Austin is known as the “Live Music Capital of the World” but is also the capital of Texas and home to a booming tech industry. Most people remember Austin for the late nights and loud bars, but there is another side to the city, one that is filled with bubbling creeks, swaying trees, and lots of cacti. Austin is situated on the very edge of the Texas Hill Country, giving a variety of terrains and micro climates. There’s a plethora of canyons, rivers, large hills, and most importantly trails – all at the city’s fingertips.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is 809 acres of undeveloped land that travels through South Austin following Barton Creek. The Violet Crown Trail runs through most of the greenbelt, providing 7+ miles of trails, and is going to be expanded further south, past the Wildflower Center in the next few years, and might possibly connect to San Marcos in the future! The trail varies from rocky and rooty to flat and smooth in some areas, so you get some variety throughout the trail. There’s also quite a few swimming holes, and the trail ends at Barton Springs, which is the perfect place to end your run on a hot summer day!
Pro tip – for some extra hills, go up the side trails. Many of these dead end into neighborhoods, although a few do loop back down, but they will still give you some pretty good climbs!
- Barton Springs: 2131 William Barton Drive
- Taco Deli Trailhead – 1500 Spyglass Drive
- 290 Trailhead – 4934 W US Hwy 290 Service Road (Park at Spec’s)
- Hill of Life Trailhead – 1716 Camp Craft Road
- And, these are just my favorite of the many!
River Place Nature Trail
You have a mountain race, but you don’t have a stair master or a gym membership? That’s not a problem because River Place Nature Trail is a 5 mile out and back trail with just over 1,000 ft of elevation gain and something like 5,500 steps. Sounds like fun, right? There is plenty of shade and a cool creek that runs throughout the trail which makes it a good spot for a warm summer afternoon. And it’s quite dog friendly, so you can bring your furry friends along for some fun.
- 8820 Big View Dr. – park on the street
Bull Creek has several different sections to it. There is the Upper Bull Creek Greenbelt, the Lower Bull Creek Greenbelt, and then there is a protected area that can only be accessed part of the year without a permit. Both of the Bull Creek Greenbelts contain a labyrinth of trails and some challenging hills, but not everything is marked so it’s fairly easy to get turned around. The protected area also has a wonderful 4 mile loop that is easy to follow with some steep climbs. The trail will actually connect you to St. Ed’s Park at the very top of the hill, where you could add another good loop or two from there.
- 6958 Old Spicewood Springs Road
Canyonlands/Mt. Lakeway Trail
So let me start by saying, Mt. Lakeway is not really a mountain, it’s just a very large hill… But it’s probably the closest thing you can get to a mountain in this part of Texas. You can get about 20 miles with a few different loops on these trails and a boat load of elevation change, so it’s definitely worth the short 30 minute drive from Austin. The trails can be a little confusing in the beginning, but after a few trips out there you’ll get the hang of the trail system. You’ll know you’ve reached the top of the “mountain” because there is a pole hanging with a hammer next to it, so you can celebrate your victory. There is also a bathroom with cold water fountains about a quarter mile up the trail from the parking lot, which is super convenient for a last minute pit stop or a water refill on the way back to your car.
- 113 Trophy Dr. – park on the street
Just outside of Austin, you have a variety of options for some good day trips with under two hours of driving. The closest is Pedernales Falls, which is great when you just want to get away from the city. Next up is Colorado Bend State Park, which travels along the Colorado River and provides about 30 miles of trails. Just south of there, Enchanted Rock State Park provides a spectacular view and some lovely camping, although it doesn’t have very many trails. Going a little further south and closer to San Antonio is Garner State Park and Government Canyon, which both provide some technical terrain and lots of climbing. Lastly, my favorite is the Hill Country State Natural Area – the home of Bandera Trail Race with miles of challenging trails and beautiful views!
Where to Eat & Drink:
Taco Deli: This local chain has one location right off the Barton Creek Greenbelt, so it’s the perfect stop for a post-run breakfast taco!
ABGB: This South Austin Brewery has some of the best (and interesting) pizza around. They change their creative menu regularly and even have a gluten free crust. Oh and plenty of beer – can’t forget about that!
Radio Coffee & Veracruz Tacos: Radio has the perfect patio for an early morning coffee or a late afternoon beer. They always have live music throughout the week, and are home to the Veracruz Taco Truck, which is famous for its breakfast tacos, but is good at any time of the day!
Amy’s Ice Creams:Every once in a while you just have those ice cream cravings, and I promise Amy’s will definitely solve that problem. They are constantly changing their flavors, but keep some signatures year round, like Mexican Vanilla.
Where to Shop & Supply:
Rogue Running: Rogue Running is more than just a running store, they’re like a running lifestyle brand. They offer running retreats, coaching for runners, hold group runs, have a podcast on running (of course!), and even have the Rogue Running Trail Series. But, you can also just go there to buy shoes, clothes, nutrition products, and other accessories.
The Loop Running Supply: This running store is the newest one to enter the market in Austin, and are more focus on road running, but they have a great vibe. They are committed to growing the running community in Austin and host a free run every week.
Austin Trail Running: This little shop is located way north off 183, but is well worth the drive. They have the best selection of trail running shoes and are very knowledgeable about their retail. Plus, if they don’t have your size, they’ll order it for you and keep it on hold until you can come pick it up.