Austin Parks

Posted by on Thursday, May 12th, 2016 at 4:38am.

zilker park
The Zephyr takes riders on a scenic ride around Zilker park.

Austinites have access to acres upon acres of parkland and wildlife conservancies. Some are located within the city limits, while others are just slightly further afield.

In and around Austin, you'll find manicured grasslands that are perfect for picnics and games; deep refreshing pools fed by natural springs; and remaining tracts of wild Texas, populated by wild flowers, white-tailed deer, and silvery-gray opossums.

Best urban parks in Austin

Austin is known for its urban parks, which provide ample trails and wide-open spaces right in the heart of the city.

Zilker Park

Zilker Park
Blues on the Green at Zilker Park - photo via Xarifx |

The crown jewel of Austin's urban parks is Zilker Park, a 351-acre expanse that features a well-maintained network of hike and bike trails, the spring-nourished Barton Springs pool, and a shoreline along Lady Bird Lake, which is popular for canoeing.

The park hosts a number of Austin's annual events and concerts, and includes miniature train trips and playgrounds for kids, sports fields, a 9-hole golf course, and sand volleyball courts.

Also within the confines of the park are the Zilker Park Botanical Gardens, the Austin Nature and Science Center, the Zilker Hillside Theatre, and the Umlauf Sculpture Gardens.

Pease Park

Pease Park
Pease Park - photo via PPC

Pease Park is a 42-acre natural getaway that’s within a stone’s throw of the Austin city center. It’s the perfect combination of revitalized wilderness and man-made attractions, with winding trails (including part of the extensive Shoal Creek trail network) and picnic areas, barbeque pits, kids' playgrounds, and a splash pad.

Town Lake Metropolitan Parks

Auditorium Shores
The Stevie Ray Vaughan statue at Auditorium Shores - photo via @TownLakePark

Hugging both banks of Lady Bird Lake are the Town Lake Metropolitan parks, Auditorium Shores and Shoal Beach. The parks include an integrated network of trails that meander through naturally forested areas, and provide opportunities for boating or kayaking on the lake, with onsite boat rentals.

Dogs are allowed off-leash in designated areas, and picnic tables are strategically placed to provide views of the lake and the Austin skyline.

Rural parks near Austin

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Hamilton Pool Preserve
The Hamilton Pool Preserve - photo via Trey Perry

Just 30 miles southwest of Austin is the 232-acre Hamilton Pool Preserve. It features a collapsed grotto, with a 50-foot waterfall that plummets over the lip of a partially exposed underground cave, into deep, jade-colored waters below.

Once home to Apache Indians, the preserve is a natural paradise, with towering Juniper trees, wild flowers (including Chatterbox orchids), and a wealth of bird life.

Amenities at the preserve include trails, picnic tables, and restrooms, and swimming is permitted at certain times of the year.

McKinley Falls State Park

McKinley Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park - photo via Andy

Situated 13 miles south of downtown Austin is McKinley Falls State Park, a rugged recreational area featuring nine miles of trails, camping facilities, and thick forests.

A key attraction is Onion Creek, which cascades over limestone ledges in spectacular fashion. Visitors can swim and fish to their hearts’ content, hike or bike a network of trails, and spend the night (or longer) at one of the preserve's well-appointed campsites.

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