UPDATED JUL 2, 2020
In Austin, running is in our DNA. And whether it was your first love or something you’re coming around to, there are miles of woodsy trails, urban paths, and lively neighborhoods to explore. We’ve run them all, and these are the best.
Kicking off our list is one of Austin’s most popular routes for runners: Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail (or for the OGs, "Town Lake Trail"). Beginners will love the flat, 4.23-mile loop from the South First Bridge to the Mopac Bridge, and those looking to get in more mileage can check out the seven- and 10-mile loops along the river. No matter which route you choose, you're bound to run into so, so many friendly dogs.
If you’re looking for a challenging trek atop topsy-turvy terrain, the Greenbelt at Barton Creek has plenty of mileage and routes throughout, so there’s always a new area to explore. If you start at the Zilker Park entrance, you can meander through its entirety for a challenging seven-miler. And for the bravest amongst us, tackle the Hill of Life to the trail's end; you'll have one of Austin's favorite swimming holes waiting for you to cool off.
Central Austin is home to this one-way route. At 3.9 miles, this trail begins at Lady Bird Lake and winds down to 38th St. It’s not as well-groomed as some other central routes — expect to dodge some rocky debris as you head through the canyon and a fallen branch or two from the huge oaks that line the path. But what it lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in peace and quiet. The miles will fly by, and if you're feeling up for it, you can add a few more by jumping on the Lance Armstrong Bikeway at the south end of the trail.
Scenic beauty, majestic waterfalls, and miles of hilly trails make this North Austin park a running favorite. Newbies and experienced runners alike love this spot for its ample shade, mix of terrains, and creekside location. It’s also very dog-friendly. But bear in mind that the beauty of this park attracts many from far and wide (including bikers), so come prepared to share the trail during peak times.
You’ll have to trek a little further for this gem, which is technically in Cedar Park. But given its popularity, the distance obviously doesn’t prevent many Austinites from enjoying it. With a lake to run around, bridges to bound over, and pretty parks along the way (with available restrooms), it’s no surprise why so many love to take on this 6.75-mile route.
Westlake folks are neighbors to this 3.8-mile rocky running route. If you choose to take it on, you’ll want to lace up your trail sneakers tightly as you traverse the steep climbs and uneven terrain. But with great challenges come great rewards — winding along the 360 highway, runners are greeted with scenic overlooks of the Hill Country around every turn.
Okay, this one will cost adults $6, but anyone who has cruised along these trails will tell you the price is well worth it. This state park in Southeast Austin is packed full of breathtaking scenery, flowing waterfalls, and well-maintained trails for runners of every ability. If you keep your eyes open, you might even run into “Old Baldy”, a historic cypress tree that has seen it all during its 300-year residency at the park.
If neighborhood running is more your speed, Travis Heights is a great place to hit the pavement. This hilly neighborhood is full of quiet, meandering streets that are safe for all, and perfect for those who want to get away from the heavy foot traffic of Lady Bird Lake. And it’s also a stone’s throw from SoCo, so there are lots of yummy options for a post-run refuel.
For a leisurely, sightseeing-packed run, hit the pavement through Downtown Austin. There’s no wrong or right route, but we suggest running up South Congress to the Texas Capitol. Then, head through the University of Texas’s student-filled sidewalks before running past the Governor’s Mansion, which sits right on Colorado St. To get back to the start, simply take that street (which parallels Congress).
Similar to the Travis Heights route, here you’ll find quiet, residential streets perfect for safe, cityscape exploring. Once you've zoomed past some of historic buildings in the neighborhood, dip into Central Park, where there's a nearly one-mile walking path. There are also plenty of shops and cafes around to treat yourself with when you’re finished.
If you’ve never ventured over to the East Austin neighborhoods, a run through the area will definitely convince you to come back for more. Just east of downtown lies a funky, grittier area laden with Selena murals, artsy shops, dive bars, and vintage houses. Make a point to run down East Cesar Chavez towards N Pleasant Valley Rd., where you’ll end up on the east side of the Town Lake Trail. This section takes you out over a beautiful dam that makes for a picture-worthy pause during your run.
Just west of Mopac lies an underrated running route along Lake Austin Blvd. Start out near Magnolia Cafe and run west past Hula Hut. From there, you’ll connect to Scenic Dr. which, as the name suggests, is quite scenic running along the Colorado River and has tons of gorgeous views. Stop and turn around at Contemporary Austin. In total, the run is just under eight miles, but take it at your own pace and make sure to fuel up at the neighborhood Juiceland post sweat.
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