One of the things our family loves to do is to hike. We fill up some water bottles, check out the geocaches along the way, put the dogs in the car and head out! Here are some of our favorite hikes in the Austin area:
●●● Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls
This hike is minutes from downtown, and yet hiking along the Barton Creek Greenbelt, you feel like you are in the middle of nowhere!
Right now, the creek is mostly dry :o( but when it rains, it quickly fills up and provides a great swimming hole. However, even without the creek, it is still a nice hike!
Twin Falls is located about a half mile from the trail head, along a well-tended and downward heading trail.
About a mile past Twin Falls is Sculpture Falls. You will pass high limestone cliffs riddled with caves, huge, old live oaks, and a variety of wildlife!
Trailhead: There are multiple entries into the Barton Springs Greenbelt including Zilker Park and off of Capital of Texas Highway. However, the closest trail head for Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls is just past the southbound entrance ramp for Mopac from 360. If you are heading south on Mopac and exit 360, continue on the access road, but do not re-enter Mopac. After the road passes the entry to Mopac, it dips down, and you will see a number of cars parked on the right hand of the access road (before it turns and goes under Mopac). The trail head is on the right hand side of the road.
Hamilton Pool is a Travis County park located about a half hour southwest of Austin.
While Hamilton Pool is mostly known for its wonderful swimming hole, there is also a really nice hike on premise!
So, after hiking down the quarter mile down to the pool, check out the .6 mile hike out to the Pedernales River.
The hike takes you from the verdant pool area through more typical Texas landscape and then out onto the Pedernales River.
Note: if you are coming during the summer on a weekend or holiday, plan to arrive no later than 10:30am as the place only has 75 parking spaces and once they are full, you have to wait until someone leaves before you can go in. However, this is also a really nice hike to take during the winter when you will frequently have the park mostly to yourself!
●●● Bull Creek Greenbelt
The Bull Creek Greenbelt is a gem of a hike, located near 2222 and 360. The 3.5 mile hike has lots of small waterfalls, gorgeous wildflowers and all sorts of critters.
Bull Creek Park is a nice park with lots of large shade trees, a volley ball net and the creek to play in. There are bathrooms, picnic tables and more.
But a short hike along the creek will take you to a less populated area, where dogs frequently roam free. With the drought the water isn’t flowing as much, there is still water flowing through the creek.
Trailhead: Park in the parking lot for Bull Creek Park and head down to the creek. Cross the creek to get to the south side and you will see the trail start up. You can also hike along the creek bed, but you will have to haul yourself up some steep rocks to get past the waterfall above and back onto the trail. To continue on to the northern part of the hike, head back down to the creek after the second falls and continue under the Mopac bridge.
●●● Turkey Creek Nature Trail
The Turkey Creek Trail begins within Emma Long Park, but before the paid admission ranger’s station, so entrance is free.
The trailhead is located in a small parking lot marked “Nature Trail” on the right hand side after you enter the park.
The trail is a fairly easy and flat 2.7 mile hike, 1.35 out and back, that winds back and forth over Turkey Creek.
This is a great place for dogs to run (the entire trail is off-leash) and for kids to catch frogs and pollywogs, dig with rocks, and do all the things kids do!
The path is very well maintained, with mile markers, carved steps and clear markings. Parts of the creek are off limits for vegetation restoration, but there are many accessible spots along the creek. The whole path is nicely shaded, making it a delightful hike, even in the heat of the day.
●●● Dinosaur Tracks in Leander
About a half mile west from the 183 bridge that crosses the South Fork of the San Gabriel River is a truly amazing sight!
Approximately 12 (maybe 11) dinosaur footprints are embedded in the rock of the river bed.
If you haven’t taken the time to hike down there, they are really worth seeing!
There is something amazing about looking down and seeing a trail of dinosaur footprints that are over 100 million years old!
At this site there are no fences, no signs, nothing but a trail of prints on a dry riverbed.
Trail head details
●●● Goat Cave Karst Preserve
The Goat Cave Karst Preserve hike is very short (about .15 miles) but has three points of interest.
The first point of interest, located only steps down the path, is the Wade Sinkhole.
This is a four foot hole eroded out of the rock. Bring your flashlights and climb into the hole to check out the cave below the ledge!
More adventurous souls can climb into the cave, but we were deterred by the daddy long leg spiders inside the cave and the garter snake we had seen outside!
The second point of interest is a bit further down the path – called Hideout. This one is only open to exploration by wildlife (and teenage boys don’t count!)
The final cave, Goat Cave, is entirely blocked off by a chain link fence. You cannot even see the entrance to the cave. The cave opens into a 25 foot drop, so the fence is four our protection. But it does limit the interest!
While this is a very short hike, it is different and interesting and appealing for anyone who likes to explore dark places!
The trailhead is located along the side of Deer Lane (off of Brodie).There is no special parking lot, so just park on the side of the road!
●●● Mayfield Preserve
Many people are familiar with Mayfield park and its wonderful peacocks and manicured grounds. A definite place to visit and see.
But what many haven’t discovered are the great hiking trails located at the back of the park!
There are two trails that lead off from the park.
The western trail leads down to a sliver of Lake Austin.
The eastern trail leads to a small creek, with teeny tiny frogs small fish and more.
The trail then leads over the creek to an upper area with small caves that are perfect for climbing into and around.
There are lots of interconnecting hikes out here, but the area isn’t that large, so just pick a direction and explore!
●●● Violet Crown Trail
Austin’s newest trail, the Violet Crown Trailn is an ambitious project to create 30 miles of trail between downtown Zilker Park and Hays County.
In August 2015, the first phase of this trail was completed. Right where our favorite Barton Creek trail starts to head west toward Mopac and Twin Falls, the new Violet Crown trail now heads south.
It currently ends at 290, but the second phase will continue this trail to connect with the Wildflower Center and Veloway. Future plans hope to take this trail all the way to Hays County
The 290 Trailhead is a less populated, beautiful one-mile walk through wooded trees and Turk’s Cap, that connects with the Barton Creek Trail. At the tee, head west and under Mopac to access Twin Falls, or head north east to eventually hit Zilker Park. Either direction you pick is a win!
For details on how to access the 290 trailhead and more, check out this post:
●●● Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve
Wild Basin Preserve, located off of 360, was founded in 1974 by seven women interested in saving the area as a natural preserve and a nature laboratory. Its 227 acres wind through typical Texas Hill Country with trails that cross over Bee Creek.
There are 2.5 miles worth of trail in the preserve that are open from sunrise to sunset. Bikes and pets are not allowed.
One note, there is no real access to the waterfall or creeks, so this isn’t a wet hike. This one is probably best scheduled during the winter or cooler months!