Just in time for cooler weather (hallelujah!), I present to you the 5 best parks in Austin for outdoor recreation. Austin is a beautiful city that does an excellent job of prioritizing parks, green space, and walking trails. It is a great place to balance gym life and the great outdoors.
We all know that movement is healthy for our bodies, and so is being in the outdoors. Combine the two, and you can reap the benefits of the sunshine and Vitamin D, healthy fresh air from the green trees, and movement in the open space, away from computers and Zoom calls.
Getting outside is a perfect supplement to your gym training. You can walk, hike or swim as an active recovery between lifting days, or you can use this as cardio. Or, my favorite, just get outside and play and be happy.
For this holiday season: read the ultimate gift guide for powerlifters.
Check out these places below, and you’ll find the perfect place to refresh your day, and spend some time in the great outdoors.
Zilker Park is hands down the best park in Austin. Formally called Zilker Metropolitan Park, Zilker Park is located in the heart of Austin. It is just on the south side of Lady Bird Lake, and covers 351 acres of lawn, trails and trees.
Zilker Park has an expansive green space that allows for kite flying, picnicking, off-leash dog frolicking. There are picnic tables, volleyball courts, and trails for walking and hiking, and a disc golf course, all with a great view of downtown Austin.
Zilker Park is a great spot to bring a blanket and tennis shoes and get some outdoor exercise in. You can run, jump, do lunges, pushups, or stretch and meditate. and K LINK minimal or bodyweight exercise links.
Zilker is also the location for great events such as Blues on the Green, the Austin Kite Festival, and the world famous Austin City Limits Music Festival.
The property also contains my favorite place in Austin, Barton Springs Pool, and the Zilker Botanical Garden. Barton Springs Pool is a chilly 68-70 degrees year round. It’ll give you a pep in your step when you get out of the water! Barton Springs Pool has an admission fee of $5 – $9, and veterans get in free.
Zilker Botanical Garden is a 28 acre gorgeously maintained property with live oaks, water features and koi ponds. Parking is free in the small parking lot, and admission is $5-$7.
Outside of the botanical garden, parking is abundant at Zilker Park, but it still gets crazy busy. Parking is $7 on weekends, holidays, and special events.
Address of Zilker Park:
2100 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704
Anna & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Boardwalk
Covering 10.1 miles around Lady Bird Lake, the Anna & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Boardwalk is a hike and bike path designed for non-motorized traffic. There are shorter versions of the trail if you cross at the Lamar Street Bridge, South First Street, Congress Avenue, or the pedestrian bridge. The far east part of the trail reaches to Krieg Fields, which is a recreation complex that has sand volleyball courts and softball fields.
There is not one specific address, as the trails cover so many miles around Lady Bird Lake. Some parking options include the lot at Auditorium Shores, street parking on S. Lakeshore Blvd, or lot and street parking near Austin High School.
Address of the Anna & Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail and Boardwalk:
Parking near Austin High School, located approximately at
1900 Stephen F. Austin Dr.
Austin TX 78703
Mueller Lake Park
Mueller Lake Park is a very modern park in east Austin, at the site of the former Mueller Airport. The park contains walking and biking trails and green space that surround a 6.5 acre pond. There is an open-air amphitheater, interactive playscape for the kids, and food trucks for if you need refreshment. The open green space is a perfect spot to set up a yoga mat or picnic blanket, and do some snacking and stretching.
As a sidenote, just across the street from Mueller Lake Park is the Pharr Tennis Center, which has tennis courts and a small walking trail.
Address of Mueller Lake Park:
4550 Mueller Blvd.
Austin, TX 78723
Auditorium Shores is a beautiful park located downtown, also along the banks of Lady Bird Lake. Auditorium Shores includes a large open area where running groups, outdoor boot camps and solo exercisers mix. Close to the water is a barebones outdoor gym which includes a slant board for ab work, pull-up bars, and parallel bars.
If you’re there to relax instead of exercise, bring the pup and a snack. Much of the lawn is an off leash dog park, and there are abundant places to set up a picnic area. Another great option for exercising at Auditorium Shores is to combine some bodyweight exercises with a walk around Town Lake (Lady Bird Lake), as this is a great access point to the hiking trail.
Address of Auditorium Shores at Town Lake Metro Park:
800 W Riverside Dr.
Austin, TX 78704
Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail
The Barton Creek Greenbelt Trailhttps://www.austintexas.gov/department/barton-creek-greenbelt is 12-14 miles of trails that encompass many other popular trails in South Austin. The trailhead is located near Barton Springs Pool in Zilker Park, and continues through the Violet Crown Trail, Twin Falls, Sculpture Falls, and Hill of Life at the trail’s end. This trail ranges from flat and wide to rocky with a small grade.
Hiking the entirely of this trail will take 4.5 – 6 hours or more, so be prepared with hiking shoes and water. You can break this hike into parts, by just hiking the Violet Crown Trail, or just to Twin Falls and back, if you’d rather a shorter time and distance commitment.
Note that when Austin has had adequate rain, you’ll see a good bit of water and some waterfalls on this hike. It won’t always be flowing, depending on recent rainfall. I recommend checking AllTrails K LINK for recent reviews if choosing hikes with waterfalls in Austin is important to you.
On the list of best parks in Austin for outdoor recreation, this might be the best!
There are several access points, including a couple in neighborhoods. Below are the trailhead and trail’s end addresses.
Address of Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail:
2212 William Barton Dr.
Austin, TX 78746
1710 Camp Craft Road
Austin, TX 78746
Best Parks in Austin
If you are looking for something specific like basketball courts, a splash pad, baseball fields or a soccer field, you might have to do some other googling. In the meantime, check out the above 5 best parks in Austin for outdoor recreation. Let me know which ones you love, and which I need to check out!
Related: Best Gyms in Austin, Texas if outdoor recreation is not for you.
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About the author
Kathryn Alexander is a strength coach and personal trainer in Austin, Texas. She loves hiking, college football, and the feel of a perfectly knurled barbell. Read more about Kathryn here.