Waterfalls might not be the first thing you think of when someone mentions Austin, Texas. While we might be known for our picturesque campgrounds, our beloved Greenbelt trails, and our world-famous breakfast tacos, one thing people fail to realize is that ATX is also home to tons of awesome hiking trails that just so happen to feature some pretty breathtaking waterfalls.
And, lucky for you, we've rounded up all the best ones. So pack a picnic, pack the pups, and pack your swim trunks, because we’re dishing on all our favorite waterfall hikes around Austin.
Want to escape the hustle and bustle of the city without having to drive for hours? McKinney Falls State Park is your go-to. Just 13 miles southeast of our state capitol, the falls are too perfect to overlook. Here, you’ll find the beauty that is Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges and a serene sort of natural beauty that allows you to just get lost. Spend a couple hours hiking the trails, checking out the different watering holes, and snapping pics of the upper and lower falls. Explore for the day or pitch a tent at the campgrounds for a night!
This natural pool was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed and what resulted is nothing short of stunning. People come from all over the country to behold this hot spot. Just a short drive about 23 miles west of Austin, this outdoor swimming sanctuary closes according to weather conditions, so be sure to call ahead and make sure it’s open. It's also a super popular spot and is known to get busy, so reservations are required throughout many of the summer months. When you do get in, expect an easy hike to the falls where you can chill out, swim about, and soak in the nature.
Owned by St. Edward’s University and Travis County, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is a 2.5-mile hike that winds through Westlake Hills just West of Austin. This well-marked, well-maintained trail will take you on a fun adventure that includes some ideal views of the beautiful Hill Country. Fit Tip: Check out the waterfall after a good rainfall for the opportunity to snap a truly Instagram-worthy photo. It’s also important to note, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is probably one of the only spots in ATX that isn’t dog-friendly, so be sure to leave your four-legged friend at home that day.
Down for a day trip? Then head 4.5 hours east to Boykin Springs, near the Louisiana Border. This outdoor oasis sits in Angelina National Forest and is the perfect place to enjoy being outside with friends. Besides camping, fishing, and picnicking, there’s Sawmill Hiking Trail, a 6.5-mile hike that takes you right past a small, but beautiful waterfall. Be sure to pack your swimsuits and take a dip in the cool, clear water!
Krause Springs is less of a hike and more of a swimming hole destination, but it’s still a noteworthy spot to check out for any Austin adventurer. Plus, there’s plenty of hiking trails near the area if you feel like working up a sweat before (or after) diving into Krause Springs’ crisp water. This spot is about 35 miles west of Austin in Spicewood, Texas, and it really is a little gem. The best part? You can enjoy the refreshing water all while an awesome waterfall cascades over a fern-covered cliff in the background.
We couldn’t mention anything related to Texas hiking without throwing a Big Bend trail or two in here. So, we won’t. The Chisos Mountains near Terlingua have some of the best hiking spots and views around. And if it’s a waterfall you’re looking for, Windows Trail is the one to hit up. This hike is a little under 5.5 miles round trip and features some of the most breathtaking views of the desert, as well as a great waterfall pour-off at the end. Just be aware, though, this trail doesn't offer much in the way of shade, so plan to head out early and bring lots of water.
Another Big Bend waterfall hike we had to include is Cattail Falls. Shorter and less accessible hike than Windows Trail, this route is definitely more difficult and features much steeper climbs. But, if you’re a seasoned hiker, the trek is so worth it. The falls flow over a reddish cliff surrounded by lush greenery. In the dryer months the water doesn’t flow as heavy, but it’s still quite the sight to see. Fitt Tip: Be sure to make noise as you hike — there have been black bear sightings near this trail.
Still within the city limits? You bet. Trailhead access to Sculpture Falls can be a bit confusing (it starts at Camp Craft Road off 360), but once you find it, the hike to your water oasis is less than two miles each way. And don’t worry, the trail is carefully marked, so you won’t get lost. Once you make it to the main falls, you’re in for a treat, as it also features a beautiful, nature-packed swimming hole at the base that's the perfect spot to post up with a book, hang with your pals, and relax to sound of flowing water.
Just about an hour west of Austin in Johnson City lies Pedernales Falls State Park. It’s the ideal place to spend the day hiking or spend the night camping under the stars with your buds. With a range of different trails differing in length and difficulty, there’s not doubt you’re going to experience some pretty spectacular views of the Hill Country. No matter what you have on the agenda, make sure to see the falls and take in the calming sound of rushing water over the huge rock formations.
Alright, before we tell you about all the reasons Capote Falls is a must-see, we have to mention the big disclaimer first: this waterfall is located on private property, so you have to get permission by the owner of the land prior to visiting. But we recommend giving it a shot, not only because you’re going to get an eyeful of these stunning falls, but also because Capote Falls is the highest waterfall in Texas at 175 feet tall. So check it out — you won’t be disappointed.
There’s plenty to do at Colorado Bend State Park, but the highlight has to be the hike to Gorman Falls. The trail is about three miles round trip, and is—for sure—one of the more challenging of the hikes we’ve mentioned. There’s rocky parts, there’s steep parts, there’s a good bit that’s unshaded (make sure you wear a hat!), but once you make it to the falls, you’re going to forget how hard you worked to get there. Trust us — 70-foot, spring-fed waterfall is totally worth the sweat.