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Escape to Adventure: Austin

Austin Travel Insider Guides Teva: Escape To Adventure
by Lindi Horton Aug 15, 2011

TEVA has teamed up with Matador’s global community of outdoors fanatics to show you how to escape to adventure in 12 cities across America. In addition to the article series, we’ll be running an ongoing photo contest. Send us a photo of yourself adventuring abroad or in your back yard and you might win a free pair of new TEVAs.

AUSTIN keeps things weird. I tell my out of town guests that Austin is unlike any other city in Texas. Although we’re smaller than the other massive metropolises, we escape the politicking going on at the Capitol with a wide array of outdoor activities and a focus on quality of life.


Escape Time*: 5 – 45 minutes
Payoff: Fresh water fishing

New Braunfels, TX – Guadalupe River
To truly escape the capital, point the car southwest toward the Guadalupe River. Bring your kayak and a fishing pole. I’ve caught a few perch while rowing directly under the busy I-35 freeway that connects Austin to San Antonio. Unlike a little further upriver, tubers and party goers don’t harass the fish here. I’ve spent a few lazy afternoons watching the minnows dart through the clear rock bottom river.

Lady Bird Lake
If you don’t have time for the 45 minute drive out, paddle onto Lady Bird Lake, formerly known as Town Lake. This downtown section of the Colorado River is the de facto kayaking escape for most Austinites. Stay out until dusk to watch the bats fly out from the South Congress bridge and avoid the crowds lined up along the banks.

Cypress Creek Park
On my commute, I usually see a kayaker or two at Cypress Creek Park. This escape, due north, allows visitors access to Lake Travis. This spot closes when lake levels are low. I recommend calling to make sure it’s open before venturing out.


Escape Time*: 5 – 45 minutes
Payoff: Waterfalls, Hill Country views, solitude

Capital of Texas Highway
A quick Google search yields hundreds of hits for hiking Mount Bonnell or Zilker Park. For a 15 minute escape hike in the city, I head to the 360 bridge. You won’t find this hike on a map but park on either side of the north side of the Capital of Texas Highway 360 bridge and climb to the top. On clear days, I’m rewarded with a view of the Colorado River snaking into Austin’s downtown. You’ll find me here on the 4th of July sitting in a chair sipping a Lone Star.

Warbler Vista
About 45 minutes from downtown Austin on the north side of Lake Travis lies Balcones Caynonlands National Wildlife Refuge, or Warbler Vista. Not 5 miles from my home, Warbler Vista protects the Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo habitats with 3 miles of carefully maintained hiking trails. My favorite spot is a bench on the Vista Knoll trail where I sit and meditate as cars speed through the hillside.

St. Edwards Park
To escape fighting for parking spots and congested city streets, I retreat to St. Edwards Park. Not well known to even native Austin residents, the park hikes are so easy, I often use them as a running trail. I especially love running the 2 mile Creek Trail that curves along Bull Creek. For a more difficult climb and more solitude, I’ll often take the Hill Climb trail.

Rock Climbing / Bouldering

Escape Time*: 5 – 45 minutes
Payoff: Rewarding problems and a little history

McKinney State Park
The outskirts of McKinney Falls State Park has some of the best bouldering sections in Texas.

There’s also excellent hiking and biking. My favorite hike is the Homestead Trail, where I walk past the original homestead of Thomas F. McKinney (one of the 300 original Austin colonists) and imagine life in the 1800s without air conditioning or sunscreen. The Onion Creek hike and bike trail also has a bit of history, with the cabin of John Van Hagen, McKinney’s horse trainer.

Mountain Biking

Escape Time*: 5 – 45 minutes
Payoff: Varied terrain and skills difficulty, wildlife, epic post-ride eats

Barton Creek Greenbelt
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is my go-to mountain biking trail in downtown Austin. There are 7 miles with technical climbs like the “Hill of Life”, as well as boulders and gravel terrain. I curse this course each time as there’s still sections I have to walk. But I always return to one day slay this ride.

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area
My favorite retreat from the city is a 6.5 mile loop of singletrack about 45 minutes from Austin. Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area is rocky, hilly, sandy in parts, and has just enough intricacy to keep me challenged and not walking the whole time. If it’s hot, I stop at about the halfway point and take a dip in the lake that borders the trail. To refuel, I stop at Angel’s Icehouse for a turkey mushroom swiss burger and fries.

Swimming Holes

Escape Time*: 15 – 45 minutes
Payoff: Cold water springs, waterfalls, and box canyons

Barton Springs Pool
I usually tell people Texas has four seasons — hot, hotter than hell, too hot for the devil, and sometimes Texas freezes over. To cool off, the city of Austin created Barton Springs Pool from the fourth largest cold water spring in Texas, Barton Spring. During the summer months, this popular pool charges a $3 admission.

Hamilton Pool
Hamilton Pool is a swimming hole about 40 minutes outside of downtown Austin. To avoid overcrowding, the parks strictly limit the number of allowed cars to 75 at any one time. I have spent over an hour praying for cars to leave just to earn a cannonball into the cool depths of the pool. Make sure to hike in with bomber footwear: flip flops provide no padding on the rocky walk down to the water. *Escape times don’t include possible traffic wait times.

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