Are you looking for an insider’s adventure travel guide for the best outdoor activities in Austin, Texas?
As part of our Adventure City Guide series, Carri Uranga from CarriUranga.com shares with you her expert insider tips on the top adventure and outdoor activities to do in Austin; including how to get there and costs.
Why visit Austin for adventure?
Often, when people think of Texas images of cowboys, guns and George W. Bush come to mind. They may not realize Austin, considered by many to be an oasis within the vast state offers not only a vibrant music scene as South by Southwest (called simply “South by” by locals) conference has become one of the most important music, film and interactive festivals in the world, but there’s also quite an extensive list of outdoor activities to be had in the Lone Star State.
Outdoor Activities in Austin, Texas
Town Lake Trail
In the heart of the city just South of downtown surrounding Lady Bird Lake.
The Town Lake Trail offers a scenic 10-mile loop for runners, cyclists and walkers of all shapes and sizes – athletes training for triathlons to groups of stroller Mom’s (or Dad’s). There’s plenty of water stops along the way to combat that Texas heat; even a few that are specifically designated for your pooch. Parts of the trail are shaded and you’re never far from the city should you decide to stop off and have a refreshing beverage of some sort. Part of the trail is paved while some is gravel therefore rollerblading is not recommended.
Bike rentals can be found on the northeast side of the lake at Waller Creek Boat House which is where you can also get info regarding kayak and stand up paddleboard rentals.
From March – October about a million bats call downtown Austin home underneath the Congress Street Bridge which connects downtown to the vibrant nightlife of SoCo (short for South Congress). A real treat is to watch the bats emerge at dusk from a kayak on the lake!
Parking for the Town Lake Trail can be found under the MoPac Bridge close to Austin High School.
Parks of Austin
The most popular park in Austin is Kilker Park and for good reason. This 350-acre park is host to Austin City Limits music festival in October as well as a plethora of activities. The Town Lake Trail goes through the park, therefore running and cycling already mentioned are favorite activities, but since the park offers wide-open spaces you’ll also find Frisbee tossing, kite flying and pick-up soccer games. Close by is Barton Springs – a man-made recreational swimming pool fed by the fourth largest spring in Texas. The water is clear and warm with temperatures staying between 68-72 all year.
Bike rentals can also be found on this side of the lake at Barton Springs Bike Rental or better yet, Austin Bike Tours and Rentals will actually deliver a bike right to your door complete with locks, helmets and maps!
Another man-made, but natural spring fed pool is the Deep Eddy Pool also close to Zilker Park.
Insider’s tip: Deep Eddy offers a few lanes if you are looking to actually swim laps.
Less crowded than Town Lake and Zilker, Pease Park just northwest of downtown is popular with University of Texas students as well as disc golf enthusiasts again due to the big open spaces. There’s also a walking path, volleyball and basketball courts and plenty of picnic spots with grills.
About a 10 minute drive northwest of downtown and 780 feet above sea level is Mount Bonnell – offering incredible views of the surrounding hills and Lake Austin.
A short, but steep jaunt up limestone stairs make for an excellent place to watch the sunset. While the walk isn’t quite long enough to make for an all out hike, there are plenty of winding roads, hills and beautiful houses to look at if you want to make Mt. Bonnell a beginning and ending point for a longer run or walk. Parking is available at the base of the hill.
Regardless of your opinions of Lance Armstrong, his plush downtown store Mellow Johnny’s is an excellent resource for events, rides and gear. There’s also a coffee shop inside complete with snacks and Wi-Fi.
Boasting 900 miles of bike lanes and paths by 2020 Austin has far surpassed the typical Texas stereotypes. Adventures by day, live music by night and delicious Mexican food in between, it’s no wonder Austin continues to top the “best of” and “most livable cities” lists. Best time to visit is October through May to avoid the extreme heat.
In 2006 Carri and Chris sold their house in Vermont, most of their possessions, gave away a car and traveled in Central & South America for 1 year, hiking, biking, surfing, eating and drinking their way through this amazing and beautiful land. It was during this journey Carri decided to get certified to teach Yoga.
Her passion for Yoga and travel has led her around the world teaching in Peru, Italy, South Africa and working as a volunteer at Ibiza Yoga. She now leads her own Yoga Teacher Training courses with Drishti Yoga International in Mexico, India, Peru and Italy. Find out where Carri will be next on her blog, CarriUranga.com, Drishti Yoga site, and on Twitter.