If you’re looking for a fresh start in the heart of Texas, Austin is one of the best places to start. Known for its eccentric vibe and fun culture, Austin has a nook or cranny for everyone to tackle their unique interests. Some Austinites embrace the music scene. Foodies find their niche among the famous street tacos and downtown eateries. Other locals, welcoming their inner nature-spirit, thrive within the hundreds of options Austin offers for gettin’ outside.
For adventurers, exploring the trails scattered within Austin city limits is a stellar way to treat yourself to some light to hard-core exercise. There are so many possibilities that you’ll definitely have the chance to figure out your favorite hiking regimen. How much do you wanna exert yourself? Do you prefer an urban feel over dirt and rocks? Do you enjoy looking at trees and birds? You may not know the answers yet, but adventuring through Austin can help you decide!
Ready to discover your trailblazing match? Here’s a list of the top ten spots for hiking near Austin to help you get started. For newbie hikers, we’ve even thrown in a few packing and preparation tips to set you up for a good time.
And, of course, if you’re looking for a place to live near your favorite trail, we can help with that, too.
1. Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
To enjoy a protected space for endangered species, take a 2.5-mile-long immersive nature hike through the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. You’ll find this preserve near the Capitol of Texas Highway, known as Loop 360, where it overlooks the beautiful Texas Hill Country. You can even see some of downtown Austin from lookout points along the route.
There are educational programs at the welcome center to help budding nature nerds learn fun facts about local wildlife and the hike itself is fairly easy. For the best experience, be sure to use the restroom before you start, because there are no toilets around after you enter. Remember, too, that as a nature preserve the place doesn’t allow dogs or bicycles.
2. McKinney Falls State Park
Outdoorsy types should be sure to visit the only state park within Austin city limits: McKinney Falls State Park. There is a small entrance fee, but when the falls are flowing there’s no shortage of people visiting. McKinney Falls is only 13 miles from the Texas State Capitol Building and is a super-popular spot for camping and swimming since it boasts 81 different campsites and numerous fishing creeks.
As a hiker, you will have a three-trail system to explore. Try the Homestead Trail to see the ruins of the stone house that once belonged to the park’s namesake, Thomas McKinney. There are also the tire-friendly Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail and the less-crowded but more uphill Rock Shelter Trail.
If you’re shooting to hike ’em all at once, expect the trails to take you about three hours to complete.
3. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail is perfect for experiencing the glorious essence of Austin, Texas. Unlike the other hiking trails on this list, this is an urban trail involving a 10-mile loop around the city’s popular Town Lake. At every turn there’s a gorgeous view of the city and the lake, which makes this a wonderful place to walk a dog, go for a run or simply take in the beauty of Austin.
You will find many access points offering plenty of parking all the way around the trail. You can take the whole loop in about 3.5 hours, but you can also stop by top recreational areas like Zilker Park and Auditorium Shores. If you decide to move to Austin, this might become your most used of all the local hiking trails!
4. Turkey Creek Trail
Located on City Park Road, and near Emma Metropolitan Park, there is a mellow hiking trail called Turkey Creek Trail. This serene, flat trail is great for clearing your head and getting your self-care on. While the hike itself is a simple hour-long undertaking, you can also explore some other side trails if you’re feeling a bit more adventurous.
Even during the sweltering summer months, Turkey Creek Trail is superb because it is relatively flat and well-shaded. As a bonus, it’s also an off-leash trail for bringing your favorite well-trained pup. This one is certainly among the best hiking trails in Austin to bring your squad and spend a day chilling.
5. Blunn Creek Nature Preserve
If you are looking for some quiet introspection while you are hiking in Austin, the Blunn Creek Preserve is the place to go. While indulging your wanderlust across the canopied thickets of trees and rocky terrain, it can be easy to forget you’re in the middle of the city. The Blunn Creek trail will take you on a one-mile hike through Central Austin where you will see some of Austin’s history, including occasional views of downtown and St. Edwards University.
6. River Place Nature Trail
For all those who hate leg day at the gym, this one may give you a neat alternative for getting those quads and hamstrings pumping. Out of all the places to hike in Austin, the River Place Nature Trail will give you one of the best workouts. With the stair-like incline, you’ll find yourself working up a sweat in no time and you’ll have the fresh air and perks of nature as a bonus. It’s also a pet-friendly trail as long as Fido can handle the challenge.
The River Place Nature Trail will take you about 1.5 hours and is a five-mile round trip. If you can conquer it, the immaculate creek and waterfall views you’ll receive will more than make up for the grueling physical endeavor.
7. Mary Moore Searight Park
Just off Slaughter Creek and behind Southpark Meadows, Mary Moore Searight Park is a favorite spot for bikers, horseback riders and hikers. Some say it can be easy to get lost in Searight Park because some signs may be hard to read, but that just adds to the adventure! The 344 acres of the park are also home to one of Austin’s sick disc golf courses. And a word to the wise: remember to check out the creek and the hanging Spanish moss before heading home.
8. Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is famous among hikers all around Austin. Simply dubbed “The Greenbelt” among Austinites, this seven-mile trail has something for everyone. With seven different access points, you can find challenging half-mile elevations, limestone climbing walls and places to swim like Sculpture Falls. When the creek is full, you can enjoy a refreshing dip after your long hike through the limestone bluffs.
9. Mount Bonnell
Looking for that flawless Instagram shot to show off your travels or perhaps your new home city of Austin? Mount Bonnell is where you want to go to fill your comment threads with heart-eye emojis. It’s a short but challenging 0.3-mile climb. Once you conquer the 106 stairs, you will be greeted by a truly incredible view overlooking Austin, a.k.a. your next selfie’s killer backdrop. There is also another small walking path to the right of the viewpoint if you would like to extend your hike.
