Austin is an outdoor lover’s playground. And with its enviable location in the heart of Texas Hill Country, visitors can find everything from scenic state parks to crystal clear lakes close by. So, whether you’re a hiker, biker or boater, you’re sure to find your bliss in Austin this fall.
From downtown Austin to the back roads of rural Texas Hill Country, you’ll find no shortage of winding trails to explore.
Wild Basin Preserve, Woodland Trail. Credit St. Edward's University.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt boasts almost 13 miles of trails, and is one of the top-rated hiking spots in Texas. Barton Creek passes both Sculpture and Twin Falls (with steep cliffs that are great for climbing) and snakes through a dense forest. Double your fun with a yoga-and-hike session at the Barton Creek Greenbelt with Sanctuary Yoga.
Hike along the leafy 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, which skirts along shimmering waters and has picturesque views of Austin’s skyline. Snap a selfie with the memorial statue of Austin music legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, stationed along the route at Auditorium Shores.
Experience a lush hidden escape within the city limits at the quiet 80-acre St. Edwards Park or the 227-acre Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve. Take your pick of adventures, from exploring the waterfalls and swimming spots, to hiking through forested greenbelt trails.
Just 30 miles west of Austin, hike through a Texas Hill Country landscape of limestone cliffs and stone river beds along the Pedernales River at Pedernales Falls State Park. Follow Juniper Ridge Trail, which wends through a shaded mesquite forest and leads to the park’s rushing Pedernales Falls.
Austin was ranked among the top bicycling cities in America by Forbes Traveler, and has been cited as one of the top 20 most bike-friendly cities in America by Bicycling Magazine.
Biking on the Butler Hike & Bike Trail. Credit Nick Simonite.
Austin features a strong cycling culture, with friendly bike shops that offer everything from rentals and gear to tours. At Mellow Johnny’s Bike Shop you can rent a road or mountain bike and grab a coffee as you talk shop with the locals. Bicycle World offers Sunday Shop Rides led by Austin duathletes. Bicycle Sports Shop has one of Austin's largest selections of cycling clothing and accessories. While Austin Tri-Cyclist (ATC) is a haven for triathletes, renting hybrid bikes and hosting its infamous ATC Saturday Ride with 30- and 50-mile options. Check out Barton Springs Bike Rental near Zilker Park for beach cruisers, tandems and guided bike tours. For information on coordinated rides and maps of Austin bike routes, visit bikeaustin.org.
The Violet Crown Trail offers great in-town mountain biking, with rocky surfaces and steep slopes. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is also a great destination for mountain bikers (enter at the Loop 360 access point), offering varied terrain within a beautiful landscape of cliffs and shaded groves alongside scenic Barton Creek.
Road riders will want to bicycle from downtown to Mount Bonnell, peddling Scenic Drive along the waters of Lake Austin and catching an awesome sunset view from Pennybacker Bridge. The paved Southern Walnut Creek Trail, part of the city’s Walnut Creek Trail System, is an urban trail designed for both bikers and pedestrians. Or, check out the Veloway, a three-mile course for cyclists and in-line skaters only that meanders through meadows and woods.
Enjoy fall’s warm days and cool nights with an overnight adventure at one of the many state parks and campgrounds in and around Austin.
McKinney Falls State Park. Courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park, situated along the shores of Lake Austin, is one of the few places where visitors can camp inside the city limits. Located just 25 minutes from downtown Austin, the park features waterside campsites, giant cypress trees, hiking and biking trails, swimming and boating and spots for picnics and grilling.
Located just 13 miles southeast of downtown, McKinney Falls State Park offers 726 acres with nearly nine miles of hiking and cycling trails, playgrounds, picnic areas and a campground with 81 sites (featuring electricity and water hook-ups) and six cabins. Plus, the area is home to one of the oldest bald cypress trees in Texas, estimated to be more than 500 years old.
An hour northwest of Austin, Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area in Spicewood is tucked into a picturesque bend of the Colorado River. The recreation area boasts wide-open riverfront views, boating, 34 secluded campsites, mountain biking and hiking trails and horseback riding.
