For an easy vacation only 30 miles west of Austin, head over to Pace Bend Park on Lake Travis. This is a popular campground and wildlife reserve. The park has miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking and 9 miles of shoreline for swimming and relaxing. It is off Ranch Road 2322
In 1918, A.J. Zilker deeded the 35 acres surrounding Barton Springs to the City of Austin. In 1932, Zilker agreed to give the military school established during the First World War an additional 330 acres, joining the 35 acres on the north side of the original tract if the city would buy the acreage from the school for $200,000. This action was approved in a bond election and despite the ecomomic depression of the 1930's. the land was developed into Zilker Park.
The National Park Service assisted with the planning of Zilker Park and construction was performed by many groups, including workers from Reconstruction Finance Corporation's relief program, the Citizens Works Administration, and the Civilian Conservation Corps.
Located 32 miles west of Austin in the Blanco country, this is a perfect park to go hiking through its 20miles of trails.
Take the US290 west and then North on FM3232.
Entrance is about 5$ a day.
More details and a map are available from their website.
Mayfield Park is a small, tranquil gem right in the midst of the city. There are 22 enchanting acres to wander filled with woodlands, manicured gardens, ponds and roaming peacocks. It is best to stroll slowly through the park, taking in all the sights and sounds (peacocks are known to make a very distinct honking sound if you listen closely). This is an ideal wedding location.
Catch this park on your way to Mount Bonnell, you won't be sorry.
The grounds have a paved parking lot, restroom facilities and drinking fountains.
Emma Long Park has 1,000 beautiful acres on Lake Austin. If you want to take a nice walk, I recommend Turkey Creek. This trail is a pretty 2-3 mile wood chipped hike along the creek and is nice and shady during the hot months. There is no admission fee for Turkey Creek, but if you want to venture further into the park, you will need to pay a fee at the ranger station. Choose from activities that include boating, skiing, fishing, picnicking, or just sunning on the beach. The park has two boat ramps, fishing dock, protected swimming area, restrooms, showers, and sand pit volleyball courts. If you really want to get back to nature, the park has 20 utility campsites with water and electric hook-ups and 50 tent campsites right along the lake. After your walk go to dinner at Ski Shores, which is in the same area. Click on my restaurant tips for info on ski shores.
1600 City Park Road
at: City Park and Pearce
Off FM2222 just west of Loop 360
Enchanted Rock is located about 30 minutes drive from Austin. It opens at 8 AM and closes at 10 PM. My sisters suggestion is to arrive close to the 8 AM opening to avoid the stiffling heat and numerous crowds, who will be arriving as you finish. It is quite a hike, so bring good hiking shoes and lots of water.
First written about in 1536 by a European explorer, this place has long held religious importance with Native Americans.
Take 71 north to Llano. Then take Highway 16 for 14 miles south. Head west on Ranch Road 965 until you see the park.
The Wolf Mountain Trail is indeed a 8-miles trail that leads first to the primitive camping area and then some creeks, springs and what is called historic sites (in fact just a couple of ruins).
On some part of the trail around the Wolf Mountain, you will have a really nice view of the surrounding green hills.
It takes about 3 hours to complete it.
No need to make too much effort to see what makes the main attraction of this park, simply drive to the most west part of the park and walk a couple hundreds meters to see the beautiful falls of the Pedernales River flowing over tilted stair steps of layered limestone.
It was really nice but I found quite deceiving to simply drive until there, it would have been much better to discover the falls following a couple of miles hikes!
I call it 'the Texan Ayers Rock'
A strange geological rocks formation in the middle of a forest, where nobody would expect it. Some people climb it with sophisticated equipment, but you can also just walk on top of it.
Fredericksburg TX 78624
Enchanted Rock (www.wildtexas.com/parks/ausarea.htm) is 1.643 acres; 500ft pink granite dome; and seven miles of trails. Primitive camping; small crawling caves. Ecologically sensitive area with limited availability. Call first: Texas Parks and Wildlife Hotline at 1-800-792-1112. NOTE: No stores or gasoline nearby!
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve (www.wildbasin.org) located off Loop 360, west of town. Originally a sanctuary for the black-capped vireo and other endangered bird species, it is a breath of freshness in a sometimes crowded and busy city. Visit the community center and gift shop; take a class or guided walk from a local volunteer or walk the several trails by yourself. One is easy access. Classes and workshops are available, but call ahead and see what's offered for the week(end). Limited parking -- do not leave anything of value visible in your car or truck. Local gangs come up there ocassionally for the easy pickings. There is a scenic overlook a mile or two north of the basin that overlooks downtown.
Colorado Bend State Park (www.wildtexas.com/parks/ausarea.htm) or (www.tpwd.state.tx.us/park/colorado/colorado.htm) is one of our better kept secrets. Swim in the Colorado River beneath limestone cliffs; camp or picnic at a drive-up campsite, or group area site. Many prefer the primitive campsites available. NOTE: no gasoline available in park.
Bastrop State Park in Bastrop and the adjoining Buescher SP outside Smithville are 3,503 acres of Texas Pretty. (www.bastroptexas.com/nature.htm)
Camping, swimming pool, small pond, lots of trees and dirt roads, some crossing dirt county roads that eventually connect somewhere. Buescher (rhymes with fisher) contains the only stand of long-leaf pines outside of East Texas. Dirt roads, cool breezes: a nice one-day getaway.
McKinney Falls State Park - There are actually 2 waterfalls at McKinner Falls State Park. I found it on the Austin.citysearch web site, and, based on the reviews, I have to believe that this amount of water isn't always flowing. I was here in January, and, as you can see, there was plenty of water. This is the upper falls.
McKinney Falls State Park - Hike Loop - I love loop trails, but I was sad to find out that this one was paved a lot of the way. It was relatively empty, however, and quite peaceful. Living in the Pacific Northwest, I was excited to see all the cacti!