Austin’s one of the greenest and most health-conscious cities in the US, and has boundless opportunities to get out in nature and stay active. Getting in motion in the outdoors is more than a hobby for many Austinites — it’s a defining characteristic of life in the city.
It’s rarely too cold in Texas, which means it’s almost always a good time for a dip — luckily there are multitudes of stunning nearby options. Locals might spend the day at Hamilton Pool Preserve, a limestone grotto formed when the rock ceiling over an ancient underground river collapsed and left a beautiful shaded natural pool. The beautiful aquamarine water is the perfect way to cool off in the Texas summer heat. A little closer to the city is Barton Springs Pool, inside dog-friendly Zilker Park. The water welcomes you with a comfy 68-degree temperature year round under a clear blue sky; take the kids, the dog, some sandwiches and sunscreen to spend the day.
Hiking and Biking
There’s also several great hiking and running options just adjacent to Zilker Park for those inclined to something a little more active. Downtown Austin boasts ten miles of trail around the border of Lady Bird Lake, which Barton Springs Pool flows into, as well as kayaks, canoes, dragon boats, and rowing shells to take out on the water. The lakeshore is home to Deep Eddy Pool, the oldest swimming pool in all of Texas, and is also a hot spot to catch incredible live music on the banks. Lady Bird Lake’s Hike and Bike trail is a mostly-flat loop that’s about ten miles long; anyone looking for a slightly more vigorous experience will find that the Barton Springs Greenbelt is a good fit. It’s more secluded and a bit more rugged, with beautiful wild flora and countless natural water features from pools to waterfalls over craggy limestone cliffs. There’s no better way to stay cool and active at the same time in the summer than hiking through the Greenbelt’s green shade and delightfully chilly water.
Even outside of recreation, Austin is an active city — it’s the only city in Texas with a “gold level” status from the League of American Bicyclists, and one of only 24 in the US. The city has over 250 miles of bike lanes as well as a very successful bike-sharing program, Austin B-Cycle, which provides 24/7 on-demand bike stations accessible all over the city for people who want to bike but don’t want to own one (or carry it with them all the time). Avid cyclists love the Veloway, a paved loop that’s a biker and skater’s dream.
For days when one needs to really get away and get some perspective — literally — the Austin way to do it is to climb the 102 steps to the top of Mount Bonnell, the highest point in Austin, where you can watch the sun set over the Colorado River and see the whole city below you — for free. When you’re watching the last rays of light dance over the shimmering water from a mountaintop, it’s hard not to appreciate everything in life.