Enjoy the waterfalls on Bull Creek, one of Austin’s best local hikes. Photo by Roy Niswanger / Flickr
Bull Creek, Bull Creek Greenbelt
No need to wait until the end of the day to hike in this urban oasis. Bull Creek is so centrally located and accessible from Loop 360, you can hit it on your lunch break. The 5.8-mile (one way) Greenbelt follows—and occasionally crosses—perennial Bull Creek as it cascades over smooth rock ledges and bends into moss-covered, limestone grottoes. If you wait until after work, bring a buddy: Bull Creek is one of the few parks in Austin where dogs can run around off-leash.
Trailhead30.378632, -97.778492Drive time 20 mins. Infoaustinparks.org
Trammell’s Crossing, Pedernales Falls State Park
Dangle your feet in the cool waters of the Pedernales River after a hot hike and you’ll understand why larger-than-life Texans like LBJ and Willie Nelson made homes in this part of the state. Take the 6.5-mile Trammell’s Crossing loop trail from the “River Trail” sign at the park campground and cross the ankle-deep water (impassable after heavy rains). Climb north as you gain views of the river below, where Twin Falls tumble over limestone ledges.
Trailhead30.312274, -98.245432Drive time 1 hr.Info tpwd.state.tx.us
Sky Island Circuit, Hill Country State Natural Area
As one of the largest and least-developed parks in the Texas State Parks system, the 5,369-acre Hill Country State Natural Area offers the same type of scrubby, endless views as Big Bend—except a heckuva lot closer. For a 10-mile loop, pack all of your water, and begin at Bar 0. Follow Trail 5A (take the .5-mile round-trip detour to check out Sky Island Overlook) to the junction with Trail 4. Follow 4B for 3 miles, hugging a 350-foot-tall limestone escarpment with Hill Country views. Reconnect with Trail 4 and take 4A to camp at Butterfly Springs backcountry campsite (mile 5.9). Close the loop by hiking east on Trails 3A, then 3, 2A, and 2.
Trailhead 29.628001, -99.182242Drive time 2 hrs. 15 mins. Infotpwd.state.tx.us