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13 Best Hikes in Austin, Texas

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The best hikes in Austin cover the full range of the city’s natural gifts.

If a light lakeside hike is your style, you can get one in on your way to dinner. If you prefer something a bit more adventurous, you get to decide between Hill Country treks and the numerous creek-following rambles that make up the best hikes in Austin’s surrounding area.

This flexibility is a big reason for hiking’s popularity in Austin. The best hikes in Austin and nearby Central Texas accommodate everyone from wheelchair users to families to serious climbers. They’re designed this way and furnished with ample government support.

Even the other main activity in Austin — live music — deserves some credit for the outdoor bounty. One of the biggest festivals in Austin, the Austin City Limits Music Festival, takes place in Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail-adjacent Zilker Park. And all proceeds from this festival go to benefit Austin’s park system.

Everything about Austin revolves around the outdoors. The parks, the weather… even the food trucks and barbecue are best enjoyed outside.

One of our favorite things about the best hikes in Austin, TX is how much a part of Austinites’ lives they are. When you go on one of these hikes you’re not ‘getting away.’ You’re doing one of the main things that Austin does with its free time.

Best Hikes in Austin

The best hikes in Austin vary in intensity, terrain, and the activities possible throughout. Some are part of Austinites’ everyday experience. You’ll find others at the end of long road trips, requiring reservations and fees.

This list of the 13 best hikes in Austin and its surrounding areas offers opportunities for swimming, caving, birdwatching, and even geocaching. These well-maintained trails have evolved distinct personalities, offering multiple experiences depending on your interests.

1. Barton Creek Greenbelt

barton creek greenbelt in austin texas

Image Credit: jbawsexplores

The Greenbelt, as it’s affectionately called, spans 13.8 miles of trails, with the main trail running for seven miles of forest, limestone peaks, swimming holes, and waterfalls. Packed with hikers, bikers and climbers year-round, it features something for everybody.

When the water level is high enough, its swimming holes are a magnet for summer soakers. Campbell’s Hole, Sculpture Falls, and the Lost Creek trail are among the more popular options.

It slashes through southwest Austin, separating the city from the suburbs, zigzagging all the way to Zilker Park.

2. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail

By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

On the other side of Zilker Park is the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, a 10-mile loop that surrounds Lady Bird Lake. Encompassing paved path, a mile-long boardwalk, and more than 300 piers, this is Austin’s most popular trail — unsurprising when you see its place on the map.

Connecting South Austin, East Austin, and Downtown, this trail is a standby for regular users and those simply looking for one of the best sunsets in Austin. Although swimming in the lake isn’t allowed for people, doggie dips are permitted… as is kayaking and paddleboarding across the untrafficked reservoir.

3. Turkey Creek Trail

turkey creek bridge - wiki image

By Larry D. Moore, CC BY-SA 4.0, Link

Criss-crossing Turkey Creek, this 2.8-mile hike is popular with dog owners who don’t mind getting a bit muddy.

It cuts through Emma Long Metropolitan Park in North Austin, which doesn’t allow dogs but has several longer hikes for humans. The Turkey Creek Trail nevertheless stands out as one of the best hikes in Austin.

4. St. Edwards Park

st edwards park trail in Austin TX

Image Credit: portaplumbus

The St. Edwards Green and Red Loop is a 2.7-mile loop trail with hill and creek-adjacent options. With hills, canyons and cacti, it has some of the most outstanding variety you’ll find among the best hikes in Austin.

The highs and lows of this hike contain some impressive sights — such as towering canyon walls and lush waterfalls.

5. McKinney Falls State Park

The highlight of McKinney Falls State Park is a pair of broad waterfalls where Onion Creek and Williamson Creek meet. There are a variety of trails through the 641-acre park, good for fishing, mountain biking, and hiking. The paved trail of the Orion Creek hike makes it accessible to wheelchair users.

The Homestead Trail leads to the remains of Thomas McKinney’s home, the park’s namesake. This trail can be combined with the Onion Creek or Lower Falls trails to form loops.

The Rock Shelter, used by Native Americans through the 1800s, is another park highlight.

6. Homestead Trail Loop

The Homestead Trail loops have long been thought of as two of the best hikes in Austin. This is why they continue to be among the most popular hikes for Austinites, despite their location far to the city’s southwest.

The McKinney Homestead was built in the 1840s and remained in use up until the 1940s when fire struck. When the state park was established in the 1970s, the building was stabilized to prevent collapse.

