spotlight: austin

Where To Find Nature In Austin, Texas

Sometimes you need a break from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Escaping the daily hustle is a top priority of mine, and something I try to do as often as I can. If I don’t intentionally take time to decompress, I suck pretty badly at life. Sometimes, going for a walk around the neighborhood will suffice, but other days I need something BREATHTAKING and different—but still closeby. Lucky for me, the Austin area offers just that and it’s one of the things I love most about living here. The variety of landscapes located within a short drive is fantastic. Below, where to find nature in Austin.

1. Pedernales Falls State Park

A hiker’s paradise: If you’re looking for good trails, Pedernales is packed with them. Take 290W about 40  minutes southwest of downtown Austin, and you’ll arrive at this serene oasis. The park has trails ranging from .5 miles to 10 miles, all varied to skill level or scenic interest. If you want a steep climb, a rocky trail and a river, they’ve got it. If you’d rather a flat path deep into the elm and sycamore trees, they’ve got that, too. The views at the top of some of these trails will leave you breathless, frankly.

Camping is also offered throughout the park, and pups are more than welcome (on-leash required, although not all abide). There is a daily entry fee of $6 per person but if you like it enough, a yearly pass would only run you $70. They offer senior and military discounts.

2. River Place Nature Trail 

This is the closest that you’ll get for a bit of dramatic change without actually leaving the city limits. I (like everyone else) love the Greenbelt, but River Place is a step above. It’s just west of downtown. This trail is one heck of a work-out as it includes 2700 steps. Yes, I said 2-7-0-0. It’s AWESOME! It claims the highest elevation change in the local region, and it increases by 1800 feet as you climb. Start at the boardwalk, it is the bottom of the trail (also known as Lower Panther Trail), and work your way all the way to the top. It’s an out and back route, so you’ll have the whole way down to relish in your accomplishment of the steep climb. Roundtrip is about 5.5 miles.

3. Colorado Bend State Park 

This one is my favorite. It is a bit more of a drive, and actually one of our favorite camping spots, but it can easily be a day trip. This gem is northwest of the city, past Cedar Park. The drive out is pretty easy once you’re out of the city (and that high Texas speed limit always helps any drive a bit!). Caves, waterfalls and the Colorado River can be found here. The waterfalls are spectacular; it’s a pretty intense 3-mile hike to get to them. I have not yet braved any of the caves, but it will happen eventually. Be careful after heavy rains: The only con to this place is that it does tend to be prone to flooding, and you can get flooded IN when the water rises and blocks the roads. Cell signal is non-existent, which I think is a good thing, most of the time!

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