Hiking in Austin is a must-do for any visitor to the Texas capital, with miles of urban green spaces and some of the best nature in the state just a stone’s throw away.
Austin is well-known for its music culture, noisy nightlife, and government buildings, but there is so much more to see and do!
Spend some time away from the tourists and the commotion in the beautiful Southern wilderness.
From stunning limestone cliffs to serene lakes, casual riverside strolls, to challenging rocky climbs, these 15 walks encompass just about every scenery you can imagine.
This list even includes one of the state’s most gorgeous locations! The best part is that most of them are less than 30 minutes from the city center.
Continue reading for information on how to get to each location, trail lengths and obstacles, must-see lookouts, wildlife to avoid, and much more.
Best Austin Hiking Trails
Hiking in Austin is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure that allows you to get up and personal with local landscapes and wildlife while also providing unlimited opportunities to swim, sweat, and relax.
Some of these destinations should be on your bucket list because they are undoubtedly among the top places to visit in the United States. So put on your hiking boots and get ready to explore some of Austin’s most beautiful trails!
1. Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
Isn’t one section enough? Hike the entire trail!
“The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail are more than a fantastic pathway–it is a place where Austin thrives,” according to the Austin city government website.
“It embodies the best of Austin for many residents and visitors: outdoor activities, a picturesque, natural environment, and a diverse, energetic mix of people.”
We can’t think of a more glowing endorsement for this well-loved 10-mile trail than this. It’s no surprise that it attracts millions of people each year.
You’ll be treated to spectacular views of the skyline, lovely neighborhoods, and tourist attractions along the way.
So, if you want to experience the best of Austin hiking, this is the place to go.
2. Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail
This little out-and-back journey is part of the 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, one of Austin’s most popular hiking destinations.
It borders the banks of Lady Bird Lake and the Colorado River, giving lush foliage, well-kept facilities, and plenty of vistas, as the name implies!
The smooth trail is ideal for biking, hiking, and dog walking. Thus it’s a popular hangout spot for locals.
With so many bridges and turn-offs, you may simply change the length of your journey to suit your needs.
3. Secret Beach and Roy Guerrero Trail
A beach within 15 minutes of the city center in landlocked Austin? It may seem too wonderful to be true, but the locals have known about this secret for a long time, and now you may join them.
The majority of the trek is flat and sheltered, with plenty of species to see!
The real gem, though, is the side trip to Secret Beach, a peaceful spot along the Colorado River where Austinites like letting their dogs run free and wading in the beautiful waters.
After cooling off, continue your trek on Roy Guerrero Trail’s wide, well-kept walkways, which are ideal for hiking, biking, and running.
4. Walnut Creek Trail
If you prefer your hikes to be short and sweet, this is the loop for you. At just over a mile in length and with only a slight elevation gain, Walnut Creek Trail is a breeze for hikers of all abilities.
Enjoy some sunning by the creek to amp up the relaxation. You can also bring your dogs or little children to observe the shore while they play in the water.
It’s a popular destination for family trips because there are a few playgrounds along the trail, and there are no long drives–only it’s 15 minutes from the city center.
Picnic areas, public restrooms, and dog parks are part of the more expansive Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park.
After the rain, the trail becomes fairly muddy, so check the weather forecast before going.
5. Mayfield Park Lake Trail
Mayfield Park is a great place to go hiking in Austin if you don’t want to put in a lot of work. This tiny circle is primarily utilized for bird observation and nature hikes. Free-roaming peacocks can even be found in the wildlife area!
The historic Mayfield-Gutsch Estate, erected in the 1870s and later purchased by former Texas Secretary of State Allison Mayfield in 1909, also offers a glimpse into the past.
The Laguna Gloria Art Museum, which has a beautiful sculpture garden, is also connected to the site.
Overall, it’s a beautiful tourist destination around 10 minutes from the city center that may easily be combined with other local climbs such as the Mount Bonnell climb.
6. Mount Bonnell Trail
Have you only got a weekend in Austin? This spectacular location in Covert Park, just 10-15 minutes from downtown, is ideal for a quick vacation, with legendary sweeping vistas that provide some of the best views in the area.
Most Austinites, if you ask them, will have visited this overlook at least once.
It’s a short trip to Austin’s highest point (Central Texas is still flat, after all), lasting only about 20 minutes. You’ll be rewarded with a view of the Colorado River and the city below when you arrive.
7. St. Edwards Green and Red Loop
This beautiful hike in St. Edwards Park is only 20 minutes from downtown, but it feels like you’ve jumped right into the woods.
This loop is an adventure to hike, with rocky scrambles, creek crossings, and some good elevation changes.
