We tried 5 hiking spots in Austin. Here’s our favorite.

As part of the Texas Hill Country, Austin has great terrain for hiking. There are a ton of trails and natural areas to check out, all differing in elevation gain, difficulty, scenery, and ease of access. We took it upon ourselves to do the heavy lifting (or walking) and rank five of Austin’s hiking spots based on some of these criteria and, ultimately, our personal experiences. If you find yourself itching for a good hike in Austin, don’t hesitate to check out one of these picks – they’re all great for fitting in some activity and sun into your day.

5. Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail

Address: First Street Bridge at Lady Bird Lake, Austin, TX 78701

Difficulty: Easy

Scenery: Pleasant views of downtown

Easily accessible by public transportation: Yes

Photo courtesy of Kiera Jane

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail is perfect for those who like a good urban path. This path is adjacent to downtown Austin, making it easily accessible by public transportation and a stone’s throw away from a good after-hike drink or snack. Because of its proximity to the city’s center, it’s naturally not the most scenic on this list, but there are plenty of gorgeous views of Lady Bird Lake and the skyline nonetheless. It’s fairly flat and not too hilly, so it’s really enjoyable for a stroll or a bike ride. 

4. Turkey Creek Trail

Address: 1401-1711 City Park Rd, Austin, TX 78730

Difficulty: Easy

Scenery: Picturesque creeks and critters

Easily accessible by public transportation: No

Photo courtesy of Austin.com

The Turkey Creek Trail at Emma Long Metropolitan Park is a fairly short hike that still manages to immerse you in the beauty of Austin’s flora and fauna. It’s easy with some elevation changes and quite a few creek crossings for a bit of a challenge. Make sure to bring proper shoes and brace yourself to be in close proximity to other hikers; this trail is muddy and busy, so a slip may be imminent if you aren’t careful. The creek is abundant with cool water which is refreshing as Austin inevitably heats up. It only took us about an hour, so it’d be a great spot for families or those with dogs. 

3. Barton Creek Greenbelt

Address: 3755 S Capital of Texas Hwy B, Austin, TX 78704 (main access point)

Difficulty: Easy-Moderate, depending on distance hiked

Scenery: Views of the city, scenic woody areas

Easily accessible by public transportation: Yes

Photo courtesy of Visit Austin

The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a sort of all-encompassing natural area where you can hike, bike, boulder, and more along Barton Creek. There are 12 miles of trails, so you can definitely up the difficulty by simply increasing the amount you complete. Because it’s so long, there are a few elevation changes, so depending on the trailhead at which you enter, you can enjoy a rigorous hike or a pleasant stroll. Basically, it’s super versatile and an Austin staple for hikers. Certain access points of the trail can be a little dicey as of late, so we recommend hiking the greenbelt during the day or carrying proper safety gear for nighttime hikes. The main access point can be especially busy, so be aware that this is not an isolated hike. Its beauty lies in its easy accessibility and flexibility, and it’s a great way to see a lot of Austin in one hike. 

2. Mayfield Park & Nature Preserve

Address: 3505 W. 35th St, Austin, TX 78703

Difficulty: Very easy

Scenery: Gorgeous wildlife

Easily accessible by public transportation: There’s a bus stop about a 15 minute walk away at Exposition/Warren, so not exceptionally easy but possible

The short trails at the Mayfield Park & Nature Preserve are easily the most beautiful of the hikes on this list. The nature preserve itself is a wonderful place to visit, walk through, and take in the wildlife, so the trails on the property are naturally a great addition. They aren’t long, are quite easy, and mostly loop around, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t worth checking out. Although this hike isn’t a super intense workout, it’s surely a great way to spend your day. If you want to get a few steps in and see a gorgeous enclave of Austin, stop by Mayfield Park.

1. River Place Natural Trail

Address: 8820 Big View Dr, Austin, TX 78730

Difficulty: Moderate-Difficult

Scenery: Picturesque with lots of critters

Easily accessible by public transportation: No

Photo courtesy of TimeOut

The River Place Natural trail is my personal favorite hike in Austin and definitely the most difficult out of the ones I’ve tried. It’s about a 3-hour-hike round trip with lots of elevation gain and tons of stairs – like, the whole thing is basically stairs with what feels like a tiny bit of walking in between. But, somehow, it still reigns supreme as the most satisfying, beautiful, and well-constructed hike in Austin for me. You will certainly feel the burn of all of the stairs, but as you continue through the hike, you’ll see tons of pretty wildlife, waterfalls, creeks, and plants. It begins with a really nice boardwalk where many people enjoy to fish, so it’s easy to make a day out of this hike. Even better, after you’ve subjected yourself to the roundtrip, sit back and enjoy the rocking chairs at the boardwalk. 

Conclusion

Austin isn’t necessarily home to the most rigorous terrain and hikes to ever exist, but don’t count this city out. All of the trails and natural areas on this list were a blast and it’s always good to get some steps and Vitamin D in. Whether you enjoy a more urban landscape with views of downtown or a more hidden natural oasis, there’s a lot of diversity in the sorts of hikes Austin has to offer. So, if you’re hard-pressed for a good trail to keep you occupied, don’t hesitate to check one of these spots out.

Mae Lackey

Mae Lackey is a dedicated journalism student at the University of Texas at Austin. Having previously worked as an audio producer at The Daily Texan and an editorial intern at The Austin Chronicle, she enjoys reporting across a variety of mediums. She’s passionate about telling stories and digging deep, whether it's about food or people. As a native Texan, she’s proud to be from a state that is home to so many wonderful stories and cuisines.