There are so many ways to enjoy the outdoors in Austin, Texas. While the city is growing rapidly, it’s amazing that it’s maintained so much nature within the city. You don’t have to drive far to find waterfalls, swimming holes, or hiking trails. Austin has it all right within its borders. We’ve listed out a few of our favorite places to enjoy outdoor activities in Austin below, such as hiking trails, pools, and attractions.
2201 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX 78704
Enjoy the sparkling, crystal-clear waters at Barton Springs. It’s a partially man-made pool fed by the Edwards Aquifer. Located inside Zilker Park, the pool measures three acres in size and resides at an average temperature of 68–70 degrees. The warm temperature makes it ideal for swimming year-round. Grassy areas surround the pool for visitors to lounge and sunbathe on. Next to the pool is Splash!, an educational exhibit that teaches visitors about Barton Springs, its history, and the ecosystem within it. Barton Springs is a fun and affordable place to hang out in Austin. Adult admission fees range from $3 (local residents) to $8 (non-residents).
Barton Springs by Wordandgesture via Wikimedia Commons, CC BY-SA 3.0
Hamilton Pool Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs, TX, 78620
Take a refreshing dip into the Hamilton Pool Preserve, and enjoy the beauty of this natural waterfall and canyon. Hamilton Pool was designated a nature preserve by the Travis County Commissioners Court in 1990. Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50-foot waterfall that pools into a steep box canyon. It has been open for swimming since the 1950s when it was privately owned. Since then, it has been purchased by Travis County. The county is putting forth efforts to restore the land’s natural vegetation and structure after heavy patron use. The pool is still open to visitors for swimming with a reservation, which can be made online. Amenities include picnic tables, hiking trails, and restrooms.
Public access available at Emma Long Park: 1600 City Park Road, Austin, TX 78730
Lake Austin provides many fun outdoor activities in Austin. Visitors can go fishing, boating, and swimming. Much of the waterfront surrounding Lake Austin is privately owned; however, there are a handful of public access points and boat ramps open to the public. Bank access can be found at the Capital of Texas Highway (Loop 360) bridge, Emma Long Park, Mary Quinlan Park, and Fritz Hughes Park near Mansfield Dam. The two public boat ramps available are the Walsh Boat Landing (located off Lake Austin Boulevard) and a ramp below the Loop 360 bridge. Emma Long Park is a great public access point along the lake with camping.
Gregory Gym Aquatic Complex
2101 Speedway, Austin, TX 78712
University of Texas at Austin students have access to one of the best-equipped aquatic facilities on campus, known as Gregory Gym. The aquatic complex holds five pools and an outdoor spa. You can swim laps, swim for leisure, or sunbathe. The five pools include a seven-lane indoor lap pool, a 12-lane outdoor lap pool, a heated indoor leisure pool, a heated outdoor leisure pool, and a 2,200-square-foot outdoor event pool. The spa is the perfect place to release tension, heated to 102–104 degrees. Out of the water, students and guests can enjoy deck space and the lounging ledges with lounge chairs and palm trees.
Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
Put on your jogging shoes or grab your bike and head to the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail for some outdoor fun in the heart of Austin. This trail runs through downtown Austin along Lady Bird Lake. Enjoy all the beauty that Austin has to offer with views of skyscrapers, neighborhoods, and historic landmarks, as well as water views and lush vegetation. The trail spans 10 miles of scenic, pathed pathways for hiking or biking. Residents view the trail as a testament to the efforts of many past Austin locals, particularly Lady Bird Johnson (wife of former President Lyndon Johnson) and Ann Butler (wife of former Austin Mayor Roy Butler). These women, and other Austin locals, were instrumental in the Town Lake Beautification Committee of the 1970s, which is responsible for many of Austin’s beautiful parks today.
Shoal Creek Greenbelt
2600 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78705
A visit to the Shoal Creek Greenbelt is a fun, free outdoor activity you can do in Austin. The trail starts in Pease Park and spans four miles until it ends at Town Lake. The trail runs through West Campus near UT, making it a popular destination among college students. The lush greenway is enjoyed by cyclists, joggers, hikers, and leisurely walkers. At the start of the trail, Pease Park provides many other outdoor activities, like picnics and occasional community events.