Hill School Neighborhood Park (8405 Tallwood Drive) is a great place to run if you have small children. The 0.15 mile flat gravel path encircles a big playscape where you can monitor the kids while you do laps. FitCore exercise stations are also scattered around the path along with water fountains. On-site parking is easy; the park is open after 5:30pm on weekdays when school is back in session.
Hill School Park
Less than 10 minutes away, Schroeter Neighborhood Park (11701 Big Trail) has a very wooded center which makes you feel like you’re exploring a much larger area than it’s 12 acres would belie as you run on the 0.57 mile gravel trail around the perimeter. A mulch nature trail snakes through that middle section too with some pretty scenery. Designated wildflower areas, though dried up right now, are probably quite a site when in season. Picnic areas and sports courts round out the features here; street parking is ample too.
Schroeter Neighborhood Park
I attempted to visit Lakeline Neighborhood Park (2701 South Lakeline Boulevard) on this day too but it’s an undeveloped, unrunnable patch of woods right now. The address is in Cedar Park but it’s listed as an Austin park. I then meandered over to Lamplight Pocket Park (12444 Lamplight Village Avenue), but it too is unrunnable at this time as the city is installing a water conservation system and drought-tolerant grasses, a project that has the whole park fenced off.
Holly Shores at Town Lake Metro Park (2711 Canterbury Street), like the other parks mentioned in this post, are part of the much larger trail around Lady Bird (Town) Lake. There are a variety of different access points, but this is an especially good ones because there’s a parking lot at this address (though a small one with about 8 or 9 spaces) and the area is scenic and not very crowded.
You can view the Longhorn dam from this spot and run right over it. There’s a pretty short railing on the water side so I find this bridge a little scary, but it’s not too bad. There seems to be more cyclists in this area than other parts of the Trail. Once you get over the dam, this immediate area is relatively flat and has a gravel trail. This section of the trail connects right over to Longhorn Shores at Town Lake Metro Park (60 South Pleasant Valley Road), where you can also find a small parking lot and can continue for miles along the Trail.
International Shores at Town Lake Metro Park (1800 South Lakeshore Boulevard) is a convenient spot to access the Trail and especially the new Boardwalk. The Boardwalk, which just opened last weekend, connects the East and West sides of the trail and is a lovely addition. It’s a nice wide pathway that’s quite scenic. It is completely sun-exposed unlike other portions of the Trail, so you’ll want to make sure your sun protection is in place. It’s definitely gotten pretty hot out there, so visiting in the early morning might be best this time of year. The address mentioned above allows you to easily street park for free and there is a nice new restroom and water fountains at this spot. Plenty of folks were out today checking out the new digs, but there was still ample room to run comfortably. Between these three access points, I did 2.1 miles of my run on the Trail today.
Heritage Oaks Neighborhood Park (2100 Parker Lane) is most open space with some very large shade trees. There are no facilities like restrooms or water fountains here. It’s not an ideal spot for distance running, but one could run along quiet Parker Lane and into an L-shape along the sidewalk at the front of the park or along the very short mulch trail. I did this four times to get just one mile in here. It might be a good spot for those practicing barefoot running, and the whole park is on a hill so it could also be good for a little elevation training. You can easily park in the street next to the park.
Hielscher Tract Greenbelt is 66 acres of undeveloped land near a stormwater facility. There are not really any trails or facilities here. A very unofficial flat path has been worn along one side of the park that can be fun to explore if you’re very cautious of snakes and such that may be in the tall grasses along either side. There’s no parking right at the park but you can pull into the next side street and park there. I ran about a half mile here before turning back to complete 1 mile (largely because an aggressive-looking dog was barking at me from the backyards that border one side of the tract, from atop a playground structure that could have enabled him to easily jump over the fence!).
Grand Meadow Neighborhood Park (8022 Thaxton Drive) really is just a meadow of tall grasses and wildflowers. It is undeveloped and there is no runnable area.
Kendra Page Neighborhood Park (2203 Blue Meadow Drive) is also not a runnable park – it has a nice sand volleyball court but other than that it’s a small park with a rundown playground. The swing chains are quite rusty and probably dangerous.
Kendra Page Neighborhood Park
Mary Moore Searight Metro Park Off-Leash Trail (9500 South 1st Street) is a much better site I visited today with my little girl. A flat, unpaved trail forms a loop of about 1.3 miles. It’s heavily wooded and nice and quiet, with lots of wildflowers, easy parking, a well-maintained trail, and even two fun water crossings. It’s a fun spot worth the drive.
