The Best Hikes & Parks in ATX for You and Your Pup

By Emily Metzger – March 1, 2021

As we officially welcome the spring season, even though Texas winters essentially blur the traditional season divides, it’s time to soak up some springtime sunshine. Austinites may still be hitting the gym to live out their New Year’s resolutions, but one of the best ways to get some activity in is by ditching the gym and opting for a walk or jog with your dog outside instead. So, grab your happy little tail-wagger, his/her favorite toys to play catch, the leash and doggy bag, and visit one of these local trails or parks to get your daily dose of nature and activity.

Emma Long Metropolitan Park

This unique trail located in northwest Austin showcases the breathtaking views of Lake Austin while providing a pet-friendly hiking path. All dogs must be leashed, and there is a fee of $5 per vehicle Monday through Thursday and $10 per vehicle Friday through Sunday. Since parking is limited, it often fills up quickly, especially on weekends, so get there early. AFM tip: wear durable tennis shoes that can get wet since there are various water crossings. 

Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park

Photo by Jessica Oswald.

If you’re desiring an off-leash dog area along with an outstanding trail for hiking, Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park checks all the boxes. The trail has no admission fee and boasts a 15-mile pathway with various recreational activities to explore. Located north of downtown, it will leave you and your fur-baby eager to come back and inspect a different sector on this vast trail. 

Auditorium Shores Dog Park

This dog park in the heart of downtown is an ample space for well-trained dogs to roam. The off-leash park is free and neither fenced nor enclosed. You can walk the trail around Town Lake and stop here to enjoy the urban views by the water. Beware of the traffic near Riverside Drive, especially since dogs are able to explore and play as they please.  

Norwood Estate Dog Park 

Continuing on down the Town Lake Trail, you’ll find Norwood Estate, an off-leash, enclosed dog park. This free park uniquely offers a “small” and a “big” dog section for owners worried about interactions from the range of dogs that come here. It is close to downtown and offers a complimentary water station in case Fido gets thirsty!

Shoal Creek Greenbelt

Photo by Jessica Oswald.

Located near UT’s West Campus, Shoal Creek is a unique trail offering both city and scenic views. Dogs should be leashed unless in the off-leash area between 24th and 29th streets. It also includes multiple natural waterways for your pup to play and splash around in. This is a superb, less popular and smaller trail perfect for any outdoor adventure. 

Cedar Bark Park

As one of the most well-kept dog parks, Cedar Bark is a park solely for our furry friends. It is an enclosed park with three separate areas and fun features such as a spacious pond to swim in. With no admission fee and a leash-free-friendly environment, Cedar Bark is worth the drive and will leave your pup itching to come back. 

Onion Creek Greenbelt

Photo by Jessica Oswald.

Near southeast Austin, this greenbelt area offers many trails and an off-leash dog area. There are many places for your dog to openly run around and get in the water. Owners can even join in the fun and enjoy a refreshing, natural cooldown — just don’t forget to bring a towel. Although it does not offer city views like other trails, Onion Creek transports you into the more natural outdoor landscape that Austin has to offer. 

Zilker Park

Austin’s most beloved park is one of the best off-leash and non-enclosed dog parks within the city. Zilker is a local gem and extremely popular, especially once the weather is above 60 degrees. If your pup loves to play catch, Zilker is a great, spacious area to do so. The park is also one of the best for scenic picnics. If you and your dog love to chillax and und-wine, Zilker never disappoints! 

These dog-friendly trails and parks are definitely some of the standouts in Austin. Hopefully, there is one that complies with all your pet’s needs that you both can explore together. Each location stands out with its own eclectic dog personalities and a mix of locals and visitors. So, as we encroach upon the classic Texas heat, we want all our readers to find trails that can create quality time with yourself, your pet and others. 


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