- April 22, 2015

Best Austin Parks for Dogs


Austinites love being active outdoors — running, hiking, walking, swimming, picnicking — and our four-legged friends do too!

Dog Fun Austin

Austin consistently ranks as one of the most dog-friendly cities in the nation, and with good reason. From dog festivals and pet-friendly restaurants, to a progressive attitude towards animal rescue and care, Austin hospitality doesn’t just apply to humans!

With 12 off-leash dog parks in the Austin Parks and Recreation Department, dogs are welcome nearly everywhere on City property — including the luscious green grounds of the State Capitol — as long as they are on a 6-foot leash. But, there are a few ordinances to be aware of, for both on-leash and off-leash areas:

  • Dogs must be within sight and sound control of owners/handlers at all times
  • Dogs in heat are not allowed in off-leash areas
  • Rabies vaccinations are required for all dogs, as required by State Law
  • Owners/handlers must clean up after their dogs and deposit waste into a trash can
  • Aggressive dogs must be removed from public spaces immediately
  • Do not leave a dog alone on a chain or tether
  • When not in specifically designated off-leash areas, the Austin leash ordinance requires dogs to be on a leash no longer than 6 feet on all City land

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Here is a sampling of the many dog-friendly parks in Austin. Parks listed with an asterisk (*) offer off-leash areas. 

Auditorium Shores920 W. Riverside Dr. 512-974-6700 Map

On the banks of Lady Bird Lake, just west of the First Street Bridge, lies a place bustling with activity. Auditorium Shores is an outdoor concert venue with an especially busy summer schedule, a place to catch the fireworks on the Fourth of July and the hub of Austin’s most popular hike-and-bike trail.  If splashing is your dog’s favorite thing, head for Auditorium Shores. Dogs here can dive into Lady Bird Lake, in the shadow of the city skyline. This park is currently in transition, with a major renewal effort and a new off-leash area under construction. A portion of the park is still accessible for off-leash play while the project is ongoing, and the new dog park is expected to be completed sometime in the summer of 2015.

Austin Hike Bike Trail

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake

Residents and visitors alike enjoy trails in a range of terrains and difficulty levels, including the dog-friendly 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake. The loop includes two pedestrian-only bridges that are great for dogs and serves as a social hub for runners, walkers, cyclists and canines.

Barking Springs 2101 Barton Springs Rd. (512) 867-3080

Barking Springs Austin

Just downstream from Barton Springs, a humans-only swimming hole, you’ll find what’s nicknamed “Barking Springs” for its popularity with four-legged water lovers. People and their pooches can wade together at the spillway for Barton Springs. The 68-degree, natural springs water is guaranteed to cool off pups, even on the hottest Austin day.

Barton Creek Greenbelt 3755 B Capital of Texas Hwy 512-472-1267

The Barton Creek Greenbelt is an urban oasis. Its trails provide opportunity for biking, running, rock climbing, swimming and hiking. Don’t forget your suit – there are also several swimming holes along the creek for cooling off during the warm summer months. Dogs are allowed, but must be on a leash. Some of the more popular access points to the trails are Zilker Metropolitan Park, and Loop 360 (south of MoPac/Loop 1).

Bob Wentz Park Bob Wentz Park Road 512-854-9020 (Entry fee)

This 211-acre park is located in the basin area of Lake Travis, in the scenic Texas Hill Country. Bob Wentz Park’s facilities, and close proximity to Austin (approximately one-half hour’s drive from downtown), make it attractive for picnicking, swimming, windsurfing, sailing, and scuba diving. The shoreline areas (including a sandy peninsula known as “The Point”) are heavily used, while an adjacent 150-acre tract is maintained as a natural area. The park includes two sand volleyball courts, a shoreline walking path, a boat dock, and a pavilion available for rent. Pets are allowed in the park, but must be kept on a leash and are not permitted on The Point.

Bull Creek District Dog Park 6701 Lakewood Drive 512-974-6700

Bull Creek District Park covers 48 acres and 32 square miles of ecologically unique terrain. Bull Creek watershed includes limestone seeps, springs, and waterways; scenic cliffs and waterfalls; interesting archaeological and cultural features and so much more. This dog park is not fenced, but it has access to the creek, rocky ledges, hilly terrain and tall, majestic trees. All dogs can roam and play, but have to be on-leash at this fun watering hole.

