UPDATED OCT 14, 2019
Whether you prefer to pound the pavement through the city streets or a trail run is more your speed, there's no lack of awesome places to go for a run in Austin. Luckily, we've laid out every spot worth hitting up, so all you have to do is lace up and start clocking miles.
Kicking off our list is one of Austin’s most popular routes for runners — Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. Beginners will love the flat 3.2-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’ll run into (pun intended) a number of places to go for a swim, rent a kayak, or rest and observe the skyline views along the way.
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 Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail. This section takes you out over a beautiful dam that makes for a picture-worthy pause during your run.
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—and make sure to run past the Governor’s Mansion which sits right on Colorado St. Then, take that street (which parallels Congress) back towards your start.
If you want to forgo the trail shoes and throw on some sneaks for an urban adventure, Hyde Park is a great option for North Austinites. Similar to the Travis Heights route for South Austin dwellers, here you’ll find quiet, residential streets perfect for safe, cityscape exploring. There are also plenty of shops and cafes around to treat yourself with when you’re finished.
If you’re looking for a challenging trek atop topsy-turvy terrain, the Greenbelt at Barton Creek is calling your name. It’s got 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. While this route ain’t easy, it’s plenty rewarding — with limestone cliffs, waterfalls, and swimming holes at every turn, there are lots of opportunities to stop and take a breather (don’t worry, we won’t tell). Or, start off at a different entrance and just run until your legs no longer work for a great, woodsy trail trot.
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. And while it’s not as well-groomed as some other central routes—expect to dodge some rocky debris and a fallen branch or two—what it lacks in polish, it more than makes up for in peace and quiet. Despite its proximity to downtown, you’ll feel like you’re in a beautiful, wild refuge from the city. It's great for a post-work (pre-happy hour) jaunt.
Okay, this one will cost you $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 all levels. 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.
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, various routes, and creekside location. It’s also very dog-friendly, so feel free to bring along your furry friend. 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.
Westlake folks are neighbors to this 2.9 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.
Just west of Mopac lies a great 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. It runs 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.
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 — and we can certainly see why! With a lake to run around, bridges to bound over, and pretty parks along the way, it’s no surprise why so many love to take on this all-levels 6.3-mile route.