Austin has some really wonderful hiking trails that vary in intensity, length and proximity to the center from the city. Hiking in Austin is one of the popular activities when the weather is great you will be in good company if you plan to start hiking in one of Austin’s Hiking trails.
As a hiker myself , I hate going to a hiking spot that has a lot of hype only to discover that it was not for me. Its for this reason that I took around one week to research on what hiking in Austin is like and some of the best hiking spots you should consider if you are looking to start hiking in Austin or are planning to visit Austin and hit some of the trails in the city.
This post is great if you are just starting off hiking in Austin and will give you great tips that will save you from bad experiences and help you find the hiking trails that best suite you. If you are a veteran hiker in Austin,I would love to hear your opinion on my review of the hiking trails discussed below so be sure to leave a comment at the end of this post.
Best hiking trails in AustinBelow are the best Hiking trails in Austin
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Barton Creek is one of the most popular Hiking trails in Austin. It receives thousand of visitors per year and almost everyone has something good to say about the trail.
- It’s a fairly easy trail that will work even for the beginner hikers
- It has beautiful sceneries with trails interweaving with the trees in the woods.
- Free Parking and free entry into the park makes this an excellent place for you if you are on a budget.
- Its proximity to everything else in austin means that you can visit Barton Greenbelt without driving very far from the city.
- The trails are well shaded and you will enjoy the cool breeze underneath the oak trees for most of your hike
- Dogs are allowed in the park
- During summer the water levels sometimes recede and this may reduce the quality of the experience that you will have at Greenbelt
- Since dogs are allowed here, there are a lot of dog poop bags thrown away by dog owners.
- Sometimes, the dogs can be a bit too many.
- Sharing the trail with bikers makes for a tricky hiking experience and you need to watch out for them
- For those who want to do mountain- biking, you may want to avoid this trail. The rocks along the trail will give you a rough time. If you are looking for a place to ride, try . Walnut Creek, Slaughter Creek, Muleshoe, Pace Bend, or Rocky Hill Ranch
- Carry lots of water with you. You will need it when its really hot.
- The river dried up during the summer. If this is an important feature for you, you might want to hold off your visit until the wetter periods of the year like Spring.
- When the river is high enough, there are some swimming holes that you might enjoy swimming in .
- The place is rocky and you would need to have good hiking shoes with good traction to avoid slipping. I have written a post on good waterproof hiking boots for women. You can check it out here
River Place Nature Trail
River Place Nature Trail is a popular hiking trail located in the Greenshores area of Austin Texas. Its length is about 6 miles and is mostly elevated. You would go here if you are looking for a good workout. Since most of the trail is steps, you are bound to break a sweat when hiking the River Place Nature Trail.
- The trail is well shaded on most of the trail.
- The trail’s steps are well maintained reducing the risk of slips and falls.
- The trail has an elevation change of 800 ft which makes for a great hiking experience. However, this may not be the trail for you you are looking for an easy walk.
- The trail has some very beautiful sceneries in the midst of nature. It is a great place to unwind and escape the noise in the city.
- Cascading streams during the wet season makes this a really scenic hike
- The trail has lots of stairs. I found someone on the internet that claims that there are over 2000 stairs. If you are not in the mood for those Many number of stairs, you may not enjoy this hike.
- The trail can get slippery during the wet season and you will need to have shoes with good grip.
- It gets really hot during the summer and with the many stairs on this trail, you are likely to wear yourself out along the hike if your body is not ready for this hike. Some of the neighbors have reported that several hikers have had to get rescued by EMTs after they suffer heart attacks and heat stock.
- There are no fountains along the way. You will need to carry your own hydration.
- Ensure that you carry a lot of water with you. You can use a hydration backpack to free up your hands if you will need to hold onto something. Check out hydration pack prices on amazon
- Have good shoes on. You don’t have to have hiking boots to hike on this trail effectively. You can use tennis shoes but you need to ensure that the shoes have good grip to protect you from slipping and falling.
- Since the trail gets crowded on most days, I would recommend hiking early in the morning to avoid the crowds.