Creek crossing at Mary Moore Searight Park
Govalle Neighborhood Park (5200 Bolm Road) has the beginnings of a paved hike/bike trail that is under construction at this time. Right now you can run around the perimeter of the park and get in about .6 miles; it will be better suited for running when the construction is finished. Ample parking is available onsite and there’s a fun foot bridge with a creek view.
Gustavo “Gus” L. Garcia District Park (1101 East Rundberg Lane) is a large park with a big community center. The center hosts a fun Breakfast with Santa program that our family has enjoyed. There is a lovely garden area that houses the Senior Serenity Garden; a friendly gentleman watering the plants there offered to show me inside the fence and explained that the other garden plots are available to the public for a small rental fee.
Many students use this park to walk to the school across the street. A very pretty unpaved trail runs around the perimeter. It’s a little hilly and less than a mile. On-site parking is easy to find here too.
Wildflower field at Gus Garcia Park
Franklin Neighborhood Park (4800 Copperbend Boulevard) and Gillis Neighborhood Park (2410 Durwood Avenue) are pretty similar parks when it comes to running potential. Both are relatively small parks that have gravel trails of less than 1 mile running around the perimeter. They’re both also nice quiet spots that I had to myself last week. Franklin is mostly open expanse while Gillis offers more shade.
Franklin Neighborhood Park
Gillis Neighborhood Park
Gracywoods Neighborhood Park was one site I visited today; it features a pretty little paved trail, many picnic tables, and a volleyball court and playground. Several other runners, walkers, and cyclists were there enjoying the unseasonably cool weather this morning.
The park is a fairly linear tract; the address is 12133 Metric Boulevard but there’s nowhere to park on that end. It’s better to park near and enter at the side near the intersection of Snow Goose Road and Bittern Hollow if you’re not arriving here by foot.
This peaceful little gazebo looks like a wonderful spot to relax.
Much of the trail runs alongside an apartment complex. There is a variety of open space and more wooded areas. You can even peek down into the creek that runs alongside the park, which had quite a bit of water streaming through with the recent heavy rains we’ve had. I got in 1.75 miles of today’s run here today.
I also visited Forest North Neighborhood Park today. This small park is dominated by a pool and tennis courts; there’s not much else to it. It’s not a good place for a run, as I only eeked out a few tenths of a mile here. The pool seems to be privately operated and membership is required to enter.
I visited McKinney Falls State Park today for a Mother’s Day hike with my husband who clearly knows how I like to spend a nice day. Not a city park like most others I include here, but I’m including a few others in my Beyond Austin category that are within an hour’s drive.
Waterway near the Upper Falls
There is a $6 per person entrance fee. Maps are available at the entry station and parking was abundant. We choose the Onion Creek Trail today which is paved but has some inclines, making for a nice 3.6 mile hike.
I love the look of cypress root structure.
Keep an eye out for slithery friends.
Gaines Creek Neighborhood Park is a beautiful spot in South Austin at 4801 Republic of Texas Boulevard. An unpaved one-mile trail loops around the pretty acreage and right now is just full of wildflowers of all different kinds.
The rocky trail is clean and well-maintained. It’s relatively easy to follow; there were two spots where I questioned which way to go but if I choose correctly with my poor navigational skills you can bet it’s easy to follow. There are short sections where the foliage is so abundant it will be rubbing against you along the sides of the trail, though if the worst part of your day is wildflowers brushing against your legs you’re still having a pretty good one. I saw three adorable cottontail rabbits and plenty of avian life.
Interpretive signs point out interesting features along the trail.
This park is in the middle of a neighborhood but, though you can hear a little traffic noise, still feels quite secluded but safe. You can park on a side street in the neighborhood and cross over to the trailhead, where you’ll find an informational sign and water fountain. I had the place almost entirely to myself the cloudy weekday morning I visited, except for one friendly woman and her dogs I saw just as I was leaving. This is another of my new favorite parks and a lesser known gem. More photos of this and other parks, including additional gratuitous wildflower photos, can be seen here.
I attempted to visit the separately listed Gaines Creek Greenbelt this day too, but it’s undeveloped green space along the highway and not runnable at this time.
I visited Givens District Park (3811 E 12th Street) recently and it’s unfortunately not a great place to run. There is a large community center, sports fields, and picnic tables and shelters, but because the park is basically a linear tract with parking on one side of the road that runs through it and fields on the other, it doesn’t lend itself to a run. It didn’t feel especially safe either with several adult men milling around in the parking lot alone at 7am on a weekday. Probably not a place I’d revisit. They can’t all be winners! On to the next.