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Going a little stir crazy at home? We feel you! We already told you about some scenic strolls in Austin, now we’re taking it up just a notch and talking about some simple hikes that can accommodate the whole family.
Here are four easy Austin hikes that everyone can enjoy!
Balcones District Park
12017 Amherst Drive
A quick and fairly straightforward little romp gets you from the parking lot down to the creekside trail where, after a good rain, there are some terrific waterfalls and fun creek crossings. Even in dry times, there is a tiny, spring-fed pool that’s great for spotting neat bugs and the occasional fish or amphibian. Young boys are big fans of the spooky tunnel under Duval Road. If you know a budding mountain biker, Balcones is an ideal area for getting some easy trail-riding experience too. For those seeking a longer trek, this park connects to several other parks via trail–including the new Big Walnut Creek Greenbelt. Free.
Bull Creek Greenbelt
5342 and 6958 and Old Spicewood Springs Road
The 4.5-mile Bull Creek trail system offers a lot of versatility, as you can easily adjust the length of your hike according to your access point. The trails are not very well marked, but with the proximity to Loop 360 and the creek you can really only get so lost. Bull Creek is popular for its swimming holes, especially after a heavy rain (water quality is often less than ideal; please use caution and common sense). The majority of folks don’t stray far from the parking areas, so the farther you venture from parking, the greater your chances of achieving a quiet walk in the woods. Aside from the various pools and waterfalls, there are some impressive, rocky cliffs along the trail. Although Bull Creek is a designated on-leash area, there are plenty of 4-legged friends roaming free, particularly in the park area off Lakewood Drive. Free.
Great Hills Park
10801 Sierra Oaks
It’s hard to believe such a scenic little enclave is hidden just minutes from the bustling Arboretum area. This mostly flat trail follows a creek as it meanders along a greenbelt backing up to houses. As such, you can sometimes see houses and hear barking dogs, lawnmowers, etc. Often it seems that the only people who utilize this area are those in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding it. The trail has great water features, many of which are spring-fed. We’ve seen frogs, fish, tadpoles, leeches, crawfish, and a multitude of cool bugs at the fish pond. Other favorite spots include a wooden bridge (great for stomping) and an enormous boulder (great for climbing). Another plus for the kiddos is the playground at one end of the trail, which can be used as a motivational tool when they start to lag behind. Free.
Spicewood Valley Trail
8043-8585 Scotland Well Drive
If you weren’t specifically looking for this trail, I’d venture to say that you’d never find it. Beginning across the street from Mountain View Park, the unmarked trail drops immediately, and steeply, via switchbacks and a stone staircase. What seems a bit treacherous at first calms once you reach the bottom, where a super cool doughnut rock waits at the T in the trail. There are no signs or markers here; we usually take the longer, flatter option to the right. As the trail loosely parallels the creek, there are some cool relics of the days when the area was ranchland. The highlight of this hike is an old, man-made dam with a sometimes-waterfall and a lovely pool. We always sit for a spell in this peaceful spot, watching the fish and plunking rocks into the water. From the dam, you can continue along the creekside trail or cross the dam and tackle a more challenging uphill stretch that eventually ends at Canyon Vista Middle School. Despite being adjacent to houses, the SVT is surprisingly quiet and we’ve rarely encountered other hikers there. Free.