Austinites are protective of their Greenbelt info, for good reason! The Greenbelt is one of Austin’s gems, and some of the best spots are off the beaten path. Many of the trailheads are in residential neighborhoods with limited curbside parking. As an Austin transplant myself, I found it interesting to explore the various trailheads and I’m sharing my list of them here with some reviews. Once on the trails, you’ll find hikers very helpful in terms of pointing the right direction or filling you in on water conditions. The trails can branch in different directions and there are no signs. Some of the trailheads on this list are known and some are less known. Even locals might find a new spot here. Be careful out there and have fun!
1) Lost Creek Access. This is one of my favorite spots, but parking is minimal and the access road is somewhat narrow. You can park on a little road that rolls over a dam next to Lost Creek Country Club. You get there by taking Lost Creek Blvd off of Hwy 360 and driving down about 2 miles. The trail begins there, and is a very comfortable walking trail. The water is typically abundant here and the creek is beautiful. A great place for dogs. Once you get to the end of the trail, however, be prepared to cross the creek on foot to keep going. There is a red mark on a tree by where the trail continues on the other side of the creek. The trail on the other side is smooth and the woods are beautiful. Be prepared for a good solid hike to the closest swimming hole, though, about 30 minutes. You might bring a backpack with a picnic.
2) Scottish Woods Access. From Hwy 360, turn West on Scottish Woods Trail. Park near the end of the road before it reaches Camp Craft Rd. Don’t park on Camp Craft. I don’t like this access point much because the trail is very rocky, steep (downhill), and goes on for a longtime before you reach water. But, if you’re into a vigorous hike up and down the infamous “Hill of Life,” then go for it. There are a few nice paths that branch off the main trail that are more level and smoother.
3) Gus Fruh Access. This popular access point in South Austin leads to the Gus Fruh pool. But since it’s on the other end of the Greenbelt, it sometimes doesn’t have much or any water. Wait until after some good rains to take full advantage of this spot. You get to the trailhead by taking Robert E Lee off of Barton Springs Rd, turning R on Barton Hills Dr., and going about 2 miles. This is a nice trail, not too rough, but a little in some spots. One fork winds down to the river right away, and another heads straight toward the pool. The woods are pretty in this spot.
4) Spyglass Access. This is a nice spot. For one, you have some of the best breakfast tacos in Austin across the street at TacoDeli. But also, you get to the river quickly. Like Gus Fruh, sometimes water is lacking here. The trail is rocky and rough at first, then evens out some along the river. Be prepared to walk 20 minutes to get to the nearest swim spot, but you might want to ask folks walking in the opposite direction how the water is before making the trek.
5) The Main 360 Access Point. This is one of the most popular and well-known access points that isn’t Town Lake or Zilker. The actual address is 3755-B Capital of TX Hwy. From Hwy 360 heading south, turn East at the stoplight right after the crossing with Mopac (Rt 1) and after the Hwy has crossed the river. The parking lot is to the left. This is a nice trail that gets right to the river and is close to swimming holes, but it’s dry parts of the year so check water levels. It’s popular with mountain bikers, so be careful walking.
6) Gains/Twin Falls Access (3900 Mopac Frontage Rd). Take Hwy 360 South and exit Mopac (Rt. 1) South. Stay to the right instead of merging onto the Hwy and park on the side of the road before the turnaround. This is a great trail, pretty flat and shaded throughout. The forest is pretty magical here. This is a good access point if you want to start close to some of the best swimming spots. About a 2 mile hike to Sculpture Falls. Great trail for mountain biking to the swimming spots.
7) Barton Creek West (thanks 1379 Sports). This trail is privately owned by the residents of the Barton Creek West neighborhood and is for their use only, so you may need to find a friend who lives there and walk the trail as their guest. It’s a long and beautiful trail through the woods. You can park in the West Ridge Middle School parking lot by the sign at the entrance. West of the parking lot (in the direction of the neighborhood) and across the little street is the unmarked trailhead. Take a left on the trail and you’ll walk along a new bamboo fence and sometimes the old barbed-wire fence. The trail is a little rocky until you get to the wide part of the creek. Beautiful spot where kids can catch frogs and get wet. Long hike.
8) Zilker Park Access. Great, wide, flat trail. Parking can be limited on the weekends, and City Parks charges $5 now on the weekends to park in the lot. Pull into the front entrance parking for Barton Springs and wind down the road past the springs to the back lot. The trail head is back there, and goes away from the springs. Go early or late in the day as the trail is exposed to the sun for a long time.
9) Town Lake. Many neat spots around Town Lake, and the various boat rentals are fun. A good spot is the Barton Creek feed into the lake coming off of Barton Springs. Park in the first parking lot or two off Robert E. Lee by the baseball diamond before you get to the rear entrance of Barton Springs. There is a trail there that takes you right down to the creek. Lots of little access points off the path for swimming or playing with your dog. The water is shallow so you can stand at many points in the water here.
10) Homedale Trail. Located behind the Barton Hills Elementary School at 2010 Homedale Dr, 78703, this entrance gives the closes access to Campbell’s Hole. It has a half mile steep trail to get to the swimming hole.
Although not part of the Greenbelt, Wild Basin Preserve is a nice place to walk (www.wildbasin.org). The Turkey Creek trail at 1600 City Park Rd, 78730 is one of Austin’s gems and great for dogs that like to play in water. And don’t forget Mt. Bonnel, especially for sunsets.
Another interesting area is the tributary off of Lake Austin that winds toward Wild Basin Ledge. Getting on the lake, in canoe, kayak or other, offers many vantage points not visible by land. Another idea is to walk the greenbelt creek bed during dry times and see if you find any new trails heading off the creek. Always be safe, hike with friends to further ensure your security, and bring snacks, flashlights and water in case you get lost.