The Best Hiking Spots in Austin

Take a hike, pal. 

Walking your dog around your neighborhood doesn't have to be the only way to get outside during social distancing. Luckily for us, Austin is sprinkled with plenty of trails where you can run, walk, hike, or bike–without even traveling outside the city limits. Just remember to take care of those around you and maintain a 6 foot distance at all times. That being said, take a break from the indoors and check out some of the Best Hiking Spots in Austin.

Disclaimer: We've added updates to each spot to the best of our knowledge, but always remember to check with the trail or park's official website for real-time updates before heading out!

Contributed by Emma Galdo

The Boardwalk at Lady Bird Lake via Emma Galdo

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail 

Lady Bird Lake

This 10-mile loop around Lady Bird Lake is an Austin staple and includes a sampling of several centrally-located parks along the way. You can hop on this trail at virtually any point and cut across the water via any bridge to create your own route. If you love people-watching, sunsets, and badass views of the Austin skyline, then walk to the edge of the lake and have yourself an adventure.

Updates: "Park is still open with decreased parking and trails are now one-way and promoting social distancing."

River Place Nature Trail via Friends of River Place Trail

River Place Nature Trail

8820 Big View Dr

Get ready to sweat. These 5-6 miles of Hill Country woods have infamous stretches of inclines and stairs that will make you feel the burn–even a day or two (or three) later. You aren’t likely to get a better workout in a more scenic spot in Austin-proper. Be prepared to get muddy and a little wet if you’re hiking after a rainstorm. This is also a dog-friendly park, so consider bringing a canine companion just in case you need to be pulled up the stairs in a moment of weakness. On weekend hikes, expect to pay a $10 fee (card only, no cash) per person and animal to use this trail. This fee was implemented to help with trail upkeep - residents with residential IDs may hike for free.

Updates: "Hikers report that the trail has opened back up."

Violet Crown Trail

4970 W Hwy 290

The Violet Crown Trail began as a vision in 1999 to create the first regional trail system in Central Texas. After over 15 years of strategic land acquisition and planning, the first six-mile segment is now open and the VCT is on its way to becoming the longest trail of its kind in Central Texas. Passing near the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, the Violet Crown Trail will head south, winding through the rolling countryside of the City of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands in a unique natural setting.

Updates: "Open but continuing to follow CDC guidelines."

Turkey Creek Nature Trail via Hill Country Outdoor Guide

Turkey Creek Trail

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

This 3-mile hike is short, sweet, and full of awesome scenery. It’s moderate in difficulty and includes some additional side trails to explore if getting lost in the woods is your thing. The pathway crosses over the creek bed multiple times, so consider bringing water shoes if you’re hiking during the rainier months and tread carefully if you have kids tagging along. Another bonus for dog owners: this is an off-leash park!

Updates: "Beginning on Thursday, May 21, 2020, park staff will monitor walk-in/cyclist capacity at the park. Once capacity is reached, no additional walk-ins/cyclists will be allowed into the parks. Signage will be on-site along with park staff to educate visitors. Walk-ins/cyclists will move to a day pass system (similar to vehicles) in the coming weeks. A date for passes will be announced when the system is operational. We wish to remind park visitors that no parking is allowed on the right-of-way outside these parks. Please reserve day passes and only park in designated parking areas."

Walnut Creek Trail Via Emma Galdo

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

Johnny Morris Road and Govalle Park

This 7.7-mile long urban trail is perfect if you’re looking for a longer trek. It’s fully paved and about 10 feet wide, making it ideal for bike traffic but also great for walkers and runners. Located in the Walnut Creek Greenbelt in East Austin, the trail will satisfy any nature lover's craving for beautiful foliage or arthropod encounters. As part of a larger system of urban trails being developed in Austin, the Southern portion now connects to an extension that runs another 7 miles to Manor, TX. Strap on your helmet and go!

Updates: "Date of closure: January 13, 2020 - late March 2020. Starting January 13, 2020,* Walnut Creek Trail will close where it crosses under US 183, south of Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. It will be closed for approximately two weeks, but will be open on weekends. Please check back for updates. Pedestrians and bicyclists should use the new shared-use path and sidewalk along northbound and southbound US 183 and the pedestrian crossing at Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd. to access the opposite side of the highway."