Austin is blessed with a bounty of lakes that offer great fishing. Stay close to the city or venture out to a state park nestled in the scenic Texas Hill Country.
About 20 miles north of downtown, Brushy Creek Lake Park in Cedar Park is a 90-acre oasis with nature trails, a 38-acre lake with a canoe/kayak launch (only non-motorized boating is allowed), a fishing pier and picture-perfect picnic areas.
Lake Travis is Austin’s largest lake, with countless coves and immense water depths (up to 210 feet), making it a favorite fishing and boating destination. There are several parks surrounding Lake Travis, including Pace Bend Park, which is about an hour’s drive from Austin. Pace Bend is known for its dramatic backdrop of limestone cliffs and abundant wildlife.
Colorado Bend State Park is bisected by the Colorado River, and is known for some of the best bass fishing in Central Texas. You don’t need a fishing license to fish in a state park, and there’s even a fish cleaning station here. Visitors can explore the park and the Colorado River on their own, or hire a guide to visit Gorman Falls and the park’s numerous underground caves.
Austin offers great terrain for climbing and bouldering. And thanks to Texas’ temperate weather, you can do it all year ‘round.
Climbing at Reimers Ranch. Credit Jacob Bodkin.
Hike or bike along the Barton Creek Greenbelt to reach Gus Fruh, a swimming hole known for its famed Urban Assault limestone rock wall that’s a favorite of climbers. Explore further to discover the hidden Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls areas, where you’ll find relaxing shallow stream waters and plenty of rocky areas for adventurous climbing and exploring the falls.
Reimers Ranch Park offers more than 300 different sport climbing routes on highly technical cliff walls that skilled climbers love to scale. Cool off after your climbing session with a dip in Lake Travis.
Pedernales Falls State Park features varied terrain along the Pedernales River. It offers wild bouldering opportunities, with rocky riverbeds and giant boulders scattered from the shoreline to the center of the river.
Onion Creek flows through McKinney Falls State Park, forming McKinney Falls and beautiful pools of water among giant boulders. Spending the day bouldering and geocaching.
Lady Bird Lake is a reservoir created by two dams on the Lower Colorado River which flows through downtown Austin. Motorized boats aren’t permitted, so Lady Bird Lake is a perfect destination for kayakers, canoers and stand-up paddleboarders.
Lady Bird Lake. Courtesy of the Four Seasons Hotel Austin.
For an insider’s perspective, take a guided kayak or stand-up paddleboard tour of downtown Austin with Austin City Kayak Tours. Both beginners and experienced paddlers are welcome.
Or try out the waves at NLand Surf Park, the only inland surfing destination in North America. The NLand Training Center offers world-class coaching. After surfing, grab a beer at the on-site NLand Brewing Company tap room that overlooks the surf lagoon.
There are lots of fun things for families to do during autumn in Austin. So, let the kids run free and enjoy the great outdoors.
Geocaching at McKinney Falls State Park. Credit Chase A. Fountain, courtesy of Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Looking for an adrenaline rush and a beautiful view? Lake Travis Zipline Adventures offers five pulse-pounding ziplines (one being the longest in Texas) to take you on an exciting outdoor adventure.
Pack a picnic and amble over to Zilker Park, a 360-acre oasis in the heart of downtown that’s home to Zilker Botanical Garden, Umlauf Sculpture Garden & Museum and Barton Springs Pool, a popular spring-fed swimming spot. Be sure to take the little ones for a ride on the Zilker Zephyr miniature train.
At the nearby Austin Nature & Science Center explore nature trails, see small wildlife creatures and dig for “dinosaur fossils” in the Dino Pit.
Take advantage of Austin’s warm fall days with a dip in the Deep Eddy Pool, located in the heart of the city. The oldest pool in the state offers lap swimming and wading.
Harness the cowboy spirit and giddyup over to nearby Texas Hill Country for a horseback ride around the ranch at Texas Trail Rides, where you’ll pass by spring-fed lakes, across Onion Creek and along wooded trails. Or do some fall leaf peeping during a guided trail ride with Maverick Horseback Riding in Lockhart.