.5 miles, out and back
Amenities: Restrooms and swimming at Barton Springs
Address: 2131 William Barton Dr.
Access Points: Spyglass, 360, Gaines Creek and Hill of Life

Slaughter Creek

Check out Slaughter Creek for your optimal beginner excursion. My greatest obstacle in attempting new trails is finding my way – more literally than figuratively. With only one route split, friendly terrain and wide open spaces, this comfortable and scenic trail is a great place to break in fresh trailers.

Skill Level: Easy
Distance: 3.5 and 5 mile routes
Amenities: Port-a-John, approximately 20 parking spots and street parking options
Address: 9901 Farm-to-Market 1826

Commons Ford Ranch

Run Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park trail to unearth a route as accommodating as it is charming. Stay on the flat and wide trail for a nice beginner run, or escape into the woods to add technical and open cross country components to your routine. Diversity of texture and terrain is on hand thanks to the Colorado River, pecan trees and even a waterfall.

Difficulty: Beginner
Distance: 4 mile mixed loops
Amenities: Street and small parking lot
Address: 614 N. Commons Ford Rd.

River Place Nature Trail

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, Texas runners might begin to think they are in Colorado. While the terrain is friendly, the elevation gain will challenge anyone from beginner to expert. For extra mileage, add on the Panther trail, which has idyllic swimming holes.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 5.5 mile out and back
Amenities: Street parking available
Address: 8820 Big View Dr.
Fees: $10 per person (and per dog) on weekends 8 AM to 4 PM. Weekdays are free.

Deception Trail Brushy Creek

Deception trail near Brushy Creek offers a quintessentially Texas terrain perfect for the intermediate trail runner. According to Stanley, “This trail is called ‘Deception’ because you feel like you’ve run the same spot multiple times, when in reality you haven’t.” Ease of entry from multiple access points and lined with lush bluebonnets in springtime, this trail is an impeccable fit for routine training or adding distance.

Difficulty: Intermediate
Distance: 6-7 mile loop or 12+ mile out and back
Amenities: Street parking, restrooms and a water fountain
Address: 2310 Brushy Creek Rd.

Steiner Ranch Trail

If you live in Steiner Ranch, with private access to the gorgeous and challenging Steiner Ranch trail, consider yourself lucky. Canopied with breathtaking views of Lake Austin and Travis, best to find your next BFF within its coveted boundaries so you can experience this sweaty bliss.

Difficulty: Challenging
Distance: 3.5-7 mile loop
Amenities: Private trail, park at Cups and Cones
Address: 2900 N. Quinlan Park Rd.