Lady Bird Lake
About the Trail
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike trail located on the shores of Lady Bird Lake is a wonderful trail if you are looking for an easy walk without big elevation changes. If you are not the kind of person that enjoys difficult hikes or if you are looking for an easy stroll, then this is the trail for you.
Located near the City, the Lady Bird Lake has beautiful views of the lake and the city that is praised by both first-timers and veterans of this trail.
Its a 10+ mile loop that runs along the entire perimeter of the lake so its bound to offer a great place to walk or run.
- The beautiful views of the lake on one side and skyscrapers on the other make this hiking trail a really scenic location to hike in Austin.
- You can rent a bike if you would like to complete this trail more easily.
- There are many points where you can take beautiful pictures with the views of the water right in front of you.
- There are strict rules about dogs being on leashes.
- The trail is great for night walks. Plus its more calm and less crowded at this time.
- There is some wildlife like geese, ducks and fish which add to the beauty of the lake trail.
- There is high foot traffic during the day and the bikes on the trail can get to you if you were looking for a quiet afternoon in the park.
- You need to watch for those bikes that zoom past you from behind. Especially if you have a dog.
- Fishers sometimes leave their hooks and fishing lines on the shores and this can be a hazard for you or your pet. Watch out for that.
- They could clean up the park a bit more. A number of reviewers on the internet complained about dog poop bags and fishing lines with hooks still in them.
- The lake’s trails get crowded on busy days like the weekends or holidays. If you are looking for a more quiet walk, It would be advisable for you to visit
- Keep a look-out for zooming bikes when visiting here. Especially if you will be accompanied by your dog.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
- It’s mostly quiet except for the occasional highway sounds. The trails here create a really tranquil environment for a quiet walk.
- This trail is good for beginners. It is not very challenging and would be appropriate for hikers on all fitness levels.
- THe river and falls are a good sight on the wetter seasons. The river does dry up on the hotter months though.
- It has beautiful views especially when its just rained. This is because you will get to experience the falls and the beautiful lush terrain.
- There are park benches along the trails so if you want to catch your breath or enjoy the scenery, you will find good spots to do so.
- Depending on who you ask, this is either a good or bad thing, there are no dogs allowed in the preserve.
- The trail is short and may not be appropriate for those looking for a longer and more challenging hike. The entire trail can be comfortably hiked in 90 minutes.
- Some parts of the trail are rough and you might want to take your hiking boots with you to protect you from rolling your ankles. Here are some good hiking boots you can check out on Amazon
Tips about the trail
- Carry lots of water especially in the hotter periods of the year.
- If you are allergic to pollen, carry allergy pills with you.
- Carry bug spray with you as well.
- Watch your step on the rocky sections. Some of the rocks are loose and need a steady foot. Having a good pair of hiking boots helps.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park
This is a 1.3 mile trail located Austin offering a moderate hike with beautiful sceneries. This trail is also Dog friendly and is a loop trail. This means that though it is short, you can spend more time in it by just competing another circuit.
This trail is popular with mountain bikers because if the intricate sub trails and the twists and turns that offer a nice biking experience. The downside of this if you are a hiker is that you will constantly have to concede to the bikes when on this trail
- This is a great park if you have a dog
- Depending on whether this is your preference, this park allows dogs to go off leash on the trail.
- There are lots of side trails that increases the length of the trail significantly.
- It’s a good trail to mountain biking
- The trail is popular for mountain biking and this makes it slightly dangerous for hikers and their pets who constantly have to keep watch for mountain bikes behind them.
- With pet owners not being careful to dispose their dog’s litter, you may need to watch where you step
- The park has only one bathroom so you please come prepared for that.
Red Bud Isle Park
This is another great dog park located on a small island formed in the middle of the Colorado river. This is short hiking trail (about 0.5 Miles loop
- It’s a great park to walk your dog. The trail allows you to let your dog off leash too.
- The loop is great for a short walk or morning run.
- If you don’t like dogs, then you should not go to this park. You will not enjoy your time there.
- The loop is short for those looking for a whole day hiking trail.
- As usual for trails with lots of dogs, you are likely to come across dog poop bags on your way so it’s best to watch where you step.
McKinney Falls State Park
- The campgrounds are clean and well-maintained with lots of bathrooms. However the trails sometimes have trash which is a bit of an unpleasant view.
