Austin, TX 78705
Where to Experience the Outdoors in Austin
Towering limestone bluffs, trails that wind beneath verdant oak trees, and the gentle bends of the pristine Colorado River. Much of the Texas Hill Country’s scenic beauty can be experienced at the Austin Parks & Recreations’ natural oases. Start your urban outdoor adventures at these sites to enjoy some of the best the Lone Star State has to offer.
Barton Springs Pool
Once summer rolls around, you’ll want to find yourself at Barton Springs Pool. A sprawling three-acre spring-fed pool where the crystal-clear waters maintain a constant temperature between 68 and 70 degrees throughout the year, Barton Springs is one of the most popular places to cool down in Austin. Even Robert Redford himself learned how to swim here when he was five years old. Swim, splash, and play, then bask in the Texas sunshine on a grassy hill or under the shade of an oak tree. Keep an eye out and you may even spot a Barton Springs Salamander, an amphibian only found in this part of Texas.
Parking is limited in the busy season, but the pool is easy to reach by bus, bike, and foot.
Covert Park at Mt. Bonnell
If you’re looking for the best view in Austin, your search is over. Climb the stone stairs as you ascend to the peak of Mt. Bonnell, which at 775 feet is one of the highest points in town. Perched high above the expanse of the Colorado River, the viewpoint yields views of lush tree-covered hills that stretch for miles into the horizon.
Strolling the short pathway to the south affords its own reward, in this case a spectacular look at Downtown Austin’s skyline off in the distance. Bring a picnic and enjoy the sunshine, then savor all the stunning scenery as you meander down the Covert Park at Mount Bonnell Trail.
Mayfield Park & Nature Preserve
You’ll know you’re here when you hear them. The cacophonous calls of majestic peacocks perched on the limbs of oak trees greet you as you enter Mayfield Park & Nature Preserve. Once the summer and weekend retreat of a prominent local politician Allison Mayfield, the park and nature preserve is now a natural oasis like no other in Austin.
Explore the tranquil gardens and admire the free-ranging peacocks, some of which you may even see on top of the historic twin-gabled cottage, all the while keeping an eye out for turtles that have made their home in the historic ponds. Revel in the garden’s serenity, then traverse the scenic trails that meander through the Mayfield Nature Preserve’s 21 acres.
It won’t take you long to feel like you’re far away from the city, when you’re just a stone’s throw away.
Zilker Botanical Garden
Tucked away on 26 acres of Austin’s Zilker Metropolitan Park, Zilker Botanical Garden is a lush sanctuary of koi ponds, live oaks, and prickly cactuses of all shapes and sizes. Composed of multiple themed gardens, this natural retreat offers something new around every corner.
Witness the colorful blooms of the Mabel Davis Rose Garden and explore the Isamu Taniguchi Japanese Garden, complete with a stone gate gifted by Austin’s Sister City (Oita, Japan), a teahouse, and numerous Japanese maples.
There’s even a garden with plants that existed during the Cretaceous period, as well as a statue of an ornithomimus, a dinosaur whose tracks were found in this location.
Along with the gardens, you’ll find a schoolhouse and cabin from the 19th century in the Pioneer Village, which also showcases plants grown by early settlers.
Austin, TX 78705