By Kristen Hubby
The city of Austin is filled with many things to do that will deter even the most passionate couch potato from wasting away indoors. There are plenty of spots around town that will satisfy your wanderlust desires for hiking, rock climbing or taking in the view of the never-ending hill country. Winter weather is quickly approaching, so lace up those tennis shoes and spend some time with Mother Nature before it gets too cold outside for Texan blood. Here are a few adventures to make time for.
Go For a Climb
Located just off of Loop 360, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is 7.9 miles long with 809 acres of nature reserve. The Greenbelt is just a few minutes drive from downtown and is a perfect place to go on a hike, bike through the trails and even rock climb. The great thing about the Greenbelt is it has a lot of different access points along Barton Creek that offer different adventures.
Scottish Woods Trail is a trek for those who love challenges. Located on 1710 Camp Craft Road on the opposite end of Barton Creek from Zilker, this trail is a path less taken with steep climbs and rocky terrain. On the trail, you will face one of Barton Creek’s best challenges, a vigorous hike on the “Hill of Life,” which is a climb gaining more than 300 feet in less than half a mile at certain points. If you are brave enough to bike on this trail make sure to wear a helmet, it will be a bumpy ride.
Gus Fruh Access is a popular entrance in South Austin with a direct access point to the Gus Fruh pool. During the dry season it is a great place to rock climb along the limestone cliffs located on the other side of the creek. There are multiple walls to climb, including the Gus Fruh, the first one to encounter; Kingdom of Ging; and then the Guide Wall, which is perfect for beginners to start their climb. This area is known for the beautiful 7-inch cave that runs the length of the base of the walls and the perfect shading provided by surrounding trees.
While hiking through the trails among limestone cliffs, caves and wilderness, you are bound to find a new favorite spot in town along The Greenbelt.
Soak In Vitamin D
There are more than 200 parks in Austin, and Zilker Park is a city favorite. The park is located in the heart of Austin and is home to many of the city’s most famous annual outdoor events, such as Austin City Limits, the Zilker Park Kite Festival, Blues on the Green and the Trail of Lights, which launches in December of this year.
When the park isn’t hosting a major event, get out there and show your best moves. Sports enthusiasts can be spotted throughout the field getting their blood pumping. If they aren’t serving the ball on the sand volleyball courts, or enjoying a game on the nine-hole disc golf course, they are doing acro-yoga in the grass.
If you are more mellow, the best thing to do is kick back with some friends, bring some yummy snacks and enjoy a picnic.
Enjoy the View
One of the best things about Austin is that it’s nestled in the Hill Country. One of the greatest spots to sight-see this scenery is from Mount Bonnell — just a 10-minute drive north from downtown. You can see the rolling hill country for miles, including Lake Austin, mansions and the city skyline. You may be out of breath hiking up the stairs of the 236-meter limestone mountain, but once you’ve made it you won’t regret it.
The 360 Bridge Overlook is another spot to sit and take in the scenery. With just a short hike up the limestone cliff, you have a view of Lake Austin, the Pennybacker Bridge and the city skyline in front of you. Around wintertime, Austinites trek up the limestone around Loop 360 and decorate the cedar trees along the highway with tinsel, ornaments and other Christmastime trimmings. Make sure to bring someone special with you when you go to watch the sunset — it is a magical sight.
Run the Trails
When you live in a beautiful city like Austin, the milieu of an enclosed gym becomes so mundane. The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail is the perfect spot to get your jog on. The 10-mile trail circles around Lady Bird Lake with energy exuberating at every corner. If you need to take a break from your run you can rest at Lou Neff Point, or at one of the many benches overlooking the water. When looping around the Trail you can choose to cross the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge and have a view of the city, or move on over to the newly built boardwalk. It sometimes seems like half of the city is taking stroll through the trails, which is probably why Forbes named Austin number 16 of “America’s Top 20 Healthiest Cities.” Personally, this trail is one of my favorite spots around town because you feel like you are one with nature and with the community all at the same time.