By: John Williams
If you are one of the 150 new people who have moved to Austin every day for the last few years, you’re probably aware of everything this city has to offer — live music, great food, and endless reasons to get outdoors. But there are so many trails and lakes and other options, it’s easy to get confused. Here’s a guide to the gems of Austin’s greenbelt.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is pretty much the jewel in the crown that is Austin’s greenbelts and trails. Extending 13.8 miles, with multiple access points, it is very popular. The Barton Creek Greenbelt boasts its own treasures, like the Twin Falls, which is a moderately difficult hike, and the beloved out-and-back Violet Crown Trail. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is kid- and dog-friendly, just make sure your pups are on leashes. A good place to park is at the Zilker access point, 2200 Barton Springs Road.
Mount Bonnell Trail
There are stunning views from the Mount Bonnell Trail, and we are here for it. The Mount Bonnell Trail is another iconic Austin hike — half a mile long, good for hikers and trail runners and dogs on leashes. There’s not much elevation gain on the actual trail, but Mount Bonnell is Austin’s highest point, coming in at 775 feet above sea level. The access point is at Covert Park, 3800 Mount Bonnell Road.
Lake Austin/360 Bridge Overlook
This is another piece of Austin’s greenbelt that is all about the views. The trail leading to the Lake Austin/360 Bridge Overlook is 1.7 miles, out and back along the water. Most of the trail is easy, but there are some precarious parts, so pay attention. The trail is open to dogs on leashes. The views from here are postcard perfect, literally. You’ll find postcards featuring this view of the 360 bridge at local stores — perfect for making friends who don’t live here jealous. The access point for the Lake Austin/360 Bridge Overlook is at 5400 N. Capital of Texas Highway.
Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail
The Bull Creek Greenbelt Trail doesn’t get all the glory its fellow greenbelt trails do, but it’s a great place to get away because it’s not as busy. You can access this trail at Upper Bull Creek Park, and it offers about 3 miles of hiking, trail running and mountain biking to those seeking more nature, fewer humans.
Bull Creek is an environmentally sensitive area, and because of that, another gem of Austin’s greenbelts isn’t always open to everyone. The Bull Creek Trail is only open to all from August through February. From March through July, it’s only open to permit holders because it’s the breeding season for native birds. No dogs are allowed on the Bull Creek Trail because of environmental concerns.
You can find Upper Bull Creek Park at 6958 Old Spicewood Springs Road, in northwest Austin.
This guide to the gems of Austin’s greenbelt is in no way a comprehensive one. This is more of a nudge to get you out on one of Austin’s many trails, working up an appetite and exploring everything Austin has to offer. Check these out, and you’ll be well on your way to discovering all of the reasons everyone wants to live here.
John Williams is an outdoor living expert and explorer. When he’s not traveling to nature’s most well-known beauty spots, he tends to the greenery surrounding his home.