Slaughter Creek Trail Via Emma Galdo

Slaughter Creek Trail

Circle C Ranch

South Austinites don’t need to drive too far north to get a good hike in. Slaughter Creek provides 5 miles of horse, hike, and mountain bike friendly pathways. This trail is well-marked and good for both novice or experienced hikers. In the spring, you can enjoy views of beautiful wildflower fields. Pro tip: lather up with sunscreen - this trail isn’t as shady as some of the woodier parks in Austin.

Updates: "Open, new gate times: 6:30am to 8:30pm."

The Wild Basin Via Emma Galdo

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

805 North Capital of Texas Highway

Hidden just off Capital of Texas Highway are 227 acres of pristine Hill Country woods is the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. A short 2.5-mile trail runs through this preserve and provides amazing views at every corner, including a creek, a waterfall, and an overlook of the basin. The hike is relatively easy, with a few calorie-burning inclines. You’re likely to encounter some wildlife along the way; the preserve is home to the Golden-cheeked Warbler, an endangered bird that’s been around since before Austin was weird.

Updates: Wild Basin Preserve and trails will continue to remain closed through the month of June to ensure the protection and safety of the preserve, visitors, and staff. A tentative decision has been made jointly by Travis County and St. Edward's University to reopen the preserve mid-July, however, a final decision regarding the reopening date will be governed by public health guidance, staff and visitor safety, preserve readiness and staffing capacity, and the status of activity at other nearby parks and preserves.

McKinney Falls State Park Via Mckinney Falls State Park Facebook

McKinney Falls State Park

5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy

If chilling at a waterfall oasis after a hike is your thing, then head down to the lower falls at McKinney Falls State Park. To reach the trailhead, you’ll need to pay a small park fee and cross over the creek on foot, but the 6.8 miles of hiking are worth it. The trail is made up of a few smaller loops, so if you’re hungover or recovering from a “cheat week” then you can make it short and sweet. The hike is relatively easy but includes some great foliage and wildlife sightings.

Updates: "Most state parks, including this one, are open for day visitors. Advance day pass reservations are required - reserve them online or over the phone."

Photo via A Photographic Essay: St. Edwards Park by Kim Heaston

St. Edwards Park

7301 Spicewood Springs Rd

This hidden gem in Northwest Austin is a great alternative to some of the more crowded parks in the city. The 2-3 mile long hike is relatively easy with a few challenging spots of hilly terrain, but the scenery is definitely the draw. Along the way you’ll see Bull Creek, waterfalls, one of the biggest cactus patches in Austin (Instagram with caution), and an awesome overlook of St. Edwards Park.

Updates: "Open but often very crowded."

Shoal Creek Trail via Emma Galdo

Shoal Creek Trail

2600 N Lamar Blvd

A centrally located trail that’s great for a quick run before or after work is in the Shoal Creek Greenbelt. If you’re northwest of downtown but don’t want the hassle of finding parking around Town Lake, hop on around 38th Street and enjoy a great mix of urban and natural scenery. This shady trail passes by the amenities of Duncan Park and Pease Park, so if you’re walking your pup and forgot doggie bags, you’ll be covered. This 3.7-mile trail is now connected to the Lady Bird Lake Trail at Shoal Beach so long distance runners can go ham.

Updates: "Parts of the trail are closed for construction after a landslide in 2018. Detours are marked."

The Greenbelt via Wikipedia

Barton Creek Greenbelt

2100 Barton Springs Rd

Another Austin staple is the Barton Creek Greenbelt, one of the top-rated hikes in Texas. This 7.8-mile trail will entertain virtually any outdoor enthusiast. Not only can you hike and bike, but you can climb, swim, kayak, float, and party responsibly. The badass scenery speaks for itself, so go out and explore! Everyone has their own favorite piece of this trail, so ask around - we love Sculpture Falls and Twin Falls.

Updates: "Open but often very crowded. For July 4th weekend, the hill of life entrance will require reservations for entry."

Want to talk trails? 

Holler at [email protected]