There are multiple greenbelts in Austin, but the Barton Creek Greenbelt is so beloved that locals commonly refer to it as “the Greenbelt,” as if it were the only one. Located in south-central Austin, the Barton Creek Greenbelt contains 12.68 miles of gorgeous trails, with the main trail spanning about 7 miles. This particular greenbelt is considered one of the top hiking trails in Texas.
But this area is not only for hiking. One of the city’s most prized attractions, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is filled with mountain biking trails and beautiful limestone bluffs for rock climbing. And when there’s enough water in the creek, there are several swimming holes locals like to enjoy.
It’s hard to believe something so beautiful is located minutes from downtown. Unfortunately for newcomers, accessing the Barton Creek Greenbelt can be a little confusing. To help, here is a complete guide to all the public access points for Austin’s natural gem.
2201 Barton Springs Road
Considered the trailhead of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, this access point is great for beginners and those looking for a low-impact, relaxing hike. There’s ample parking in and around Zilker Park, though it does get busy on weekends and you do have to pay for parking. The beginning of the trail is pretty flat and not too demanding.
From here, if you head about 1.2 miles south, you’ll come to the next access point.
Special Note: This location is also considered the trailhead for the Violet Crown Trail, which shares the existing Barton Creek Greenbelt trail until about the 4-mile marker, where the trails diverge. Once complete, the Violet Crown Trail will be 30 miles long, stretching all the way into Hays County.
1601 Spyglass Dr.
Spyglass has been my very favorite access point for several years, mainly because this is where I discovered Taco Deli. I know this article isn’t about tacos, but if you are using this access point you must stop and try this local favorite. Grab a couple of breakfast tacos and be on your way to explore.
There is usually easy street parking at this access point.
If you head north on the trail–or left for those directionally-challenged–you’ll arrive at Campbell’s Hole, a popular swimming spot…when there’s water.
If you head south–or to the right–you’ll catch the first of many climbing walls on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Enclave, and great bouldering areas. If climbing is your thing, continue south and you’ll hit Seismic Wall. I should probably mention that climbers give their routes funny names. You’ll notice as I go along.
Barton Hills Access
2010 Homedale Dr.
If you’re wanting to reach Campbell’s Hole from the east side of the creek, you can find an access point at Barton Hills Elementary School. The street parking is located in a residential neighborhood, so please be considerate to those who live in the area. Again, head north to arrive at Campbell’s Hole.
There are additional hiking trails on the east side of the creek (this is where the 12.68 miles come into play). So even if there’s no water, there’s still plenty to explore in this area.
From here, travel about 1.2 miles to the next access point.
Gus Fruh Access
2642 Barton Hills Dr.
Gus Fruh access point is also located within a residential neighborhood, so be courteous and don’t block any driveways. There’s another popular swimming hole here…when there’s water. It can get quite deep, unlike Campbell’s Hole.
You’ll also find several great limestone climbing walls, such as Urban Assault, as you head south from this access point.
Continue south for roughly 1.4 miles and you’ll arrive at the main access point for the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Loop 360 Access
3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy (Loop 360)
When I first moved to Austin, I heard people talking about “the Greenbelt.” With piqued interest, I did a trusty Google search. Loop 360 is the only access point Google references. Even so, I’ll be honest: I had a strangely hard time finding this entrance because–as you pull up–it looks like you’re entering an office complex.
Remember, just turn at that light! There’s a designated parking lot with overflow parking in the office park on weekends. You’ll see the distinct Austin Parks and Recreation sign as you pull up–which all public access points have.
This access point is where you start to notice more mountain bikers, since from here the terrain is a lot more “fun.” This is also the main access point for the popular climbing wall, Seismic. I’ve climbed Seismic several times, including once in the dark. It’s pretty magical.
The biggest downfall to this section of the greenbelt is the noise pollution from the highway. So if you’re heading to the Barton Creek Greenbelt for meditative time, you may want to start at a different access point.
On your way to the next access point at Mopac, about 1.3 miles away, you’ll run into a fork in the trail where the Violet Crown Trail and the Barton Creek Greenbelt trails divide. Continue straight to remain on the Barton Creek Greenbelt trail.
Gaines/Twin Falls Access
3918 S. Mopac Expy
This entrance, in my opinion, is the trickiest. From Capital of Texas Highway, turn as if you’re heading south on Mopac. But instead of taking the on-ramp, remain on the frontage road. Just past the ramp, you’ll find the next Barton Creek Greenbelt access point. Look for parked cars on the right side of the road, and you’ll find the entrance near the U-turn.
There is no parking lot, which is why it’s so tricky. So be extra careful of traffic when walking along the road as you arrive.
Why access the greenbelt from here if it’s so tricky? Because from here you can quickly reach another swimming hole, Twin Falls. And even when there isn’t water, this area ranks high in my book because of the stunning and beautiful trees.
This access point is great for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers, since the terrain is a little more diverse. Plus, it becomes less crowded from here to the last access point, which is about 2.8 miles west.
1710 Camp Craft Road
Considered the trails end, this access is my new favorite.
Here you will find the famous Hill of Life and Sculpture Falls. Sculpture Falls, you guessed it, is another swimming hole. And the Hill of Life is…well…a challenge! It’s about a half-mile downhill hike, or uphill depending on the direction you’re going. It’s great on a mountain bike and perfect for trail runners who want an extra challenge.
I really like that there are additional trails to explore and it’s typically less crowded in this area. And I secretly like the Hill of Life.
Now that you know WHERE you’re going, here are a few important things to remember. First and foremost, since you are in a dog city, it’s important to note that dogs are welcome on the trail. However, they must be keep them on a leash at all times.
There are no restrooms, water fountains or trashcans on the trail itself, so plan ahead. Bring water with you and dispose of trash (including dog excrement) at the access points.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt has something for every interest and skill level. So pick up a new sport. Take your dog for a walk. Explore. Or just pray for rain, so we can take advantage of all the swimming holes right in our backyard.
Now that you know about all the Barton Creek Greenbelt access points, you have no excuse. Get out there!
@jpino9 wants to know:
What is your favorite activity on the Barton Creek Greenbelt?