Featuring seemingly endless sparkling creeks, craggy limestone paths, and beautiful views, hiking in Austin is an absolute treat.
And, with so many parks and hiking trails in Austin to choose from, even locals have a hard time running out of new hikes in Austin to try out on the weekends.
As tempting as popular Hill Country hikes like Enchanted Rock and Pedernales Falls are, you don’t need to leave the city limits to get lost in nature in Austin.
Here are some of the best places to go hiking in Austin, from urban trails to parks that will make you completely forget that you’re in the city!
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Where to Find the Best Hikes in Austin
Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
No guide to hiking in Austin would be complete without featuring the incredible 10-mile hike-and-bike trail on Lady Bird Lake!
A prized feature of the Austin landscape, this paved trail features phenomenal views of the lake and the downtown skyline. Parts of the trail are even built as a boardwalk over the lake itself.
Immensely popular with Austinites and visitors alike, you can usually expect a crowd here–be sure to keep an eye out for bikers and joggers as you explore!
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Located in Westlake Hills, this wilderness preserve includes 2.5 miles of hiking trails in Austin that are easy and kid-friendly, with plenty of shade and beautiful creek views.
Unlike many of these hikes in Austin, however, dogs aren’t allowed at Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve.
Turkey Creek Trail
Located in Emma Long Metropolitan Park, Austin’s Turkey Creek Trail is best-known for being an off-leash dog park–and according to our dog, it’s definitely one of the best hikes in Austin.
This 2.87-mile out-and-back trail crisscrosses over Turkey Creek at several points–so depending on how high the water level is, you may need to prepare for your feet getting wet.
Overall, this is a very easy trail, taking place almost exclusively in the shade and over flat surfaces, and it’s a fantastic place to enjoy hiking in Austin with the whole family.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
The beloved crown jewel of Austin hiking and located just minutes from downtown, Barton Creek Greenbelt is a must-see for anyone looking for the best hikes in Austin.
With nearly 13 miles of trails to choose from (the “main” trail is about 7 miles long) that can be reached by several access points, exploring the Greenbelt is far from a one-and-done experience–it’s the kind of place that Austinites return to again and again.
Popular spots include Twin Falls, Sculpture Falls, the Hill of Life, and Campbell’s Hole, but there is no shortage of beautiful places in the Greenbelt.
Dogs are welcome on-leash and services are basically nonexistent, so bring what you need (and if Austin has had rain recently, that includes a swimsuit to take advantage of the Greenbelt’s swimming holes).
360 Bridge Viewpoint
Less of a hike than a quick climb to a gorgeous view, the 360 Bridge Viewpoint is one of the most photogenic spots in Austin, and one of the best places to watch the sunset in the city!
To access the 360 Bridge Viewpoint, you’ll want to park along the side of 360. As you’re heading south on 360, on the north side of the bridge (right before you would cross it), you’ll see a turnout where you can park.
More likely than not, there will already be other cars there as well–this is one of the most popular hiking trails in Austin.
The trailhead is right at this spot, in the middle of the parking area. The climb itself is only about 0.1 miles.
While a bit too short to be called a hike per se, Mount Bonnell is such an iconic part of Austin that leaving it off of an Austin hiking guide seems wrong!
About 100 steps up a stone staircase will deliver you to the top of Mount Bonnell, where you’ll be rewarded with one of the most beautiful views in Austin.
Stroll the trail in either direction for more incredible views at Covert Park, including views of the downtown skyline, Lake Austin, and the 360 Bridge.
Red Bud Isle
Did you know that Austin has its own island?
Granted, it’s only a few feet from the shore, but Red Bud Isle on Lady Bird Lake is the perfect place to enjoy Austin’s nature with your four-legged friend, as the small island acts as an off-leash dog park!
Your dog will likely get more exercise than you, as the trail surrounding the outer edge of the island is only about a half-mile long, but looping a few times will ensure that both of you have a chance to make the most of this beautiful spot.
Set on 21 acres and featuring several short hiking trails, Mayfield Park is perched on a bluff overlooking Lake Austin–as so many beautiful estates in the city are–and in addition to its trails and the quaint Lake Mayfield, also features a historic cottage, beautiful gardens, and most uniquely, plenty of peacocks.
While the shady trails, lovely views, and historic nature of the preserve (Mayfield Park is listed on the National Register of Historic Places) are all reasons to visit, there’s no doubt that the free-roaming peacocks steal the show at this Austin park!
Keep in mind that no pets are allowed at Mayfield Park.
St. Edward’s Park
With excellent views, places to swim, and a quiet charm, St. Edward’s Park is located in the northwestern part of the city. It is also one of our favorite places to go hiking in Austin.
