There’s no measure of fun the city of Austin, Texas offers its inhabitants and visitors.
The city’s massive live music scene attracts people from around the world, especially during the South by Southwest and Austin City Limits music festivals. Along with taking advantage of its diverse and established music world, visitors can do a whole bunch of experimenting with Austin’s up-and-coming food and drink scene.
But after spending all day (and night) in crowded music venues, standing in line for hours at Franklin Barbecue and trying your patience with the city’s hoards of hipsters, you’ll be craving some well-needed outside time.
Luckily for you, Austin also offers some great “outdoorsing”, especially if you know where to find it. The city’s prime location in the Texas Hill Country and along the Colorado River offers up spots to swim, climb and take in a mighty view.
Escape the busy city with these off-the-beaten-path outdoor excursions.
Wild Basin Preserve
You can access this grand, overlooked spot on your way north on Texas State Loop Highway 360, just before the 360 bridge. Wild Basin provides almost three miles of hiking trails at various degrees of steepness. Make your way down to these waterfalls if you want to brave the hike back up! Map
It seemed like this sandy oasis, an inlet of Town Lake, was buzzing with attention around 2011 and 2012. Unfortunately, so much that the city made it illegal to swim there. It didn’t say anything about wading though! Or throwing your towel out and enjoying the small dunes. You’ll most likely cross paths with less folks these days since the swimming ban. Of course you may run into a few renegades. Map
St. Edwards Park
Not affiliated with the South Austin university, St. Eds Park is on the complete opposite side of town. Take your time driving down Old Spicewood Springs Road on your way to this hidden gem. The drive is pretty… and narrow! St. Eds is great for a short hike with your dog. Map
This swimming hole is one of two on our list you can find on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It’s closest to the Mopac entrance of the trail; but I recommend starting from the Scottish Woods Trail entrance, northbound on 360. That way you can get in a solid hike down to the cool-off spot, complete with rope swing! Map
Here’s stop two on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This swimming spot is named for the beautifully formed rocks that make up the falls. These “sculptures” are more than a sweet sight though – You can comfortably situate yourself on and between the smooth rocks and wade in Barton Creek as it rushes around you before it cascades down the short waterfall. Map
Walnut Creek Trail
If you rather embrace nature on two wheels, take your bike to Walnut Creek. The trail, favored by bikers, offers some 15 miles of North Austin grandeur. Reward your workout with a break at the Domain. Entering the Trail at Balcones District Park on Duval Road and Amherst Drive is recommended. Map
Shoal Creek Trail
Here’s something pretty central! Shoal Creek Trail is very convenient if you’re trying to get downtown by foot or bike; but not many seem to notice. The trail starts off around 38th Street and finishes at Town Lake. If you find yourself on the trail come sunset, mind the swarming bats under the low overpasses on Shoal Creek. Park at Pease Park! Map
River Place Nature Trail
Start your hike at Woodland Park, accessible from 2222, before it intersects with 620 – Yes, this excursion is a destination from the downtown area. Enjoy three hours of hiking if you do the whole round trip. Map
This swimming hole is probably one of the best in Austin because of its size and “secret value”! Access to the oasis is under the bridge crossing Lake Austin. You’ll run into a small swimming spot on the path pretty quickly; but keep on trekking for about 20 or so more minutes until you hit the real Lost Creek. Jump in! Map
Zilker Nature Preserve
These humble trails are hidden just down the road from Austin’s most beloved patch of grass, Zilker Park, aka the setting for Austin City Limits Music Festival. You won’t find crowds on the trails of the Zilker Nature Preserve though. Just a hop, skip and a jump through brushy paths and a dry creek bed, you’ll end up at Lookout Point, offering an east-facing view of the downtown skyline. (Try catching the sunrise!) Map