A Runner's Guide To SXSW

By Jayme Lamm – March 1, 2014
Photos by Austin Convention & Visitors Bureau

You’ve made the trek to Austin, Texas, to experience all that SXSW has in store, and whether you’re here for the music, film, or interactive portion, you’re here to experience Austin in all its glory. Make the effort to enjoy the city beyond the confines of conference rooms, social media channels, and outdoor bars—get out and enjoy all that the city and the annual conference and festival has to offer this month.

Multiple studies have found a direct correlation between exercising (particularly running) and an extreme boost in creativity and idea generation. SXSW, first held in 1987, was created as a tool for creative people all around the world, so what better way to boost your creativity and engagement throughout the much-anticipated three-week fest than with a quick run around one of Austin’s glorious running trails?

Let’s face it: you already know the benefits of coming to SXSW—that’s why you’re here. But don’t let the running trails be overshadowed by all the things your badge can buy; they are just as mind-blowing and eclectic as the music scene and keynote speakers you’ll see throughout the ten-day-long innovative event.

Did you know Forbes.com ranked Austin the seventh-best city for runners and Huffington Post ranked it the tenth fittest city in America? With more than 150 parks and varying levels of terrain to choose from, these accolades come with good reason.

Here are a few trails to check out while you’re here.

Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail
Austin’s most famous running trail draws in more than 1.5 million visits each year. The ten-mile scenic trail around Lady Bird Lake goes through the heart of downtown and is the closest to all downtown hotels, along with views of the Austin skyline, Zilker Park, and Congress Bridge.

Lady Bird Lake offers one of the most populated trails in Austin, so you’ll still feel motivated and social even if you’re opting for a quick solo run. Be on the lookout for the memorial at Auditorium Shores honoring the late bluesman Stevie Ray Vaughan. You can also hop onto the Shoal Creek Hike and Bike Trail from here, which—while a little less groomed—offers challenging Austin terrain for an additional three miles (or a six-mile loop).

You can also add on an additional mile with the Johnson Creek Greenbelt Trail; this short, 1.1-mile spur off of Veterans Road under the MoPac Bridge offers a paved route through several tunnels and past a restored windmill, ending at Enfield Road. It’s a great cut-through from the Lady Bird Lake area to 5th Street and venues such as the legendary El Arroyo restaurant (check out their sign) and Mean Eyed Cat, with its shrine to Johnny Cash. The Waller Creek Trail, accessible from Trinity and Lady Bird Lake at the Waller Creek Boathouse, is a 1.6-mile pathway that winds through downtown and ends at Waterloo Park on E. 15th Street. Originally a bicentennial project, this urban trail is paved with blocks of limestone and currently undergoing improvements.

Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park
Another Austin favorite, this park features 15 miles of nature trails, complete with an off-leash dog area, barbecue pits, playgrounds, and sports areas. These trails are less than a mile from a number of hotels on the North Parmer Lane corridor.

The Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail
If you’re one of those runners who needs a nature break every now and then, try this 7.2-mile trail along Barton Creek, which offers plenty of opportunities to stop and take a breather, swim, or even rock climb. If you’re looking to escape the city feel, this is a great trail for you as it’s surrounded by trees, has a little more challenging terrain, and is mostly shaded. This trail is closest to the La Quinta Inn & Suites Austin Southwest at MoPac. The Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail is considered the seventh-best trail in the entire state of Texas.

Would you like company? Check out the tight-knit and friendly local running group, Austin Runners Club, which offers free group runs every day, even during the busy weeks of SXSW. You can learn more on FB/AustinRunnersClub or on Twitter @AustinRunners. You can use MapMyRun.com to type in your exact hotel or Airbnb location to find the trails and parks nearest to your location. And if you’re a badge-holding SXSW attendee, we don’t have to tell you about the power of social media. If you’re in the mood for a run, take to your favorite social media platform; create a hashtag, lace up those shoes, and get going.

The driving force behind the success of SXSW lies in the background and character that Austin has to offer, and nowhere will you see more of that than outdoors, perhaps on one of the running trails or in the parks. You’ll have plenty of time for hashtags, business-card swapping, downloading, and Lone Star beer, but for now, download that new album from that band you heard last night at Stubb’s and get your run on.

There’s no question a change of scenery can spur a creative burst, and luckily it’s March so you won’t have to bear the hard-to-handle summertime Texas heat. Creativity is just a few miles away.

Check out these other places to break a sweat and soak up some Central Texas sun. Rentals are available.


Big Stacy Pool
700 East Live Oak
(512) 445-0304

Deep Eddy Pool
401 Deep Eddy Ave.

Barton Springs Pool
2201 Barton Springs Rd.
(512) 476-9044

Hamilton Pool
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd., Dripping Springs, TX
(512) 264-2740


Austin Tri Cyclist
923 Barton Springs Road
(512) 494-9252

Barton Springs Bike Rental
1707 Barton Springs Rd.

Austin Bike Tours & Rentals
201 W 5th St.

Bicycle Sport Shop
517 S Lamar

Jack & Adams Bicycles
1210 Barton Springs Road
(512) 472-5646

Mellow Johnny’s
400 Nueces St.


Zilker Park Boat Rentals
2101 Andrew Zilker Rd.

Capital Cruises
208 Barton Springs Rd.

TG Canoes & Kayaks
3411 N Interstate Highway 35


515 S Congress Ave.

Rowing Dock
2418 Stratford Dr.


Texas Rowing Center
1541 W Cesar Chavez

Austin Paddle Sports
5214 Burleson Rd.

Paddle Zen
1620 E Riverside Dr.


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