Endlessly scrolling through your Instagram feed, filled with beautiful landscape pictures of the Rocky Mountains or the Florida beaches, can be a real bummer sometimes. Especially if you live nowhere near those places.
But believe it or not, there is plenty of hiking trails and beautiful destinations to visit everywhere in the world. Living in central Texas, I felt like there were no sights for me to see, but with some research and a little exploration, I was able to go on amazing outdoor adventures right outside my front door.
Here is my list of the top 5 day-trips from Austin for hikers.
If what you’re looking for is a beautiful hike through Texas hill country, you’ll find it here. A two and a half hour (gorgeous) drive from Austin, this park is always full of life.
Trees surround you on every hiking trail. And if you’re lucky, you may see some wildlife on your way to the top of the 2200-foot cliff.
If you choose to climb to the summit, be prepared for a long, steep trek. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of coverage on the trails. But there are plenty of places to pull over and take a breather or grab some water.
Although the view from the top is breathtaking, the real spectacle is the colorful maple trees in the fall months. Vibrant yellows, oranges and browns surround you and can be seen for miles in the distance.
With 21 miles of trails, this park will give you a full day of hiking fun. Take a quick drive East from Austin and get lost in the canopies of the Texas Pineywoods.
It’s most popular hike, the Chinquapin Trail, circles around the large body of water at the center of the park and goes on for almost seven miles.
Before taking on this epic trail, be sure to apply sunscreen generously and pack plenty of water and snacks for your breaks on the cute park benches along the path.
If you’re more interested in water activities, take a dip in Lake Raven. There are plenty of designated areas to swim and fish, or you can rent a kayak or canoe to explore the entire lake.
A less popular attraction, this park is often underrated. Nine years ago, a devastating forest fire ravaged the park, affecting up to 96% of the wildlife.
But what makes this park so interesting is the uncommon look at life’s beginnings. Brand new trees sprout from the ground, growing through the wreckage of burned and fallen trunks. It’s a unique way for us to appreciate the tenacity of nature.
Only half an hour from Austin, this park has seven miles of trails to explore, including the beautiful Scenic Overlook Trail which gives you a great view of the infamous Lost Pines. There’s not a lot of shade on this trail, so I recommend wearing lots of sunscreen and a sun hat.
Because this was my very first state park and hike, I was able to have a close and intimate interaction with nature here, and view our land from a whole new perspective. To read more about my experience at Bastrop State Park, read my post Walking through a Dead Forest.
If you’ve read my story, you know that I’ve had some pretty crazy experiences at this park (read my About Me page to learn how my journey began). But nonetheless, Colorado Bend State Park still has so much to offer.
The beauty of Gorman Falls and the trail leading to it is well worth the two hour drive to the park. After a steep (and slick) downward path, arrive at the indescribable, 70-foot spring-fed waterfall. With picnic tables and room for plenty of observers, this is the perfect place to rest your legs and have lunch with a scenic view.
If you’re looking to explore other parts of the park, be ready for a long hike. The size of the trail map can be misleading, so depending on your experience and abilities, be careful not to travel too far. (Read about when I made this fatal mistake in my post Learning about Strength through Blistered Feet).
I recommend investing in some quality hiking boots before taking on any longer trails. Either way, the magnificent hill country and the unique Tinaja will be a well-earned reward for your efforts.
I wasn’t very impressed by any pictures I found as I researched this park before my trip. But once I arrived at the giant pink granite dome, I was in awe of its grandeur.
Without a doubt, start with the summit trail. Although one of the most physically demanding hikes, I’ve ever embarked on, what you find at the top is simply indescribable. A 360⁰ view of Texas hill country, miles and miles above it all. You’ll surely feel like you’re on top of the world.
Spend some time at the top of this great rock, eat a snack or picnic lunch, and take plenty of Insta-worthy pics. Then keep going! One of the best parts about this park is that there’s so much more than just the peak.
Trails like the Echo Canyon Trail and Loop Trail will surround you with nature and unique rock formations that you won’t find anywhere else. Every few minutes, a new spectacle will come into view. You won’t be able to contain your astonishment.
Thanks to a summer ruled by the Covid-19 pandemic, I was forced outside to find amusement. This led me to explore these amazing parks near my home.
There are plenty of other great hikes in central Texas that I have yet to try out, but I hope to return to each of these parks someday. To smile and remember my very first outdoor adventures.
What do you think about this list? What other parks in central Texas have you visited and enjoyed?
Comment below and I just might visit them myself!