- The lower fall are a quick, but somewhat strenuous hike to a nice, big area with a nice, low falls.
- They have lots of great hiking trails many of which are paved. The variety of the hiking trails makes this one or that really good parks to go hiking.
- The park has several swimming holes and this is great when you have hiked for several hours and you need to cool off.
- The park also has two waterfalls that are a beautiful scenery as you hike.
- The park and gets a little bit crowded on the busy days. This may not be very ideal if you’re looking for a quiet place to hike.
- Due to the fact that it’s crowded, you will find trash in some of the water holes and trails. This is not very pleasant to look at.
- The falls dry up during the summer and dry periods of the year and this may be disappointing for those who wanted to enjoy the waterfall sceneries.
Tips about the park
- There is an entry fee of $6 to enter the park.
- If you have an annual pass into texas parks will be able to get in for free.
- The falls are usually dry in the summer and dry periods. If you’d like to enjoy the falls and take pictures of them come during the wet season. December is usually a good time to visit.
St Edwards Park
St Edwards park is one of the more popular choices when hiking in Austin. The park has multiple trails that offer water features and beautiful sceneries that make for a lovely hiking trip.
It’s a 3.3 mile loop trail that has a bit of changes in elevation ( about 400 ft. Change).
- It has a nice creek and you can spend time in the water or have a picnic close to the water.
- Dogs need to be on their leashes when in this park.
- Depending on the time of year, flowers bloom beautifully to make a really beautiful sight.
- Several people complain about poison ivy. Keep an eye out and don’t get to cosy with the leaves 🙂
- There is a large number of people who complained about some of the trails being overgrown and not very well maintained.
- The water levels go low during the dry season and if you came to see the creek, this may disappoint you.
Austin has some great hiking trails with waterfalls. I have mentioned a few of those trails here here but the full and comprehensive list with pictures and videos are on that article. You can read it here
How to get around when hiking in Austin
If you see new to Austin, you might not know your way around. Below are some tips and tricks of getting to hiking trails when hiking in Austin.
Uber and Lyft in Austin
The first question you may be asking is, can I use Uber or Lyft in Austin? Before Mid 2017, the answer was no due to a city regulation that banned the two companies from operating in Austin. How, a new state law was passed that superseded the city law and you can now use Uber.
Renting a Car in Austin
Getting to the hiking trails
If you are looking to rent a car in Austin, here are some recommendations:
October and April are the Best times of the year to hike in Austin
By far the best time of the year to hike in Austin are September to November or March to May. The temperatures at this time are tolerable and will all you to enjoy a pleasant time outdoors. The weather is in the mid 70s and this Goldilocks zone is perfect for hiking.
Spring is the busiest time of the year in Austin. This is due to a number of festivals and events happening around Austin. Some of these include University of Texas at Austin graduation and the SXSW festival.
You will need to plan carefully to avoid paying too much in hotels or on worse cases, not finding accommodation at all.
If you are planning on hiking on trails with water features, this seasons are the the best to hike in Austin. On the hotter months like The middle of summer, most of the creeks on some of these trails are usually dry and not the don’t have the beautiful falls that are usually associated with these trails.
Summer Hiking in Austin
Summer is a hot season in Austin. Wiz temperatures ranging around 100 degrees, it is not a very interesting month to be hiking in Austin. If you plan to travel to Austin during that period, I would not recommend hiking as the best activity for you. During my research for this article, I read about people who get stuck on some trails due to heat strokes as they hike.
If You do decide to go hiking during this season, i would recommend that you carry lots of water and plan ahead to make sure that the temperatures are within accepted limits in the trails that you’re going to be hiking.
Things you will need when hiking in Austin in Summer
- A good hydration pack with a lot of water will help make sure that you do not get dehydrated on your hiking trip.
- Good Hiking boots/shoes for some of the rocky trails that will need shoes with good grip and enough ankle support.
Spring Hiking in Austin
Spring is the best season for you to go hiking in Austin. Temperatures are moderate and you will enjoy a good hike when visiting Austin during this season. During this time, you will find that most of the trails have beautiful flowers blooming and this only adds to the beauty of the hiking trails.
