By Kelly Grigg

Austin, Texas, is a city that boasts almost year-round sunshine, stellar live music, delicious food (think BBQ and Tex-Mex galore!), and—you guessed it—great hiking! 

It has you covered whether you’re searching for laid-back walking trails or more challenging calf-busters. We’ve unveiled some of the best hikes the city and surrounding area have to offer. Oh—and don’t forget to pack your swimsuit (and sunscreen), as many of these hikes offer superb water features for cooling off. So lace up those trainers, and let’s go! 

Twin Falls And Sculpture Falls 

If you want to end your hike with a cool dip, this one’s a winner. While the trail is super close to downtown Austin, making it a quick escape, you’ll feel like you’re hours away. In addition, the path is quite long, so it’s relatively easy to find some privacy here and there. 

You’ll come upon Twin Falls first and find spots to either jump in from above or ease yourself into the refreshing H2O. Walk another mile down the trail, and you’ll get to Sculpture Falls, which is usually less crowded and delivers a bigger swimming hole. 

Make sure to bring water shoes for the sometimes slippery rocks, and note that this trail can be unforgivingly hot in the summer months. Be sure to stay hydrated!

Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail

This is a massive greenbelt trail (over 22 kilometres out and back), with tons of footpaths running along the creek, providing endless exploration possibilities. 

It’s moderately challenging overall and is known for hiking, mountain biking and rock climbing. Note that the stream can dry out depending on the season. 

A big pro of this hike is that Austin’s bus system makes regular stops at Zilker Park, where you’ll find the trailhead and the famous Barton Springs Pool. No driving necessary!

Mount Bonnell (within Covert Park)

Are you seeking a romantic and gorgeous sunset spot to view the city from above? Mount Bonnell offers insane panoramic views of the area and is still within the city limits. 

Don’t pack too much wine and cheese, though! The hike may be short, distance-wise, but you’ll face 102 limestone steps to reach the top—one of the highest vantage points in Austin. The reward is a stunning view of the city skyline, Lake Travis and the Colorado River. Bliss!

Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail, McKinney Falls State Park

You’ll find this hike 10 miles outside of Austin. It’s frequented by campers, hikers, and those wanting to check out Upper and Lower Falls, which are noted as some of the best waterfalls in Texas

The falls are connected by several hiking trails and offer fantastic swimming and fishing. What are you waiting for?

Creek and Hill Trail, St. Edward’s Park

Often called the “country within the city,” this park is for the peace-seeker and adventurer alike. It’s a good spot in the summer due to its forested, shade-giving hiking trails and the possibility of splashing around in the waterfall and creek. 

And, if you’re looking for more elevation (read a more brutal workout), you can take the hill trail, where you’ll also come upon a rope swing that’ll dump you into a swimming hole. As they say in Texas: yee-haw!

River Place Nature Trail

Speaking of workouts, this trail has what you need if you’re genuinely searching for a challenge! The elevation here will garner serious rewards, with incredible views of the riverfront park and a hidden waterfall

Luckily, it also has multiple benches scattered about, offering an excuse to sit, take a breather and sip some much-needed water. Phew!

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Wildlife enthusiasts, especially bird watchers, will enjoy this relatively short trail that provides respite from bikes and pets, as both are prohibited. Here, you’ll find waterfalls and picturesque overlooks among the various paths. 

This is also a great educational option for kids (adults, too!). A visit to the Wild Basin Creative Research Center at the entrance offers an opportunity to learn about the native plants and wildlife you’ll hopefully encounter. Go on, go wild!

Mayfield Nature Preserve

Albeit a relaxing walk more than a hike, no Austin hiking guide would be complete without mentioning this preserve, made famous by its abundance of peacocks and wedding celebrations.

The preserve has 24 acres to scour and a pathway to Lake Austin, where lily ponds and turtles offer unlimited Instagram photo ops. Just don’t fall in trying to get the perfect pic.

You’ll find plenty of options for hikes around Austin, with no lack in both urban and out-of-town trails. Where you venture will vary wildly depending on how much time you have and how far you wish to travel. 

Regardless of the paths you choose, reward yourself with a delicious taco and rock show at the end of the day to enjoy all that makes this city in Texas an oasis of culture! Happy trails!