Emma Long Park Austin

Emma Long Metropolitan Park* 1600 City Park Rd. (512) 346-1831 (Entry fee)

Set within an oak and juniper forest bordering Lake Austin, Emma Long Metropolitan Park is one the largest parks in Austin at almost 1,200 acres. It’s just a few minutes’ drive from downtown Austin, and easy to get to from RR 2222. The main part of the park, which is adjacent to the lake, features a well-equipped and well-used boat dock, as well as several swimming areas. Follow scenic City Park Road down to the shores of Lake Austin, and spend the day swimming, water-skiing, picnicking, or camping.  The leash-free area is between City Park Drive, the west park boundary fence, Turkey Creek, and the top ridge of the bluff line overlooking Lake Austin. Gorgeous views surround you on the bluff!

Davis White Northeast District Park* 5909 Crystalbrook Dr.

Northeast Park is a great place for a neighborhood BBQ or a picnic. With a covered area to eat and plenty of trees for shade, it’s perfect for a date, family outing or alone time. Located east of Ed Bluestein Blvd. (HWY 183) at the corner of Loyola and Crystalbrook. The park has a lighted basketball court, volleyball pit, two horseshoe pits and a playground. One large outdoor pavilion is available for reservations and it will seat 84, or accommodate 100. There are four BBQ grills adjacent to the pavilion. The leash-free area is between Crystal Brook Drive, the railroad right of way, and Decker Lake Road.

Red Bud Isle Austin

Red Bud Isle* 3401 Red Bud Trail Unit Cr.

Surrounded by water, this 13-acre leash-free dog park is a must visit for any canine lover. Dogs can romp and swim, under the comfort of shaded natural paths. Bring a towel – you both are bound to get a little wet and dirty. This park is on Lady Bird Lake, just below Tom Miller Dam, and is the entry point for the Redbud Trail. The park is a peninsula surrounded by the lake, and is a great place for water dogs.  The whole park is leash-free!

Shoal Creek Greenbelt* 2600-2799 Lamar Blvd.

You haven’t been in Austin long enough if you haven’t seen Shoal Creek…or sat creekside while enjoying a cold drink at a local restaurant…or discovered fossils walking through the creek bed in Pease Park. Flowing through the heart of Austin, from Braker Lane down to Cesar Chavez St, Shoal Creek encompasses the beauty and stresses of an urban creek. As you walk along the crushed limestone, gravel and concrete trail, you will enjoy the shady trees and opulent green spaces. You are sure to find the perfect spot for a picnic or leisurely stroll with friends, your special someone, or your best bud (dog).  The portion of the trail from 24th Street to 29th Street is designated as a no-leash zone, and dog owners flock to the area on the weekends for the pure enjoyment of the area.

Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park 12138 N. Lamar Blvd.

Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park is located in North Austin. Recent renovations to the trail have added a concrete walking and bike trail, for everyone from the “young at heart” to the “still moving along” to enjoy. Southern Walnut Creek Trail is a nature lover’s delight.  This beautiful trail extends from Govalle Park to the Walnut Creek Sports Park at Johnny Morris Road and Daffan Lane, and includes five bridges, culverts, signs and benches, offering a breath-taking view at every turn.

Zilker Botanical Garden 2220 Barton Springs Rd. (512) 477-8672 (Entry fees)

Though not technically a park, Zilker Botanical Garden allows leashed dogs. Stroll through the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden to see the native plants that are tolerant of Central Texas’s hot, dry summers. Nearby, keep Fido away from the spines at the Cactus and Succulent Garden filled with West Texas cactus and succulents. Blooming cherry trees fill the Isamu Taniguchi Oriental Garden in early spring, while the Mabel Davis Rose Garden blooms throughout the season. Your dog walk can also include the Herb and Fragrance Garden and the Hamilton Parr Memorial Azalea Garden, in bloom during March and April, and the Douglas Blachly Butterfly Trail, lined with local flowers and plants that attract numerous species of Texas butterflies.

Zilker Dog Park

Zilker Dog Park* 2100 Barton Springs Rd. 512-974-6700  Map

Zilker Park is probably one of the best known parks in Austin. With a scenic view of downtown across the lake, this dog park is not fenced, but well-behaved dogs can roam and play off-leash. It hosts rolling hills and beautiful trees as it runs along the waters of Lady Bird Lake. On weekends, the park comes alive with impromptu games of football, soccer, Frisbee and catch, family picnics, runners, and lots of four-legged friends enthusiastically getting in the thick of it all. The dog park is located in Zilker Metropolitan Park at 2100 Barton Springs Road. Parking info.

There are many, many more dog-friendly parks and green spaces available to our four-legged friends in Austin. We’d love to hear your favorites in the comments!

A special thank you goes out to the following websites, where I found a good deal of helpful information: Austin Parks and Recreation Department, Bring Fido, Dog Places and Go Pet Friendly.

Click here to download the Austin Guide to Dogs in Our City (pdf).