Best Things To Do Outdoors in Austin, Texas

The city of Austin may be famous for its metropolitan skyline, restaurants and artistic culture, but nature enthusiasts have plenty of options.

Marcus Cagleby Marcus Cagle

Though it’s true Austin is mostly known for its music scene, clubs, art galleries and restaurants, but there’s some awesome outdoor, adventure-style activities that you need to experience as well when you make your trip. Located in the eastern part of the Texas Hill Country, Austin boasts a rolling, tree-covered landscape, sparkling lakes, rivers and underground springs. The roadsides are peppered with wildflowers – especially bluebonnets. It’s a beautiful sight to see, and we have the best things to do outdoors in Austin if you just can’t get enough!

1. Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail

austin hiking

Photo: Getty Images/Caiaimage/Paul Bradbury

Lady Bird Lake is located in the heart of downtown Austin. It is actually a dammed-off portion of the Colorado River, and is a known spot for both tourists and locals alike. The 10-mile hike and bike trail surrounds the lake and attracts more than 1.5 million visitors each year. Because it is the most popular outdoor recreational area in the city, you can expect to meet plenty of avid runners, hikers and cyclists. You will also enjoy views of both lakeside paths and the Austin skyline.

2. Mount Bonnell

Mount Bonnell

Photo: Getty Images/RoschetzkyIstockPhoto

Mount Bonnell is only a 5-mile drive west of downtown. As the area’s highest elevation, Mount Bonnell has become one of the area’s most popular tourist attractions.

Be prepared to climb a sweat-breaking stairway to reach the summit, but when you do, the reward will be panoramic views of the surrounding Hill Country. You can relax in the pavilion at the top and gaze down at Lake Austin. It’s an amazing place to take photographs, and if you really want to enjoy the Austin landscape, this is the place to do it!

3. Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool

Photo: Getty Images/Randy Smith

If you’re ready to cool off, then head over to Barton Springs Pool, which is also located in the heart of the city in Zilker Park. This 3-acre, natural pool is fed by underground springs, and the water is a constant 68 degrees year-round, no matter what the temperature is outside. The pool was voted the Best Swimming Hole in Texas, so you know you need to check it out.

The pool reaches depths of 18 feet, but you can also find plenty of grass to just relax in the sun if swimming isn’t your thing. Because it’s Austin, and because they’re known for being accepting to every individual’s desires, nudity is legal and allowed at the Barton Springs Pool.

4. Red Bud Isle

red bud isle

Photo: austinparks.org

Red Bud Isle is Austin’s premier destination for hiking, canoeing and kayaking. Both canoes and kayaks are available to rent, and the scenic shores are popular places for fishing. It’s an ideal spot for picnics with the family, adventuring around solo, or bringing a furry friend along and hitting up Austin’s most popular dog park!

5. Barton Creek Greenbelt

Barton Creek Greenbelt

Photo: austinparks.org

This is another great place for hiking, biking and swimming. The trail begins near downtown and continues for about 8 miles. If you’re feeling adventurous, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is a popular place for rock climbing. There are also natural swimming holes and waterfalls to discover, along with native wildlife and vegetation.

6. Zilker Botanical Garden

Zilker Botanical Garden

Photo: zilkerpark.org

If you’re looking to really submerse yourself into Austin’s beauty, explore the 26 acres of themed gardens located on natural parkland. The Zilker Botanical Garden has been called “the jewel in the heart of Austin,” with sites that include a Japanese garden, a rose garden and an herb garden. At The Hartman Prehistoric Garden, you will find the recreation of a dinosaur habitat including a life-sized statue of an ornithomimus!

The city of Austin may be famous for its metropolitan skyline, restaurants and artistic culture, but nature enthusiasts have plenty of options. These are just six of many outdoor attractions that Austin has to offer, but keep your eyes open, and you’ll discover lots of lesser known ways to connect with the area’s natural majesty.