There are a couple of different trails to choose from. Essentially, you can either climb up the Hill Trail for views of the countryside or stick to the side of the creek for an easier option that also includes plenty of opportunities to swim (including a few well-placed ropes to swing from).
These hiking trails in Austin aren’t as well-marked as some–you might want to consider snapping a photo of the trail map at the parking lot before getting started–but they are beautiful.
As a bonus, St. Edward’s is often less crowded than many other parks in Austin!
Slaughter Creek Trail
This 5-mile loop isn’t particularly difficult–other than a few gentle hills, it’s fairly flat–but it is beautiful, and generally much less crowded than some of the better-known hiking trails in Austin.
In addition to hikers, mountain bikers, and joggers, equestrians are welcome on this trail (dogs, however, are not welcome).
The best time to hike Slaughter Creek is definitely during wildflower season when the fields surrounding the trail explode with beautiful colors!
McKinney Falls State Park
The only state park on this list of places to go hiking in Austin, McKinney Falls State Park is set on Onion Creek and is home to nearly 9 miles of hiking and biking trails.
Popular hikes include the Onion Creek Trail and the Homestead Trail, and no visit to McKinney Falls State Park is complete without seeing both the Lower Falls and Upper Falls–the Upper Falls have been compared to a more-impressive version of Sculpture Falls at Barton Creek.
Bull Creek District Park + Greenbelt
Like the better-known Barton Creek Greenbelt, the Bull Creek District Park and Greenbelt are beautiful, free to visit, can be reached by several access points, and is characterized by a beautiful creek flowing over slippery limestone.
When the water levels are high, Bull Creek is a popular place to spot fish, turtles, and other wildlife, but the trails are popular year-round.
Bull Creek District Park (or the Lower Greenbelt) is about 4 miles from the Upper Greenbelt, and making your way between the two on foot is a great way to spend a day hiking in Austin.
Spicewood Valley Trail
The charming, out-and-back Spicewood Valley Trail is a hidden gem of a hike in Austin–partially because it is quite literally hidden in plain sight, with one of the most popular entrances starting between two unassuming suburban houses.
It’s a delightful urban trail, though, featuring all of the essential features of an Austin hike: creeks, small waterfalls (when the water is high enough, anyway), oak trees, and limestone.
You can also connect with the Upper Bull Creek Trail from here to combine two hikes into one.
Shoal Creek Trail
Shaded by live oak trees and meandering for four miles along Shoal Creek, the Shoal Creek Trail is an incredibly relaxing oasis not far from the hustle and bustle of downtown Austin.
There are plans to extend the trail further in the future, but for now, it’s still a delightful place for an easy hike in Austin.
It also happens to be considered one of the most haunted places in Austin!
Parts of the trail are paved, though not all of it.
River Place Nature Trail
Last but certainly not least, the popular River Place Nature Trail is one of Austin’s most challenging trails, known for its steep climbs and many, many stairs.
The burning quads are worth it, though, to experience the charming creeks, many small waterfalls, and gorgeous scenery at the River Place Nature Trail.
On the weekends, there is a $10 fee for access, and the trail’s popularity means that you shouldn’t come here expecting to be alone–but there’s a reason that Austinites flock to this trail, and it’s well worth trying out!
The trail is almost 6 miles round-trip, and dogs are welcome.
Tips for Hiking in Austin
Watch the heat (and bring lots of water).
Hiking in Austin often means dealing with intense heat–don’t underestimate it!
During the summer months, consider early morning or evening hikes to avoid the worst of the heat, and know your limits.
Be sure to also bring plenty of water with you, as well as snacks if you’re taking on a longer hike.
Keep water levels in mind.
Many of the best hikes in Austin are dramatically different based on water levels in the creeks, rivers, and lakes that dot the city.
For example, hiking Turkey Creek Trail means wet feet after the rain, but hardly any water to look at during a drought.
Similarly, whether or not the swimming holes at Barton Creek are worth a dip depends on water levels as well.
If you’re bringing your dog, watch out for algae.
Some bodies of water in Austin, including Lady Bird Lake, have experienced toxic algae blooms that have been fatal to dogs in the past.
The water is carefully tested, and warnings are put out when blooms are present, but it’s best to be vigilant. Check here for the most updated information about current algae blooms.
Check the rules before you go.
Are dogs allowed? Off-leash or on-leash?
Are there water fountains or restrooms?
Is biking allowed?
Each of these parks has different rules, so be sure to know what’s allowed before setting off!
Avoid peak times if you can.
Most of these Austin hikes are popular, which translates to lots of crowds, especially during weekends.
If you can, plan your hikes outside of peak times to avoid the crowds–the trails are much more peaceful that way!
Lock your car and keep valuables out of sight.
As in any urban area, there are occasional issues with car break-ins at the parking lots for hiking trails in Austin.
Be sure to keep your valuables with you and to lock your car before setting off!