Austin hiking is rewarding and abundant even if you never leave the downtown area. This city has been very proactive in preserving greenbelts within the city limits, including numerous parks and natural green spaces within Downtown Austin. Some of this is due to the influence of the beloved late First Lady, Lady Bird Johnson, who was passionate about preserving the beauty of the Texas Hill Country area around Austin where she had her first date with the Congressman Lyndon Johnson (breakfast in the historic Driskill Hotel) who would become her husband and later President of the United States.
A great deal of the natural history of the city, the state, and country is due to her efforts, including today’s magnificent Wildflower Center south of downtown and about ten miles west of the international airport. There are some easy hiking trails in Austin here that will take you through some of the most celebrated and extensive gardens of native wildflowers, grasslands, and meadows in the United States.
There are a few hiking parks in Austin Texas within the city limits, but the most extensive is Lakeshore Park set on the southern shores of Lady Bird Lake. There is a 4.5 mile hiking trek that does a full loop within the park, and it is possible to hike along greenbelt paths for just about the full circumference of the lake itself. Along the way, you can rent a kayak on the lake and stroll past the lovely Four Seasons Austin, perhaps stopping in for some gourmet dining.
If you’re looking for Austin hiking that is a bit more demanding, but still within easy reach of downtown, you will enjoy McKinney Falls State Park. This is one of the hiking parks in Austin Texas that provides true wilderness, and it is located only about five miles from the famous nightlife of the Sixth Street Entertainment District. There is camping, swimming, and fishing here, as well as more than seven miles of trails for hikers and mountain bikers. The hiking trails in Austin in this lovely park also allow you to enjoy a bit of history when visiting the ruins of the mid-eighteenth-century homestead and thoroughbred racing stables of pioneer settler Thomas McKinney. Adjacent to the park are two excellent 18-hole championship golf courses. So you can get in some golf in the morning, hiking or fishing in the afternoon, and be back at you city hotels in time for pre-dinner cocktails.
More hiking parks in Austin Texas can be found a little to the west in the Barton Creek Wilderness Park, also only about six miles from the downtown area. It has miles of heavily wooded hiking and cycling trails, and is connected by a greenbelt to Zilker Park, which has a fishing pier and boat slip on Lake Austin. One of the finest golf resorts in the state, the Barton Creek Resort, is located nearby, and this property boasts one of the area’s full-service spas.
On the other side of the river a bit further to the west, you will find hiking trails in Austin located in Emma Long Metro Park. This park is about ten miles from the city center, and is about halfway between the city and Lake Travis. The park offers camping facilities for tents, campers and pop-ups, and other recreational vehicles. It is right on the shores of Lake Austin, and has a boat ramp and a sandy beach.
Austin hiking is possible in many other of the nearly 50 parks within the city limits. Some are excellent for a good morning jog, and others can provide a full day of energetic hiking. There are good public facilities in virtually all of the parks, ranging from toilets and picnic tables to camping sites and fishing piers.