January blues are a real thing, and they can sometimes make it difficult to stay true to New Year resolutions to become more active. But those of us who live in Central Texas are lucky because we have an abundance of beautiful nature trails that make maintaining those resolutions easy and — dare we say it? — even fun. Read on to discover some of Austin’s best nature trails.
UPPER BARTON CREEK GREENBELT
One of the most popular trails in the Austin area, the Upper Barton Creek Greenbelt is a great hike for those that want to be completely immersed in the beauty of Austin’s greenery. The main trail spans seven miles and starts and ends with a heart-pumping trek on the “Hill of Life,” though the rest of the hike is relatively easy (be sure to take your time climbing up the hill, as loose limestone rocks and exposed roots may cause you to lose your footing). The trail is also filled with mountain biking trails, climbable limestone bluffs and several swimming holes that are perfect for cooling down in on a hot day.
LADY BIRD LAKE TRAIL
Good for hikers of all skill levels, the Lady Bird Lake Trail is one of the most popular in downtown Austin and runs just over 10 miles long. The dog-friendly trail offers a number of activity options — including several parks and detour options into Barton Creek and Zilker Park — that are accessible year-round, as well as pedestrian bridges at different points in the trail to shorten the length of your walk.
PEDERNALES FALLS STATE PARK
Located 30 miles west of Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park is home to some of the most unique scenery in Central Texas, including unusual rock formations and the park’s beautiful namesake waterfall, Pedernales Falls, which is a must-see. With multiple trails that vary in degrees of difficulty, Pedernales Falls State Park is great for both new and experienced hikers.
TURKEY CREEK TRAIL
A rugged and remote experience just 15 miles northwest of Austin, Turkey Creek Trail is an almost 3 mile round-trip loop that covers a challenging terrain of rocks and roots before looping back south for a gradual, steady descent into the trailhead. The trail also offers a number of activity options that are accessible year-round, and dogs are able to use the trail.
ENCHANTED ROCK STATE NATURAL AREA
With a multitude of opportunities for novice and experienced hikers — including 11 miles of hiking trails, camping, rock climbing, picnicking, bird watching and stargazing — Enchanted Rock is a local favorite. Be sure to explore the popular Summit Trail, where you can ascent to the top for spectacular views.
RIVER PLACE NATURE TRAIL
With over five miles of beautiful scenery, River Place Nature Trail is perfect for Austinites who want to connect with nature. Although the trail is suitable for less experienced hikers, it does have steady climbs, rolling terrain and countless stairs, so be sure to stay hydrated and pace yourself if visiting.
SOUTHERN WALNUT CREEK TRAIL
If you want to take your fitness goals for a spin, the Southern Walnut Creek Trail is a great place to start. With over seven miles of wide, paved pathways, the trail is perfect for those who want to get their workout on a bike. Take the seven-mile extension to Manor, Texas, to add even more miles to your ride.
WILD BASIN WILDERNESS PRESERVE
Part of the 31,000+ acre Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve offers two and a half miles of easy trails and is perfect for laid-back family outing. It’s also part of the natural habitat for the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler, so be sure to stop by the preserve’s Creative Research Center to make your hike both fun and educational.
MCKINNEY FALLS STATE PARK
Hike into the past at McKinney Falls State Park, which winds through the Hill Country woods and has remains of an early Texas homestead and rock shelter. Find this historic site by following the 3 mile Homestead Trail, or explore any of the park’s other trails and loops. Be sure to bring shoes that you’re comfortable getting wet (you’ll have to cross a creek), or if camping, arrive early. This popular park closes once it’s at capacity, although campers have in-and-out access throughout the duration of their stay.
Images courtesy of Tortuga Overland (Barton Creek Greenbelt); Jay Jayasuriya via Twitter (Lady Bird); Don J Schulte via Flickr (Pedernales); Coconino National Forest via Flickr (Turkey Creek); Texas Parks & Wildlife (Enchanted Rock, banner image, feature image); Chrissy Hammond via Twitter (River Place); Austin Parks (Southern Walnut); Conde Nast Traveler (Wild Basin); Texas Parks & Wildlife (McKinney).