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THE BEST WATERFALL HIKES NEAR AUSTIN

11 PLACES

UPDATED SEP 4, 2020

While we might be known for our world-famous breakfast tacos, 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.

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TESS HALPREN

FITT AUSTIN CONTRIBUTOR

Just 13 miles southeast of our state capitol, the falls at McKinney Falls State Park are too perfect to overlook. Here, you’ll find the beautiful Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges and a serene sort of natural beauty you'll quickly get lost in. Spend a couple hours hiking the trails, check out the different watering holes and snap a few pics of the upper and lower falls.

This stunning natural pool was created when the dome of an underground river collapsed. Now, it draws people from all over the country to its wonders. Naturally, its closeness to Austin and the easy hike to get reach it make it a super-popular swimming destination for locals too. That means reservations are required throughout many of the summer months.

Owned by St. Edward’s University and Travis County, Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is home to 2.5-mile hike with a small, secluded waterfall. This well-marked, well-maintained trail will take you on a fun adventure that includes some ideal views of the beautiful Hill Country and Bee Creek. You'll see the falls from the main trail, and after a good rainfall you'll get a truly Instagram-worthy photo. It’s also important to note that Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve is probably one of the only spots in ATX that isn’t dog-friendly.

This outdoor oasis sits in Angelina National Forest near the Lousiana border, a perfect day trip for your crew. Besides camping, fishing, and picnicking, there’s Sawmill Hiking Trail, a 6.5-mile hike that takes you right past a small but stunning 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. 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. Splash around while the 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. And the Chisos Mountains near Terlingua have some of the best hiking spots and views around. Hike the Window Trail for the most breathtaking views of the desert, as well as a great waterfall pour-off at the end. Just be aware that this trail doesn't offer much in the way of shade, so plan to head out early and bring lots of water.

Shorter and less accessible hike than Windows Trail, the nearby route to Cattail Falls 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. Also be sure to make noise as you hike like clapping your hands or singing — there have been numerous black bear sightings near this trail.

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 on a marked trail. Once you make it to the main falls, you’re in for a treat. It's 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.

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 don't let that turn you away. 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.

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. The 70-foot, spring-fed waterfall is totally worth the sweat.

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