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10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

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10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country has an abundance of state parks, and Austin was recently named one of Forbes’ Top 5 Cities for Runners. You can find plenty of paved road routes throughout the area. If you want to experience the scenic beauty and tranquility, and see more of the Hill Country, you should hit one of these area trails. Don’t forget to wear your sturdiest pair of trail running shoes, slather on sunscreen and take some water with you!

1. Lady Bird Lake Hike & Bike Trail – Austin

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Jack

This 10-mile long trail offers the best of both worlds. In some places, it’s a tree-covered dirt and gravel trail winding along Lake Austin. In others, runners traverse sidewalks and wooden bridges and pass by the skyscrapers of downtown Austin. The trail has mile markers every quarter mile, as well as public bathrooms and water fountains.

2. Hill Country State Natural Area – Bandera

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/mlhradio

This preserve includes approximately 40 miles of multiuse trail in the rugged terrain just north of the Balcones escarpment. Runners can explore grassy valleys, spring-fed streams and limestone hills. Be sure to take your own water, because this undeveloped area does not offer any water stops.

3. Lost Maples State Natural Area – Vanderpool

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/mlhradio

The fall foliage of the Bigtooth Maple trees makes this is one of the most popular parks in Texas. This park features rugged limestone canyons, springs, grasslands and clear streams. The foliage changes during the last two weeks of October through the first two weeks of November. If you plan to run these trails at this time, be aware the trails might be very crowded. Enjoy the scenic view along the trails by the Sabinal River, or if you’re feeling adventurous, check out the more rugged Mystic Trail and West Trail.

4. Pedernales Falls State Park

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

The trails at Pedernales Falls State Park range from easy to challenging. The trail terrain is a mix of dirt, crushed rock and larger rocks along rolling hills with very little tree cover. The .75-mile Warfle’s Trail is the easiest route through a creek bed. Try the shorter Twin Falls Nature Trail, which ends at one of the most beautiful outlooks in the Hill Country overlooking the falls. If you want a challenge, try the six-mile Wolf Mountain Trail, which winds along small canyons around the Tobacco and Wolf Mountains.

5. San Antonio Mission Reach Trail

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: nps.gov

This is a paved trail, but the views of the historic missions make it worth your while. It is an eight-mile extension of the River Walk, which follows the San Antonio River over rolling hills out to the 18th century missions. The whole area is part of a restoration project, so you’ll find bathrooms, water fountains and mile markers.

6. Barton Creek Green Belt – Austin

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Brandon Turner

Another popular Austin trail is the Barton Creek Greenbelt. It covers over seven miles, starting at Zilker Park and heading north/northwest to Westlake. This is considered one of the top hiking, biking and running trails in Texas. It is characterized by large limestone cliffs, dense foliage, and shallow bodies of water.

7. San Marcos River Trail

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: wikipedia.org

This trail winds along the San Marcos River and covers approximately three miles. Most runners start at the City Park Pavilion, but it provides easy access from anywhere along the trail. It consists of hard-packed gravel and paved surfaces. The Playscape Children’s Park, Comal Street dead ends, offers restrooms and water fountains.

8. Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve – Pipe Creek

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: bear-springs-blossom.org

This preserve spans 125 acres and offers nine trails through different habitats, including dry desert, rolling hills with centuries-old junipers and a canyon with a pond. This is a great place to take in the different ecosystems of the Texas Hill Country. It is also home to the endangered Golden-Cheeked Warbler.

9. River Walk – San Antonio

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Aonghas Crann

The River Walk might be the most tourist-friendly trail in the area. The route is easily accessible and runs trough the heart of the city along the San Antonio River. This six-mile loop begins at Tito’s Restaurant in south town and takes you past the Alamo, through the renovated Pearl Brewery complex and back up through the historic King William district. Hit the trail early to avoid the crowds.

10. McKinney Falls State Park – Austin

10 Places for Trail Running in the Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/Wil C. Fry

The running trails at McKinney Falls State Park span several miles of easy-to-rugged terrain and offer several hundred feet in elevation. You can check out waterfalls, native wildlife and the 500 year old bald cypress tree, “Old Baldy.”