Austin is awesome – that secret has long been out. Between the many live music venues, artsy streets of downtown, the vibrant South Austin district, and the eclectic food scene, there is no shortage of excitement here. But just outside the city, and even threaded throughout it, mother nature has some incredible offerings of her own. Austin’s outdoor spaces perfectly compliment the city life, and allow visitors and locals alike countless ways to escape into refreshing waterways and dense greenery.
Sorting through all these locations can be tricky, so we have compiled the must-sees as well as some off-the-beaten-path spots to make your exploration a little easier. From swimming and hiking, to rock climbing and mountain biking, Austin has you covered.
Swimming | $9 | Austin, 2201 Barton Spring Road, TX 78704
Barton Springs Pool is a city landmark, so this one goes without saying. The 3 acre pool sits in Zilker Park and is fed from an underground spring, keeping it a cool 68-70 degrees all year. This area is also home to the seldom-scene and endangered Barton Springs Salamander, so keep your eyes peeled!
Swimming | $9 | Austin, 401 Deep Eddy Drive, TX 78703
Another Austin landmark, Deep Eddy is the oldest swimming pool in Texas. What started out as a swimming hole over 100 years ago has become on of Austin’s favorite places to cool off. Deep Eddy sits along the Colorado River and offers lap swimming, a diving board and even pool-side movies in the summer.
Swimming, Camping | $5 | Spicewood, 2805 Pace Bend Rd. North, TX 78734
Spanning over nine miles of beautiful shoreline, Pace Bend Park is one of the most popular spots on Lake Travis. If you’re looking to take the boat out, brave a dive off of the 45 foot cliff, or do some fishing (large bass hang out on the park’s west side where the banks are steepest), Pace Bend never disappoints. Dogs are allowed on-leash, and there are even equestrian trails for those of you with slightly larger four-legged friends.
Swimming, Walking | $9 | Wimberley, 1699 Mt. Sharp Road, TX 78676
Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring and the second largest fully submerged cave in Texas. From May 1 through September 30 swimming is allowed in the spring’s cool water in two hour time slots, by reservation only. Setting up a time-block will involve some planning, but this is a pristine spot that you have to check out. Exploring the surrounding natural area is free and accessible without a reservation.
Swimming | $12/Vehicle, Additional $8/Person | Dripping Springs, 24300 Hamilton Pool Road, TX 78620
This historic swimming hole southwest of Lake Travis offers swimming all year long (when rainfall and bacteria levels allow). Hamilton Creek plunges over a 50 foot waterfall into the pool below, creating a picturesque place to take a dip or do some nature walking. The pool and surrounding nature preserve are home to a variety of wildlife and lush flora.
Swimming | Free | Austin, 3753 S Capital of Texas Hwy, TX 78704
Located on the Barton Creek Greenbelt, Sculpture Falls is a local favorite oasis. This tucked-away spot requires a 2-3 mile hike through the woods to get to, but the constant 70 degree water makes it one of the most refreshing places to cool off on those hot summer days here in Texas. It’s dog friendly and has plenty of room to spread out, just bring a cooler and some good walking shoes! Like all spots on the greenbelt, there are multiple ways to access it. The address given above is for a paid parking lot right off the highway.
Camping, Hiking, Canoeing | $6 | Johnson City, 2585 Park Rd 6026, TX 78636
Pedernales Falls is about an hour west of downtown Austin, and is home to some of the most unique scenery in central Texas. The Pedernales River flows over huge slabs of limestone and is perfect for wading, tubing and canoeing. Visitors have plenty of trails to explore that often reward them with scenic overlooks of the falls and surrounding area. Though the river is generally tranquil, it is susceptible to flash floods. So keep an eye out for it becoming muddy or the water level changing rapidly.
Hiking, Sightseeing | $8 | Fredericksburg, 16710 Ranch Road 965, TX 78624
Visiting Enchanted Rock will have you traveling a good ninety minutes west out of Austin, but the views are well worth the drive. Located on 640 acres, this natural area is home to the country’s largest pink granite monadnock (that’s a fancy word for big rock). Visitors can enjoy hiking, bird watching, and taking in some of Texas hill country’s most beautiful views from atop the pink dome. (Featured Image)
Park | $5 Mon – Thur, $10 Fri – Sun | Austin, 1600 City Park Road, TX 78730
Also known as City Park, this 1,000 acre expanse just west of Austin is perfect for a leisurely day trip. It’s made up of plenty of wide-open spaces for sports and exercising, a small swimming area with a sandy beach, and plenty of trails. Turkey Creek Trail offers 2.5 miles of off-leash walking to cut your pup loose. There are also nine miles of trails designated specifically for mountain bikes and motorcycles.
Ziplining | $125 | Volente, 14529 Pocohontas Trail, TX 78641
Located on the northeast corner of Lake Travis, this zipline destination is the longest in Texas and ninth longest in the world! The three hour tour will have you gliding down five lines over the lake and doing a good bit of hiking through the hill country. If you’re up for the ride, the views (and thrills) are incredible.
Climbing, Mountain Biking | $10 | Dripping Springs, 23610 Hamilton Road, TX 78620
With almost 300 world class rock climbing routes, 18 miles of mountain biking trails and a 15 mile hiking trail system, Reimers Ranch should check all the boxes for the adventurists in your group. There is also plenty of room along the Pedernales River to cool off after your climb or wade in the shallows with the kids.
Mountain Biking | $10 | Warda, 537 Owl Creek Road, TX 78960
In the hills an hour east of Austin, Bluff Creek operates as a working cattle ranch and mountain biking destination. The ranch has almost nine miles of rolling single track trails that wind through pine and oak trees. If you’re looking to make more than a day trip out of it, Bluff Creek also offers camping for an additional fee, as well as canoeing and fishing.
Of course, this is nowhere near all the incredible spots that Austin to offer. We will be adding to this list over time, and would love your suggestions! Tell us about your favorite place to take a hike or cool off in the comments below!