By Soren Rivero
Austin is exceedingly praised for its youthful glow and progressive atmosphere, but this city has more than just bustling nightlife and glamorous political murals.
With that being said, one of the best ways to appreciate Austin's rich splendor is not in its highly urbanized streets, but in its stunning natural landscapes. If you need some inspiration on where to start your journey, here are some of the best parks in Austin, Texas!
Barton Creek Wilderness Park
Starting off on this list is the decently-sized Barton Creek Wilderness Park that sits just outside the city’s metropolitan area. As one of the most popular trails in Austin, this park covers over eight miles of outdoor excitement. Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail is also a dog-friendly park in Austin (so long as Fido is kept on a leash), so bring your furry best friend for an adventure in the great outdoors!
Some of the best activities to do at Barton Creek Park include rock climbing, hiking, biking, and swimming. Yes— swimming! You can take a dive at the Sculpture Falls right in the heart of the park itself. Highly acclaimed for its shallow and cool waters, Sculpture Falls is a simplistic waterfall along the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail. These mesmerizing, natural pools are accessible by taking the hour-ish hike across the park’s longest trail, a perfect end to this must-see park in Austin.
Bull Creek District Park
If you’re looking for a more secluded, quiet park in Austin, you’ll definitely want to check this one out. Similar to Barton Creek Wilderness Park, this wondrous beauty rests along a greenbelt and provides nature lovers with an assortment of fun outdoor activities in Austin. The park is named after the long and narrow stream that cuts through the trail. Bull Creek is truly excellent for those who want to experience all the tranquility that the best parks in Austin have to offer, without all the noise and distractions.
You’ll also find the eerie “Ancient Steps'' located deep inside the greenbelt which makes for an even more exciting adventure. Dogs, swimming, and picnicking are all allowed, so prepare yourself for a day of relaxation and entertainment at Bull Creek District Park!
Emma Long Metropolitan Park
Did someone say camping? Yep, primitive camping is allowed at Emma Long Metropolitan Park, making it one of the only camps in Austin you can stay in while still inside the city limits. Visitors have to pay a small fee to get in, but the exploration opportunities waiting inside make it worth the $5.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park was previously named City Park and still maintains the interesting paradox of municipality mixed with nature that it was famous for before the name change. Volleyball courts, open space, picnic tables, boat ramps, and swimming areas are available. All together, this is arguably the most family friendly park in Austin!
Mayfield Park and Nature Reserve
Previously a historic cottage named the Mayfield-Gutsch Estate, the Mayfield Park and Nature Reserve is a serene place to relax and unwind while in nature. The park sits atop a bluff overlooking Lake Austin, also located near the Colorado River. What makes this reserve so special, aside from its relaxing atmosphere and free admission, are the wild peacocks roaming around the area!
Please note that the reserve's officials are highly committed to preservation, that means no pets or alcohol are allowed. Attempts to keep the reserve clean are always in effect, so remember to not litter and be respectful of the wildlife.
McKinney Falls State Park
We’ve now reached one of Austin’s biggest and most popular natural attractions: McKinney Falls State Park! Divided into upper and lower levels, this park is over 640 acres long. Even better, the trails are easily accessible and have spots for resting where you can sit back and gaze at the sky during peak morning or late afternoon hours. Each level has its own unique beauty, with bright waterfalls, tall trees, and a dazzling creek visible all throughout the park. The abandoned look of the McKinney Homestead and the bluebonnets in full bloom during Spring also make it a great place to take pictures in Austin.
Pease District Park
Finally, we can’t let you go without mentioning the unique Pease District Park in northern Austin. This one is the most urbanized out of all of them on this list, with plenty of sport courts, trails, picnic tables, a playground, and even a massive treehouse hammock all contained within the park.
Pease District Park is a good place for kids to have fun in Austin, as the destination is seemingly catered to them. Don't let that fool you, though! Adults can enjoy this park just as much as kids can. And hey, if you happen to visit Austin in spring, check out the annual Eeyore Birthday celebration on April 30th in honor of this beloved fictional forest-friend.
Which one of these parks in Austin do you plan to visit?