How to Hike Mount Bonnell in Austin

As one of Austin’s original tourist attractions, beautiful Mount Bonnell is one of the best places to visit in the city!

Locals and visitors alike love the stunning views of both Lake Austin and the downtown skyline–here’s everything you need to know about visiting Mount Bonnell in Austin!

What is Mount Bonnell?

Calling Mount Bonnell a mountain of any kind is quite a stretch–it’s a mere 775 feet tall–but it is often considered the tallest point within the Austin city limits, and home to one of the best views in the city.

View of Lake Austin from Mt Bonnell with trees and brush in the foreground of the photo

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What’s it Like to Hike Mount Bonnell in Austin, TX?

Though visiting Mount Bonnell is popularly described as a hike and there are trails to walk on, Mount Bonnell is really more of a viewpoint than a true hike of any kind.

To reach the viewpoint, you’ll climb a 102-step (or 106-step, depending on when you start counting) staircase before reaching the top of Mount Bonnell.

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From there, if you turn left along the limestone path, you’ll quickly be greeted by a great view of the Austin skyline, and if you turn right, you’ll arrive at the best views of Lake Austin within minutes.

As you look down from the main viewpoint, you’ll have a picture-perfect view of Lake Austin, along with the waterfront mansions that line it, and in the distance, you’ll be able to see the 360 Bridge.

The staircase up to the Mount Bonnell viewpoint is fully shaded, but the trail along the top is not, though depending on the time of day you can find a tiny bit of shade along the edges.

View of staircase leading to the top of Mount Bonnell Austin TX

A Brief History of Mount Bonnell

The first recorded mention of Mount Bonnell dates to 1839 when Albert Sidney Johnston mentioned in a letter that “My agent will set off in a few days to commence the building of the City of Austin at the foot of the mountain on the Colorado River.” 

The mountain he mentioned, of course, was what we now know as Mt. Bonnell. 

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At the time of writing the letter about founding Austin, Johnston was the Secretary of War for the then-independent Republic of Texas, and fittingly, Mount Bonnell continued to feature as part of the new city’s military defense strategy in the initial time after Austin was founded.

Shortly after, Mount Bonnell’s beautiful view made it a favorite place for both locals and tourists to visit, and it is considered Austin’s oldest tourist attraction.

View of a yellow puppy overlooking Lake Austin at Mt Bonnell Austin TX

The Legend of Austin’s Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell has had a few legends associated with it over the centuries, but one of the most enduring is (unsurprisingly) the most romantic.

Legend has it that if a couple visits Mount Bonnell together once, they’ll fall in love, twice and they’ll become engaged, and if they visit three times, they’ll be married.

The legend dates to a couple from the 19th century, and the romance of Mount Bonnell endures in a modern form today–the viewpoint is popular for engagement and maternity photos, as well as romantic picnic dates!

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How to Get to Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell is located inside Covert Park.

Set your GPS to “Mount Bonnell at Covert Park”, and you’ll be directed to a small two-lane road with parking available on one side.  

The entrance staircase is located right next to the parking and will take you to the Mount Bonnell viewpoint within minutes.

Sign for Covert Park at Mt Bonnell with the staircase visible to the left side of the photo

Tips for Visiting Mount Bonnell

The park is free to visit.

There is no charge at any time.

… but it does close.

Covert Park at Mt. Bonnell is open from 5:00 AM to 10:00 PM each day.

There aren’t any restrooms or water fountains near the viewpoint.

Come prepared!

Pavilion visible after hiking Mount Bonnell staircase in Austin TX

Mornings and evenings are the best times to visit.

… both to avoid the Austin heat and, in the evenings, to enjoy one of the best sunset views in Austin!

Dogs are welcome!

They need to be leashed, but fur friends are welcome at Mount Bonnell (ours loved it).

Be sure to check out both the skyline and the view of Lake Austin.

The two views are very close together, but are located in opposite directions from each other after climbing the staircase to Mount Bonnell–be sure to visit both!

Kate Storm in a pink shirt and sunglasses holding a puppy up to the camera at Mount Bonnell Austin TX with the downtown skyline visible in the background

There are picnic tables at the top of Mt. Bonnell.

There are tables both at the pavilion that you’ll see immediately after climbing the staircase and tucked further back along the trail.

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Bring water and sun protection with you.

Texas locals need no reminder of this, of course, but for out-of-town guests, be sure to hike Mount Bonnell prepared for the almost inevitable heat and strong sun!

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