Though you couldn’t tell by the heat, summer is officially here in Austin. The colleges have closed their doors and the river is filled daily with kayaks and stand up paddle boards. Since the Austinot has already given you some tips about how to beat the heat in Austin, I’m going to tell you about my favorite park in Austin: Walnut Creek Park.
Walnut Creek Park is a spot of wilderness among Austin’s sprawling northside. Just shy of 300 square acres, the park’s spiderweb of trails criss-cross for miles.
I feel like the protagonist from Heart of Darkness every time I enter the trees. Sometimes I half expect to see Marlon Brando and his skulls upriver when I play fetch with my dog in the water.
There are a million reasons why I love Walnut Creek Park. To save you some time, here are my top three.
It’s an Off-Leash Dog Park
Walnut Creek’s big draw to me is that I’m able to play with my dog. Nearly the entire park is an off-leash dog park. You can wander and explore with your pup until he collapses from exhaustion. Run him up the cliffs. Have him dig through the underbrush, looking for his stick.
Best of all, throw your panting buddy in the creek that cuts through the park when you’re done. Just be aware of the off-road cyclists.
It’s Perfect for Mountain Biking
Speaking of cyclists, Walnut Creek Park could have been made for mountain biking. There is terrain for every skill level. You will find everything from vertical crags to the mountain-bike equivalent of bunny slopes.
Normally I would be afraid to let my dog wander down paths with high-speed mountain bikes nearby, but Walnut Creek is so large that it rarely becomes a problem. It helps that the cyclists obey the rules of the road (trail?), too.
It’s a Geocacher’s Dream
Geocaching is one of the cheapest and most fun ways to kill a summer afternoon. If you’re unfamiliar with the term, geocaching is basically a large treasure hunt. You can download a free app through your phone, and it will pinpoint your location along with the location of a hidden container.
Geocaching containers are tucked in hollow trees and in caves. People fill them with small trinkets and a pad of paper for you to write you name on. Grab your kids or some friends and let the hunt begin!
Walnut Creek Park has an official list of geocaches, too. They range in difficulty, and if you find all of the Walnut Creek geocaches, the park staff will host you and your team online as official “Super Cachers” for all the world to see. That way you can get your bragging rights while supporting a great local attraction.
I am on my way to becoming a Super Cacher, and I’d like to see more people get involved in the hobby. In fact, I leave my official card with my twitter handle @DustyVegas in every geocache I find. If you wind up finding it, give me a shout out on Twitter and I’ll promote your awesome geocaching success!
Hopefully I’ll see you wandering the trails at Walnut Creek Park some day soon. It’s the best summer getaway in Austin for kids and adults alike!
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park is located at 12138 N. Lamar Blvd. in Austin.
What is your favorite memory of Walnut Creek Park?
Photos courtesy of Clay Junell, John M.P. Knox, Bruce Turner and Lee Cannon.