I've lived in Austin for over six years now. Through out my time in Austin, I've gone through many phases and life changes, but one thing that has remained constant is my off and on relationship with running. This might sound crazy to some people, but for me running has always been a stress relieving and calming activity. During my runs I am able to dedicate time to myself and no one else. I could go on about why I love running, but for now here is a list of my favorite places to run in Austin, curated over the past six years.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt
Accurately described, the Greenbelt is an area surrounding a creek bed with natural trails crisscrossing around the creek. Very centrally located, the greenbelt is a great place to get away from the noise and traffic of the city without actually leaving the city. It’s a place where you can really feel immersed in the wilderness. The trail itself is pretty rocky (so be careful!) and it will have different vibes depending on the time of year and how recently it rained. In the hot summer months, the creek is usually completely dry so the round, chalky rocks are exposed.
If you have strong ankles and would like a fun challenge, you can try walking or running on these rocks. During the spring months is when the creek collects the most water. Its a great place to jump in and cool off especially after a run. After rainstorms in the fall season is another time the creek will fill up, and as an added bonus the surrounding vegetation will be all sorts of warm colors creating a very serene setting for a long run. This trail is not just for runners. You’ll see mountain bikers, rock climbers, families with pets, and walkers and runners in a variety of shoes (or no shoes!)
Hike and Bike Trail at Town Lake (aka Lady Bird Lake)
Officially named the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake, this trail is literally in the middle of Austin tracing the sides of water with crossing access at 6 bridge points, allowing you run a loop of 1 mile, 3 miles, or even 10 miles (map). The trail is well maintained and while you might get little rocks in your socks, you won’t be tripping over any big boulders.
There are several access points with plenty of parking, however this also makes the trail extremely popular especially on beautiful, blue skied mornings, evenings, and weekends. You’ll definitely be surrounded by other health conscious runners, walkers, and bikers and its a great place to run if you don’t want to be stopped by traffic lights and noisy vehicles.
Shoal Creek Trail
Shoal Creek runs roughly north and south along the west side of downtown Austin, and continues north through Pease Park and then through some residential areas. Parts of the trail are more difficult and rocky (between 29th and 38th Street), parts are pebbly (in Pease Park), and some portions are paved.
The portion of the trail that traces through Downtown is interesting because its set below the streets, and I feel that it gives a somewhat hidden view of the city. It’s a great trail to run out and back, or you can create a loop that also goes through the UT Campus, or through Downtown Austin depending on where you start and how long your run will be.
Hyde Park Neighborhood and Bouldin Creek Neighborhood
I’ve lived in both of these neighborhoods so I might be biased, but I think the eclectic mix of houses in this area are very interested to look at while running. There are older houses, castle-like houses, modern boxy houses, houses with jungle like yards, and everything in between. Because these neighborhoods are older and don’t have to follow strict guidelines of newer suburban neighborhoods, you can see the character of the different people who have resided in them. There is not much car traffic in the neighborhoods, so your run will be pretty quite and streamlined.
Around the Capitol
If you are running through Downtown, definitely run around or through the capital building! I’m usually not about historical sites, but this building really does look magnificent, especially at night. There is no security check for accessing the area around the building so its really easy to see. And if you end your run there, the yard is a great place to take a breather and stretch.
Whether you're into running or not, if you're in Austin, I hope you decide to at least take a stroll through or around some of these places!