I’m being surrounded. Noise assaults me from all sides. Exhaustion overwhelms me, and tension rises up threatening to explode. That’s when I know: I’ve got to get out of the house with these kids. Even if it’s hiking with kids.
This past year has helped me discover the necessity of getting outdoors, especially with children and their infinite energy. Running around the backyard or a walk around the neighborhood are helpful in a pinch, but trying out the best hikes around Austin is my favorite way to burn some energy. It boosts our moods, lets my small kids practice independence as they explore, gives me a sense of accomplishment, and lets us stretch our legs.
Austin has no shortage of hikes, both big and small. Here is the best hiking with kids in and around Austin.
Whether you’ve got all day with big kids or just an hour and some whining toddlers, there’s a park for you. I’ve found that as long as I pack a bag full of snacks, accept that at least two stuffed animals are coming along, and let them climb each and every rock, we all leave in a much better headspace, ready for the next battle.
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If you’re looking for state park hikes, the heavy hitters around here are McKinney Falls and Pedernales Falls. McKinney Falls is within Austin city limits and has an easy, flat hike to both the Upper and Lower Falls. If you park near the Lower Falls, it’s a short walk to bring your camping chairs and coolers for some shade and swimming.
Pedernales Falls in Johnson City offers more diverse and longer hikes, so you can spend a full day hiking with older kids, or pick one hike and play in or by the water with little ones.
Check for reservation requirements and fees before making your plans.
Hikes In Austin
Barton Creek Greenbelt (South Austin) may be the crown jewel of Austin outdoor lovers. There are multiple entrances and many miles of trails. Find your favorite entrance for your skill level, popularity or whether you want to swim. Or the opportunity to grab Tacodeli before heading home, which is why we’ve only used the Spyglass entrance so far. I’d like to try the Twin Falls entrance next, which will take you to scenic Twin Falls and then Sculpture Falls a little over a mile farther.
St. Edward’s Park and Greenbelt (Northwest Austin) is a great easy hiking spot with plenty to see. Hike through trees, find the waterfall, walk by the bluffs and play in the creek when it’s warm enough.
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park (Northeast Austin) has 15 miles of trails, both paved and unpaved, and multiple creek crossings. Keep an eye out for bikes on all trails and expect to encounter plenty of four-legged hikers off leash.
Bull Creek Greenbelt (Northwest Austin) gets pretty wet and muddy, so add water shoes or waterproof hiking boots to your packing list. But it’s a beautiful peaceful hike, and the kids will love splashing in the creek.
River Place Nature Trail (Northwest Austin) is a more challenging hike for families with older children who need to burn some energy or looking for a workout. We haven’t taken our small kids on the 2,700+ stairs yet, but it’s on my list for when they’re bigger.
Mary Moore Searight Park (South Austin) offers an easy hike and plenty of small trails off the big loop to explore. Come for a short outing or spend half a day on the almost 6 miles of trails.
Hikes Near Austin
Balcones Canyonlands Warbler Vista Trails (near Lago Vista) have awesome views for a moderate hike. And if you’re there at sunset, hike or park at the Sunset Deck to take in the scenery.
Lake Georgetown has several popular hikes in its parks, including trails at Jim Hogg, Russell Park, and Cedar Breaks, which includes the trailhead for the long, but easy to moderate, hike to Crockett Gardens Falls that is on my to-do list.
How To Find New Hikes
The best way I’ve been finding hikes (both realistic for preschoolers and aspirational) is on Instagram.
The #hikeaustin hashtag slides photos of beautiful local hikes in my feed daily, and through it, I’ve also discovered great Austin photographers who capture amazing locations around the city to add to my to-visit list. It also helps to start following accounts run by Austin area moms going places with their kids, especially kids similar ages as your own. Some of my favorites are @austinactivekids, @hillcountryadventurekids, and @field_trip_fridays (and I post our hikes and other outings on @austinwithkids).
As you find recommendations, add them to a running list. I just keep mine in my phone and check them off as I try them. I add parks and specific trails as they come up, so when I’m ready to plan an outing, I’m not starting from scratch. That leaves plenty of time for all the snacks and rock climbing.