Barton Springs District
Zilker Metropolitan Park

This 351-acre park is arguably the most popular in town. Train rides, a playscape for kids, a swimming pool, and jogging trails are available. Other attractions include Zilker Botanical Garden, Austin Nature and Science Center, Umlauf Sculpture Garden, and Zilker Hillside Theater.

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At one point, an effort was made to rename this park after Lady Bird Johnson, who was instrumental in its beautification process. Any time of the day, you'll find its trails packed with hikers, joggers, cyclists, and nature lovers. From Memorial Day to Labor Day, you'll also find lots of activity around the pool. Outdoor concerts are featured on its southern shore, including Austin's annual July Fourth Pops Concert. Located along the Colorado River from Tom Miller Dam to US Highway 183.

Read more about Town Lake Metropolitan Park →

This 640-acre park boasts a unique swimming pool located under the falls. Hiking, biking, fishing, and picnicking are available, along with camping facilities. Located 13 miles southeast of downtown Austin off US 183. For camping reservations, call 512-389-8900.

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This wide trail spans more than four miles along Shoal Creek, starting in Pease Park. The lush greenbelt is a favorite of cyclists, joggers, and hikers.

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Brushy Creek Regional Trail
Photo courtesy of Krissy Mayse

Brushy Creek Regional Trail encompasses seven miles of either paved or gravel trails. Cyclists cross the top of Brushy Creek Lake Dam and have the opportunity to view several informative markers describing the area's early history. There is even a tiny family cemetery. Sam Champion, a settler who helped settle the area, and his family buried their loved ones here in the late 1800's to early 1900's. The trail is mostly level with a few hills and steep slopes thrown in to keep things interesting. It runs through several parks which include playgrounds for kids, water activities during the summer and even a mock fossil dig and sandbox at Champion Park. Fishing along the creek and in Brushy Creek Lake is also seen regularly. Kayakers put in at Brushy Creek Lake and runners and walkers alike mingle with cyclists along the seven miles of trail.

Local Expert tip: Start at the intersection of Hairy Man Road and Great Oaks Trail. Pack a picnic lunch in a backpack and stop at one of the many parks along the way to enjoy a picnic and quality time with the family.

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Once private lands, this 232-acre preserve is now owned in part by the county and is being restored to its natural state. Its focus is a soothing green pool nourished by a 45-foot waterfall. The formation took shape millennia ago when the land above an underground river collapsed; today, it's a pastoral haven for swimming and enjoying nature. Trails wind about the property, and native vegetation and wildlife are prominent. Picnic tables and restrooms are available, but other amenities are few, and restrictions apply as to what's permitted onto the property. Thirty miles southwest of Austin.

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Home to the "Lost Pines," a forest of pine trees that would seem more at home in East Texas, this park offers twelve log cabins, camping facilities, a swimming pool, a ten-acre lake, hiking, golfing, and more for the entire family to enjoy. For camping reservations, call 512-389-8900.

Read more about Bastrop State Park →

This spot offers the best view of Austin from its peak at 780 feet above sea level (the rest of the area is about 580 feet). A great spot for picnicking, too, with rolling hills, the Colorado River, and all of Austin virtually spread out before you.

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Barton Springs District

This huge, spring-fed swimming hole is surrounded by lovely gardens and pecan trees. The pool is fed by spring waters that maintain a year-round temperature of about 68 degrees, and bubble up at the rate of 27 million gallons a day. Trivia note: Robert Redford, at the tender age of five, learned to swim at Barton Springs. Schedules vary, but usually there are lifeguards on duty between 9am-6pm. The pool closes for two weeks in early March for spring cleaning.

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Popular with picnickers and joggers thanks to a convenient location and almost palpable serenity, Pease Park is also a favored hangout of students from the nearby University of Texas. Many local events are held here throughout the year. Located along Shoal Creek between 12th and 24th Streets.

Read more about Pease District Park →