During this time most of the creeks are replenished by the rain and you are likely to find beautiful water features on the hiking trails in Austin with waterfalls
Winter Hiking in Austin
The temperatures during the winter months get chilly in Austin and may not make for a really fun hiking trip. The temperatures in December range between 63-42 degrees. While you would probably complete a hike with these temperatures, you may not want to go for a swim in some of the swimming holes on the trails or go in the water on any of the creeks.
Autumn Hiking in Austin
Autumn is one of the best seasons to go hiking in Austin. This is because the temperatures are around the Goldilocks zone of the mid 80s and this is perfect for a lovely day out in the sun. The creeks also have good amounts of water and you will most likely find good water features on the trails as you hike.
Hiking in Austin with Dogs
Hiking with your dog is one of the many joys of hiking and lucky for you (if you own a dog) there are many parks in Austin that allow you to bring your dog with you.
These trails include:
- Emma Long Metropolitan Park
- Barton Creek Greenbelt Preserve
- Bull Creek District Park
- McKinney Falls State Park etc
Some of these parks have special restrictions that need you to have your dog on a leash and others allow for dogs to go off leash. Make sure that you find out what the special restrictions are to make sure that you do not get in trouble with the trail management.
During my research for this article, I found many people who were complaining about dog owners leaving dog-poop bags along the trail. This is a really bad habit and I would encourage any dog owner to take care of their dog’s little packages to help other hikers enjoy their hikes as well.
Cheap hikes in Austin
When hiking in Austin, you may want to visit the hiking trails and spend time in the outdoors but may not have the budget to spend on entry fees and similar costs. If this is you, then below is a list of free-entry parks that will not charge you to use them.
- Barton Creek Greenbelt – Twin Falls.
- Slaughter Creek Trail
- McKinney Roughs Nature Park
- Georgetown Lake Goodwater Trail
- Walnut creek trail
What to wear when hiking in Austin
Many of the hiking trails in Austin are rocky and some have tree stumps that become potential hazards when hiking in Austin. One of the recommendations that I make to everyone who has an interest in hiking, invest in a good pair of hiking boots. They are well worth the investment and they will protect you from rolling your ankles, getting hiking blisters and slipping and falling on loose rocks. I have written an article on the best hiking boots for women and you can check it out here. It will give you a good idea on what to look for when buying a hiking boot.
The rest of what you wear will depend on the weather and your preference but a good rule of thumb is to wear light clothes that will give you good movement and especially not restrict your feet.
Austin Camping options
The best way to fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the outdoors is to go for a camping trip. Austin provides a number of options when it comes to camping and the following are some options you might want to choose.
- McKinney Falls State Park Camping grounds
- Sandy Creek Park
- Cedar Breaks Park
- Pace Bend Park
- Tejas Camp
- Bastrop State Park
- Jim Hogg Park
- Palmetto State Park
- Windy Point Park
- Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area
- Arkansas Bend Park
- Emma Long Metropolitan Park
- Inks Lake State Park
RV Parks in Austin
When travelling in An RV, You may want to stop in Austin for a few days to enjoy the hikes there. You will need a good RV park which will serve as your pivot point when you go to visit some of the sites in the city. Below is a list of a few good RV Parks you may want to consider.
- La Hacienda RV Resort
- Austin East Koa RV Park
- Oak Forest RV Resort
- Evergreen RV Park
- Austin Lone Star RV Resort
- Longhorn RV Resort
Best Hotels When Hiking Austin
If you are visiting to visit one of the hiking trails there, hotel accommodation may be something you want to consider. Here is a list of some of the best hotels to stay in when visiting Austin.
HI – Austin Hostel
Rodeway Inn Austin
Motel 6 Austin North
America’s Best Value Inn – Austin
Drifter Jack’s Hostel
Quality Suites South Austin
Mid Range Options
Extended Stay America – Austin -Arboretum – South
Country Inn & Suites – Austin
Super 8 By Wyndam Austin
Comfort Sutes NW Lakeline
High End Hotels
Best Western Plus Austin Central
Hyatt Place Austin Downtown
Staybridge Suites Austin
Quality Inn & Suites Downtown North
Hampton Inn Austin- South