However, because of the absence of appropriate signage and the plethora of side paths, you may want to plan your route ahead of time or have your phone with you.
8. Turkey Creek Trail
Turkey Creek Trail, located within the Emma Long Metropolitan Park, is a moderately strenuous out-and-back hike ideal for joggers, hikers, and mountain bikers.
This is a great hike to do in the summer because the majority of the trail is sheltered, and there are numerous river crossings where you can cool off.
It’s also a hit with our four-legged buddies! On-leash and off-leash dogs are welcome on the walk, and they’ll enjoy exploring the woodland and splashing in the creek.
Although weekends might be crowded, it’s preferable to go during the week or at least earlier in the day.
9. Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail
Despite being fewer than 10 minutes from downtown Austin, the Barton Creek Greenbelt seems like a true escape into nature.
Wildflower fields, open grasslands, long portions hugging the river, and even the beautiful Twin Falls are all part of the long out-and-back hike.
The elevation variations and steep slopes will have you breathing hard if you’re seeking good exercise.
However, there are numerous places where you may relax and enjoy the peace or soak your tired feet in the crystal-clear brook.
Weekdays or early mornings are the best times to visit, as the route can get quite crowded otherwise.
10. Homestead Trail
This moderately tough loop in McKinney Falls State Park brings nature and history together.
McKinney Falls is one of more than a dozen beautiful state parks around Austin, but it stands out because of its cascading creeks, ancient rock formations, and thousands of years of history!
Also inside the municipal borders is McKinney Falls State Park, which has a trail system that connects two waterfalls and a swimming hole.
Homestead Trail is a well-known hiking trail in the area, with water crossings, wildflowers, waterfalls, and plenty of animals!
After crossing the beautiful Lower McKinney Falls, the rest of the path is relatively easy walking, with a stop at the old gristmill and farmstead thrown in for good measure.
One of our favorite day trips from Austin is to the state park, which offers so much!
The entrance fee to the state park is $6 per person.
11. Lake Austin/360 Bridge Overlook
Prepare your cameras for a trip to one of Austin’s most Instagrammable spots!
This walk follows the Colorado River and leads to the Pennybacker Bridge, a magnificent and oh-so-scenic steel arch bridge.
Beautiful vistas and scenery may be found all along the trip. It’s also a popular picnic location.
This short climb is only 15 minutes from the Austin city center, so you can fit it into your schedule while still seeing the attractions!
To avoid heavy crowds, begin your journey early in the morning.
12. Hamilton Pool Park Trail
This one is a little further out, about a 45-minute journey from the city center.
But it doesn’t get much better than this when it comes to hiking trails near Austin. Hamilton Pool is one of Texas’ most stunning attractions, looking as though it sprang straight out of a dream.
This breathtaking location features turquoise waves, limestone bluffs, and thick jungles.
Wear excellent shoes and be warned that the descent to the pool is rough, steep, and at times fairly slippery, so it may not be suitable for all skill levels.
There are several treks available throughout the preserve and a variety of other activities such as birdwatching, sunbathing, etc.
13. Bull Creek Trail
This loop in Upper Bull Creek Park is wonderful for serious hikers since it offers a diversity of terrain to explore as well as some hard parts.
Despite being approximately a 15-20 minute drive from downtown Austin, it’s a little more remote than other treks in the area.
Because biking is prohibited here, you won’t have to worry about sharing the trail with fast riders.
If you wish to come between March and July, when the golden-cheeked warblers are breeding, you’ll need a Bull Creek Preserve Entry Permit. The route is open to the public from August to February.
14. River Place Nature Trail
This peaceful out-and-back hike at the River Place Nature Preserve is only 30 minutes from downtown Austin, but the scenic trip is worth it.
Make no mistake about that, though. The beautiful scenery does not come for free.
Many consider this hike the most difficult around Austin, with numerous elevation changes that provide a demanding exercise or good trail runner training.
But don’t be worried! Along the walk, there are several beautiful places to sit and take a break and a perspective approximately a third of the way.
To avoid the crowds, go on a weekday or early in the morning. Using the path during peak hours on Saturdays and Sundays and sunrise-4:00 PM on holidays costs $10 per hiker.
The Bottom Line
Austin is probably one of the most intriguing destinations to visit if you’re an outdoor fan, with miles of trails.
There are miles of hiking paths for various preferences, from urban trails to parks, that will make you forget you’re in the city.
Furthermore, this list includes simple, moderate, and challenging trails, so it is suitable for people of all fitness levels, and you do not need to be an expert to appreciate what this area has to offer!