Not only is Mount Bonnell actually the highest point in Austin, but it’s also a tried-and-true, top-notch date destination. All you have to do is add a lovingly packed picnic and you’ll have yourself the perfect afternoon.
10. Mayfield Nature Park and Preserve
The Mayfield Nature Preserve is not only a popular wedding destination because of its historic cottage and wandering elaborate peacocks, but it is also home to a gentle trail network. With 24 acres to explore, it doesn’t necessarily entail a major workout, but it can be a relaxing and fun hike with friends.
While you can’t bring your dog along, you can enjoy a breezy 30-minute stroll on the path that takes you down to a dock that overlooks Lake Austin. Pay attention to the palm trees and water lilies for a picture of harmony and inspiration.
Hiking Pro Tips: Preparing and Packing for Your Outdoor Adventure
Now that you know some of the top places to get your hike on, you gotta make sure you prepare well before taking off. It can be a real bummer to finally arrive at your hiking trail only to find you don’t have everything you need or that something just isn’t right. Here are some tips and tricks that’ll help you have the best possible experience.
What to Pack When Exploring Austin Hiking Trails
Whether you are going on the gentle stroll of Mayfield Park or the workout of the River Place Nature Trail, there are items that you should always bring with you for your hike. Obviously, you don’t want to take more than you can comfortably carry. But you shouldn’t aim to be empty-handed, either.
Here’s a short list of generally-good-idea items to get you started:
- Hydration. In the Austin heat, bringing as much water as you can — and drinking that water regularly — is a must. Even if you are hiking in the winter, drinking plenty of fluids and restoring your electrolytes is crucial. If your doggo is with you, don’t forget to keep them hydrated as well.
- Nutrition. Whether you are going on a short walk or a full day of hiking through Austin, packing extra snacks is key.
- Good shoes. You simply are not going to enjoy your time hiking around Austin if you don’t have comfortable shoes.
- Map or compass. It’s always important to know where you are and where you are going. Grab a map of the trail you’re hiking, if one’s available, or at least look up coordinates on your smartphone before hitting the trail. You can even download a map for offline use. Having a guide is especially crucial for trails like the ones in Mary Moore Searight Park, where the signs are difficult to read.
- Sun protection. It can be easy to forget this must-have when packing last-minute for a day hike. But without it, you may find yourself in a scorching situation. Always have SPF and a hat on hand if you’re going to be hiking regularly in the sweltering Texas sun.
- First-aid supplies. When facing the elements, always plan for the worst. A small pouch of simple first-aid items is an easily portable solution that’ll keep you from being caught unprepared when you’re hiking.
- Flashlight. If you are hiking late at night or early in the morning, it’s always smart to have a light on hand. Nowadays, this might just be your smartphone, but having a small flashlight can be helpful if you want to conserve your phone battery for emergencies.
How to Prepare for Hiking Near Austin, Texas
There is more to preparing for your hike than just packing. You can have the perfect stash of necessities, but there are some circumstances you’ll only be able to avoid if you take a moment to put safeguards in place beforehand. Here are some preparation tips to consider:
- Honestly consider your fitness level. We’re not trying to be harsh, but we know it can be easy, especially just as you begin a new workout routine or hiking hobby, to overestimate what you’re capable of. Wisdom is taking the time to learn your pace. Give yourself some wiggle room when choosing the difficulty of the trails you embark on.
- Do your research. Learn what makes the trail you will be hiking unique. Become as much of an expert as you can to be as prepared as possible. Find out details like the best entrances, where you should park your vehicle, what times your trail is available and whether there are any recent updates on route conditions or closures that you need to know beforehand.
- Check the weather. Don’t be caught in the rain!
- Let people know where you will be. Even if you’re going on your hike to get away from the world, always be sure to let someone know where you’ll be in case something happens.
- Pack smart. You won’t need the same set of supplies every time you go on a hike. Pack with that day’s hike in mind. For example, it may be windy — so bring a jacket. Or the trail may be muddy from yesterday’s rain, so bring an extra pair of shoes for the drive home. After you gain some hiking experience, you’ll know the right kinds of conditions to consider.
- Dress smart. Make sure your clothes fit well, are comfortable and fit the weather. Avoid cotton-based clothes, since they are known for being poor at sweat-wicking and temperature regulation.
- Pace yourself. Just like a marathon runner, when you hike, you don’t want to start the trail running full speed ahead. Be sure to pace yourself and pick a pace you can maintain all day.
- Leave it better than you found it. Austin is a beautiful city and its trails are a sight to behold. Keep them as clean as you can. Pick up trash left by others whenever possible and remember not to litter yourself.
Find Your Outdoorsy Home in Austin With Smart City
Austin is a place like no other. Whether you’re getting pumped about hiking through one of the nature preserves or you want to explore the city via its urban paths, Austin offers something for everyone. As a travel destination, this city is one thing — but Austin will deepen your love for the outdoors more and more every day if you take your time getting to know it.
Austin may be precisely what you’re looking for in a new home. Now, all you have to do is find somewhere to crash and hang your hat. That’s where we come in.
There is literally no downside to using our free, hyper-personalized apartment matching tools to find your next awesome apartment home in Austin, Dallas or Houston. At Smart City Apartment Locating, we take the time to listen to what types of adventures you’re looking for and max out our professional efforts to make sure you find them.
Ring up our Austin team today or get in touch with us online to find your free, personalized recommendations. Within no time, your hiking boots’ll be packed with the dirt of exciting memories and a newfound freedom to explore.