Each Saturday (pre-COVID-19), our entire Trail Roots community would meet at 7 a.m. to go trail running. Now, during the pandemic, we have adjusted to help keep our runners comfortable and safe by meeting in smaller tribes of 7-10 members and are scattered out at different trails throughout the city — and grateful to still be running together.
To share the love of trail running and to, we asked our members to vote on trails based on difficulty, scenery, and available mileage. Here are Trail Roots’ three top-rated trails.
1) Barton Creek Greenbelt | Central Austin
The Barton Creek Greenbelt was the first trail I ran in Austin. During my years as a University of Texas cross country and track and field athlete, we would run this trail every Wednesday. We would run out to the Hill of Life while on the way back, dropping the pace and hammering out a tempo run on the rocky and technical terrain — it was always my highlight of the week. The Barton Creek Greenbelt is still a highlight for Trail Roots folk.
This trail was voted in the top three for each category (difficulty, scenery, available mileage) but this is not surprising because the Greenbelt is also the most central trail in Austin. Runners can access the trail right from Downtown Austin at the Barton Springs access, Spyglass access or the 360 access. What our runners also like about this trail is its accessibility and diverse terrain. You can run the main trail which is fairly flat for seven miles, and then run the west or back side of the Greenbelt trails to get in more climbing and add an additional 20 miles! With over eight well-known access points and trailheads, you can gauge water or focus your running on specific trail portions with no problem.
The one downside of these trails (and just about all of Austin’s trails) is that there aren’t any maps or markings to help you find your way once on the trails. This is one great reason to run with a trail running group so they can help you navigate and learn them.
2) Canyonlands Trails | Lakeway, TX
This West Austin trail is extremely popular because of its diverse terrain. If you are looking for hills, this is the trail for you. While it’s a good 30-minute plus drive from Downtown Austin — it is definitely worth it.
In addition, this trail has some great, scenic overlooks coupled with steep hill climbing. While new neighborhood construction is unfortunately slowly eating away at the current trail system, there are still 15-20 miles of trails (when connecting Lakeway trails, Canyonlands trails, and Bee Cave Preserve trails).
*While not at the trailhead, there are about 2 restroom stalls about 1/2 mile onto the trail.
3) Forest Ridge Nature Preserve Trails | North Austin
This trail is an Austin favorite because of its central location and ability to connect to multiple trail systems such as the St. Edwards Trail and Bull Creek Trails. Bull Creek also flows most of the year which offers a nice place to dip in, cool off and take a break from running. With plenty of elevation climbing on these trails, you will get your heart rate up in no time.
Trail Roots’ Honorable Mentions:
- Most Challenging: River Place Nature Trail has the most climbing available.
- Scenery: Steiner Ranch Neighborhood Trails are some of the prettiest trails (although you need to live in Steiner or run with someone who does in order to access the trails).
- Best for Beginners: Slaughter Creek Preserve – with only one turn-off in the trail, you won’t get lost.
To see a list of other local Austin trails check out our Trail Roots Routes page!