As the state capital, Austin is home to loads of cultural institutions, but there's more to the city than just that! You can also find an insane number of amazing outdoor adventures to experience in and around Austin. From stand-up paddleboarding and hiking to spelunking and horseback riding, these are a few of the best ways to get outside and get your adrenaline pumping.
Located in downtown Austin, Lady Bird Lake is home to countless opportunities for paddling, fishing, hiking and biking. The lake, created in 1960 and now owned and operated by the city, is home to some pretty awesome plants and wildlife. The highlight of the lake is a boat ride to the Congress Avenue Bridge, where you can observe the largest urban Mexican free-tailed bat colony in North America. The bats emerge from under the bridge each night around sunset in droves (from March to October), creating an incredible spectacle!
A scenic spot located above Lake Austin, Covert Park is a great place to take in the view of Texas’s beautiful capital city. The viewpoint is a quick hike up some convenient stairs, and the workout is absolutely worth the panorama you’ll see from the top. The overlook has picnic tables for a meal with a view, and public access is completely free. Local legend claims that if a couple climbs to the overlook together, they will be destined to be a pair forever… so, choose your climbing partner carefully!
Located in a picturesque forest bordering Lake Austin, Emma Long Park is one of the biggest parks in Austin. It features a lake with a boat dock and a few public swimming areas. This is a great place to take your four-legged friend, too: It has a three-mile “no leash” hike, so your dogs can run freely and even take a dip in the creek. The park is open 365 days a year, so you can take advantage of Austin’s lovely weather year-round! For an extra adventure, the park offers both primitive and RV campsites as well.
A nature preserve that aims to inspire habits of cherishing and protecting nature, Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center is a great place to go if you love Mother Nature. The preserve covers more than 75 acres and features trees, canyons, and sweeping plains. The dedicated employees offer tours and educational experiences to enhance your visit, and there are tons of hiking trails you can use to explore the preserve on your own. The center encourages visitors to volunteer to help improve the park for future guests. Sign up if you’re into giving back!
An incredible adventure with incredible views, Lake Travis Zip Line Adventure offers fun for all ages. They have five lines, including one which measures 2,800 feet long! It’ll give you an unparalleled view of Lake Travis and the surrounding Texas Hill Country scenery, which is worth the excursion alone. Zippers are encouraged to bring coolers and picnics to make a day trip out of the excursion. The company also offers tough or easy nature hikes on which they’ll teach you about the flowers and creatures of the region.
Discovered in 1963 during the construction of a highway, Inner Space Caverns is a great (and beautiful) getaway from the Texas heat. The cavern is a reasonable 70°F year-round (which is great, considering that summer temperatures frequently reach the triple digits), and spans several miles, allowing you to spend ages discovering its natural beauty. Tours run approximately 90 minutes and are safe for all ages and abilities.
Open seven days a week and offering three different trails, Maverick Horseback Riding is a great place to get an authentic Texas experience. The company has unique trail-based riding lessons, so first-time riders get true trail experience rather than just riding in an enclosed pasture. Maverick even offers Barbecue Trail Rides: You ride for about three hours and take a delicious BBQ break halfway through. Be sure to call Maverick or visit the website to make a reservation.
Built upon the ruins of an old Texas homestead, McKinney Falls State Park has a rich, deep-rooted history. The park is conveniently located 13 miles outside downtown Austin, and offers a plethora of activities including camping, hiking, geocaching, bouldering, and swimming in Onion Creek. The park has 81 campsites and six newly renovated cabins, so you can spend the night here after a day of fun.
Take advantage of the natural Texas Hill Country beauty surrounding Austin and add some excitement to your trip with an outdoor adventure or two. Whether you want to saddle up and take a horseback ride like a real cowboy, or you want to cool off with a swim in one of the lakes or creeks around town, there are plenty of ways to get outside!
The secret is out. Everyone who visits Austin leaves with something great to say. They can't stop talking about our legendary live music, burgeoning restaurant scene and unique culture. And a list of other things that you have to experience for yourself to truly understand what makes Austin so Austin.