It has been scientifically proven that spending time in nature has significant positive mental health benefits. With hundreds of parks and greenbelts all over Austin, we never lack access to nature. Our green space is one of the most unique things we have in Austin. With the help of a fellow blogger, I came up with nine of the best hiking spots in Austin for all of us to utilize and protect, organized by geographic area.
Central Austin Hiking Trails
1. Blunn Creek
Blunn Creek snakes through Central Austin. The watershed encompasses a nature preserve, St. Edwards University, Big Stacy Park, and Little Stacy Park and Wading Pool. While there are several hiking opportunities in the area, head to Blunn Creek Nature Preserve for a beautiful hike and see a little of Austin’s ancient history.
The one-mile loop is lined with native flowers and plants. At its highest point, you can see–with a little imagination–the ancient volcano upon which St. Edwards University was built.
Location: 1200 St. Edward’s Drive, Austin, Texas 78704
2. Barton Creek Greenbelt
Often referred to as simply “The Greenbelt,” Barton Creek Greenbelt is probably the most well-known greenbelt in Austin. With seven access points, you’re sure to find a favorite stretch along the seven plus miles of trail. And if you’re lucky, the creek will be filled with water, allowing you to enjoy a dip after a long hike through the beautiful limestone bluffs.
For an added challenge, enter at the Camp Craft Road access point to experience what locals call the Hill of Life. It may seem easy going down, but going back up will surely get those gams in shape.
Location: Multiple Access Points –> See “The Complete Guide to Austin Greenbelt Access Points and Trails” for map and info
South Austin Hiking Trails
3. Mary Moore Searight Park
Mary Moore Searight Park is located just off Slaughter Creek behind Southpark Meadows. While the hiking trail is just over three miles, this park is 344 acres of green space making it a favorite for bikers and horseback riders. It’s also home to one of Austin’s many disc golf courses. I often get a little lost exploring, since there aren’t many signs, but getting lost in nature somehow makes it okay.
Location: 907 W. Slaughter Lane, Austin, Texas 78748
East Austin Hiking Trails
4. McKinney Falls State Park
Located just 13 miles from the Texas State Capitol Building, McKinney Falls State Park is the only state park within Austin city limits. But the park’s unique terrain and waterfalls make the day hiker feel like they’ve left the city completely. Make sure to check out “Old Baldy,” a more than 500-year-old cypress tree, during your hike through the park. To access my favorite trail in the park, Homestead Trail, you’ll have to cross the Lower Falls.
Location: 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy, Austin, Texas 78744
–> Read more: “McKinney Falls State Park: The Other Austin Swimming Hole”
North Austin Hiking Trails
5. Bull Creek District Park
This 48-acre park is a favorite for hikers, especially dog owners. While you technically can go swimming in the creek, I’d leave this one for the dogs as it has been deemed unsafe for swimming in the past. The park has trails which connect to a larger trail system in Bull Creek Greenbelt, but I like the feel of the district park for an easy day hike in North Austin.
Location: 6701 Lakewood Drive, Austin, Texas 78731
6. Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park is perhaps most well-known for its biking trails, but don’t let that make you think the hiking isn’t just as good. The main trail in this 290-acre oasis in North Austin is about five miles long. What makes this spot extra unique is the off-leash dog area, one of the few remaining in Austin. So go ahead and bring Fido along to enjoy this hike.
Location: 12138 N. Lamar Blvd. Austin, Texas 78753
–> Read more: “3 Reasons to Get Lost at Walnut Creek Park This Summer”
West Austin Hiking Trails
7. Wild Basin Wildlife Preserve
Wild Basin Wildlife Preserve is located off 360 as you head toward Pennybacker Bridge. Since it’s a preserve for some endangered animals, dogs and bicyclists are not allowed. The 2.5-mile trail loops down to a shady, dewy lagoon and climbs back up a rocky path to an overlook of Texas Hill Country. The dwarfed views of downtown Austin are visible from lookout points along the trail.
Location: 805 N. Capital of Texas Highway, Austin, Texas 78746
8. Covert Park at Mount Bonnell
Considered the highest point in Austin, Mount Bonnell has been a popular tourist spot since the late nineteenth century. The 106 stairs to the top are good for getting your heart during the short 0.3-mile hike. Even though this is the shortest hike you’re likely to find in Austin, it leads to one of the most scenic spots, especially at sunset.
Location: 3800 Mt Bonnell Rd, Austin, Texas 78731
9. Emma Long Metropolitan Park: Turkey Creek Trail
A huge park at the northwest end of the city, along the shores of Lake Austin, Emma Long Metropolitan Park has a lot to offer. For those looking for new terrain to hike, check out Turkey Creek Trail, located three miles before the main entrance. This trail is great even during hot summer months, as it’s relatively flat and shaded. For active dog owners, this is another off-leash trail for your pups, so bring them along for the 2.5-mile hike.
Location: 1600 City Park Road, Austin, Texas 78730
The next time you’re in need of a recharge, head to one of the best hiking spots in Austin.
@jpino9 wants to know:
In your opinion, what are the best hiking spots in Austin?
Would be awesome to have a printable map of these locations! 🙂
@djpooleatx:disqus, I agree! I was thinking the same thing – that it would be really cool to have a graphic or a map that showed all 4 events. Be patient with us and our volunteer team! We have tons of great ideas, and are tackling them one at a time. <3
Thanks for the great post! A tip for the Scottish Woods trail entrance: be sure to park in the areas WITHOUT the tow signs. They will tow and/or ticket!
Great tip, @AustinHikerMama. Thanks!
FYI the purple berries in your Turkey Creek pic belong to American Beautyberry (callicarpa americana), a.k.a. French Mulberry, a wonderful Southern native plant. Check it out!
Did you know that wild basin is owned by St. Edward’s University in south Austin? The work they do to preserve and maintian the natural landscape is wonderful, but they’re also using the area for lots of important research!
Riverplace Trail for a GREAT workout…