Great Runs in Austin

Austin has a great mix — capital of a huge state, large university right downtown, thriving arts scene including the annual SXSW event, and the corporate HQ of Dell and a growing number of high tech companies. The running scene there is great. The iconic Lady Bird Lake Trail and Barton Creek Greenbelt runs are close to major downtown hotels. You can also get a taste of the famous “Texas Hill Country”, with wonderful opportunities for hill and trail running, nearby. Many corporate offices are located north of the city, in the Round Rock area. There’s some good running there, near the hotels clustered around Dell’s offices.

Austin’s weather can be delightful or brutal. October-April is mild to warm, although winter nights can be chilly. May through September are very hot, with little relief even at night. Plan your run times and hydration accordingly. Precipitation is fairly evenly spread throughout the year, though May, June, and September are much wetter than average.

The Iconic Routes

  1. Lady Bird Lake Trail
  2. Barton Creek Greenbelt
  3. Downtown/Capitol/Univ. of Texas at Austin
  4. A Texas Hill Country Run
  5. Lake Austin Blvd./Scenic Dr.

The Routes

Lady Bird Lake Trail

10.5 miles RT. Crushed Granite. Numerous options for longer or shorter. MAP

Probably the signature trail in Austin. Ten miles of trail on each side of the lake (Colorado River). Very nice, winding trail with views of the river, lovely green and shade in spots…and some 30,000 runners a day! We start at Congress St. Bridge, which is close to downtown. Some interesting pedestrian bridges, the Barton Pool, and numerous lovely parks and greenways. A significant improvement, as of June 2014, is the boardwalk on the east end of the Longhorn Dam. There are options to make the run shorter by turning around at one of the bridges, or to lengthen it at Ziker Memorial Park by running along the Barton Creek Trail. Water and bathrooms.

Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail

7.6 miles ONE-WAY. Start: Ziker Park. MAP

The Barton Creek Greenbelt extends 7.5 miles one way from Ziker Memorial Park, near the southeastern terminus of the Lady Bird Lake Trail. This greenbelt has plenty of variety. At the start, it’s more parkland along the creek. But along the way there are numerous offshoots for running/hiking, including some more rugged trails than lead to cliffs, rock climbing, and some swimming holes. The last section is the famous “Hill of Life”, which is a 300m climb in 0.3 miles. This is fairly technical, challenging trail running in parts. We’ve mapped out the entire 7.5 mile trail one-way. A good place to turn around is at the 4-mile mark at Rt. 360, where the trail gets more rugged. Apparently the Taco Deli on Spyglass is the place to fuel up.

Downtown Austin/Capitol/Univ. of Texas Tour

4.3 miles RT. Start: Mexic-Arte Museum, near Omni Hotel. MAP

If you’re staying at one of the downtown hotels, a great way to get a sense of Austin is to combine a run though downtown, up wide Congress St. to the state Capitol (one of the most impressive in the country), and then a jaunt over to the University of Texas. There is no proscribed run around UT — enjoy any of the paths or walkways. On the return, pass by the Governor’s Mansion, and then head back downtown, using Colorado St., paralleling Congress St.

Shoal Creek Trail

Trail is 3.12 miles ONE-WAY. MAP
Start: downtown, near 1st St. bridge, or northern end at N. Lamar & 31st.

This is a pleasant trail in the northern part of Austin, near the University of Texas Campus, that runs for a little over 3 miles south, along Shoal Creek, to the river trail. It’s a mix of surfaces. The nicest sections are near the northern end. If you want to make the run a shorter there and back, start at the northern end and turn around at Pease Park/15th St., at the 2-mile mark.

Lake Austin Blvd./Scenic Drive

7.7 miles Out and Back. Start: MoPAC/Lake Austin Blvd. & Veteran’s Blvd. MAP

This is a nice run that provides an idea of some of the hills in the northwest part of Austin. It’s a pretty straight shot out Lake Austin Blvd., passing by the Westfield Golf Course, then connecting to Scenic Drive, with a couple of minor connections to be aware of. If you’re not too sweaty, head into the Contemporary Austin gallery, right by the Westwood Country Club. The run is about 3.8 miles one-way. A great option for longer is to continue out Mt. Bonnell Rd., 3.5 miles to Rt. 2222 and the Cliff Rocks over Lake Austin.

Further Afield

South of Austin, toward/near airport

Best options here are:

  • Southeastern part of Butler/Lady Bird lake trail in the Roy G. Guererro Colorado River Park
  • Green area just west of the airport, with lots of trails in McKinney Falls State Park and Onion Creek Metropolitan Park.

Lakeway Area/Hamilton Greenbelt

20 miles northwest of downtown Austin, the Lakeway area provides some great opportunities for running. There are pretty and very hilly residential roads. The Hamilton Greenbelt is ~2.5 miles each way. The Canyonlands Trails are offer some great technical trail running — and very hilly!

Hamilton Greenbelt Map. Canyonlands Trails Map.

Round Rock

20 miles north of downtown, Round Rock is the home of Dell’s corporate HQ and the offices of many other tech companies. There are also lots of hotels in the area. There are running options, but it takes a little discovering:

  • Old Settlers Park. 650 acre park, with many recreational and sports facilities, and 3+ miles of trails, including the Brushy Creek Trail (different section than the one below).
  • Brushy Creek Trail. This ever-expanding trail is a great option near Round Rock. Parallels Brushy Creek Rd. for nearly 7 miles, binding together several parks. Trail MAP.
  • Teravista Residential Community. Just north of Old Settlers Park. Nice neighborhood running here, north of Old Settlers Blvd. and on either side of University Blvd.
  • Forest Creek neighborhood. East of Rt. 130 and off Forest Creek Dr. Nice homes and good shade.

Stay

Austin has a compact downtown. There are lots of hotels on the both sides of the river, east of Lamar Blvd. and west of I-35. The Lady Bird Lake, Barton Creek Greenbelt, University of Texas, and Lake Austin Blvd. runs are all accessible from downtown hotels. There’s also a lot of sprawl — tons of hotels spread out along I-35 or I-283 headed south toward the airport (12 miles from downtown), and north toward North Austin where a lot of tech company offices are located. Running opportunities in these areas are uneven.


Stores and Group Runs

See this map for store locations. Green icons have group runs. Click on it for location, directions, details on group runs.

Downtown - near Lady Bird Lake Trail:
Rogue Running Co
Luke’s Locker. Many group runs. 
RunLab. Well located on southern end

North
Ready to Run
Fleet Feet Sports. The only dedicated running store in the Round Rock area. Lots of group events.

West/Lakeway
Capital Running Co./RunLab


Events

Austin has a vibrant running scene, with a 10k seemingly every weekend. 
Events Calendars #1. Events Calendar #2

Some of the major events are:

Austin Marathon. February. 25+ years. Also a half.

Cap 10k. April. Big event, race weekend, etc.

Austin 10/20. April. Ten Miles, 20 Bands.

Thundercloud Turkey Trot. Popular Thanksgiving Day race.

3m Half Marathon. 13.1 mikes “Downhill to Downtown”.