Regardless of this effort, it’s still one of the wildest corners of the park. To complete these loops you’ll have to leave the pavement of the Onion Creek trail to wade through water and navigate steep rock outcroppings.

7. Mayfield Park Lake Trail

Mayfield Park & Lake Trail

By LoneStarMike, CC BY-SA 3.0, Link

If your idea of a hike is more a meander, this 0.3-mile trail might be for you.

Situated next to the Contemporary Austin – Laguna Gloria Museum in Tarrytown, this 22-acre nature preserve just west of downtown is filled with free-roaming peacocks, good birdwatching, and lush gardens.

It’s also close to Mount Bonnell, the highest peak in Austin.

8. Mount Bonnell

mount bonnel with lake

Image Credit: escapeelsewhere

The Mount Bonnell trail’s 0.3 miles lead to the most famous sunset spot in Austin. 106 carved limestone stairs will take you to the top of the 775-foot lookout, and various improvised trails will take you even further onto the rocky outcroppings… not that we advise such risks for a unique shot.

If you’re looking to capture the best of Austin in one picture, you’ve come to the right lookout. To the west, you’ll see the Hill Country, and to the east, you’ll look down on the skyline. In the past, daredevils have even ziplined to the lake below!

9. Walnut Creek Trail

walnut creek trail

Image Credit: kwmosser

The Walnut Creek Loop Trail is a creek-adjacent 1.3 miles of dog walking, biking, hiking and sunbathing entirely within Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park in North Austin.

Closer to Walter E. Lang Metropolitan Park, also in North Austin, lies another Walnut Creek Trail — this one a 19.5-mile multi-use trail that features a lake. It’s a prime chunk of the planned Walnut Creek regional trail system that the Austin Parks and Recreation Department began work on two decades ago. Once complete, it will connect Govalle Neighborhood Park in East Austin to Balcones District Park in North Austin, along with many other parks, neighborhoods, and landmarks.

The lower 7.3-mile stretch is called the Southern Walnut Creek Trail. Running through trees, flatlands, rolling hills, and water, the trail also has a variety of side hikes to make your experience unique.

10. Hamilton Greenbelt

hamilton greenbelt trail

Image Credit: nieves_stg

The Hamilton Greenbelt is not to be confused with the famous Hamilton Pool Preserve, also in West Austin. This Hamilton hike is an easy five miles of well-maintained trail 20 miles west of Downtown Austin, featuring its own road trip-worthy highlights.

Half a mile in, you’ll find stunning waterfalls. Venture further and you’ll find rocky overhangs, a top-notch bird blind, and a view of Hurst Creek emptying into Lake Travis. None of it is too challenging. It’s kid-friendly, and there are even some picnic spots on the way.

11. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

enchanted rock in austin texas

Image Credit: culinary_discipletx

When the sun rises on the pink granite of Enchanted Rock, it also lights up the surrounding Hill Country for one of the best views you’ll find. At nearly 100 miles out of Austin, you know it must be special to make this list.

The park itself comprises over 1,600 acres of caves, granite rock, oak woodland, mesquite grassland, and floodplain. The 8.4 miles of trails accommodate hikers, backpackers, campers, climbers, birders, and stargazers. It’s also been a crossroads of native cultures for centuries.

In 2017, rated it the best campsite in Texas.

12. Lakeway Canyonlands to Rough Hollow Cove

lakeway canyonlands trail

Image Credit: Donovan Acker

The varied six miles stretching from the Lakeway Canyonlands to Rough Hollow Cove aren’t all difficult — but the trek can be treacherous when the water level rises or in the few steep sections.

The trail connects the Lakeway Canyonlands trail system to that of nearby Rough Hollow Cove, with several options for alternative paths. The cove itself is an inlet of Lake Travis and is a picture-perfect swimming hole to end on.

13. River Place Nature Trail

river place nature trail in austin texas

Image Credit: guthrie_mw

This West Austin hike rises and falls over rock formations and into valleys through a 5.6-mile loop. It’s known as one of the most grueling hikes in Austin, with nearly every stretch peppered with stairs and steep side-slopes.

You’ll encounter a waterfall, crossing creeks on the way, and a lake to swim in at the end. At intervals, the foliage opens up for prime vista views of the surrounding canyonlands.

Go Out and Hike Austin

The best hikes in Austin aren’t only Instagram magnets — they are places made for hiking, biking, reading, swimming, and whatever else you want to use them for. And they’ve never been more useful than now.

There are cities that are geared towards indoor life, but Austin isn’t one of them. If you want to get to know the city’s soul, you need to go out and hike Austin — then hike it some more.