The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail in Austin
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake is a 10-mile stretch of outdoor beauty, thanks to the effort of two very forward-thinking Austin friends.
On a trip to London in 1971, as Ann Butler and Lady Bird Johnson stood together admiring a portion of the beautiful Thames Path, they wondered if something similar could be accomplished in Austin.
When they got back home, these two visionaries decided that it very likely could. And then it was.
Today, over 30,000 feet enjoy this beautiful spot every single day, just as Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Johnson suspected they would.
So, next time you’re headed to Austin for a conference or convention, be sure to take the right shoes. You’re going to want to enjoy a nice hike or bike ride on Austin’s most beloved trail.
15 Things to Know Before You Go
In addition to the parking and access point information you can find here, check out the following list of 15 helpful tips to know before you hike or bike the trail and boardwalk around Lady Bird Lake.
1. Don’t be too ambitious.
If you’re not really prepared for at least 7 miles and a couple of hours, check the map and plan to enjoy a shorter version. This is such a scenic trail that it’s easy to get on, keep going and going, and then suddenly notice how far away you’ve gotten from the car. It’s no fun to run out of water, time or energy on this scenic trail around Lady Bird Lake.
2. The trail is well-maintained.
It’s nice to know before you go that this is a well-maintained trail. That means you can plan on it being completely accessible pretty much 365 days a year, thanks to the lake’s constant level and the dedication of many devoted volunteer friends of the trail.
3. Bicycles go fast.
Bicycles go pretty fast on the trail around Lady Bird Lake, and, most of the time, there will be very little space between you and them. Some riders will give voice to an on-your-left type warning like you’d hear on a ski run. However, the fact of the matter is that they just don’t all do it, and it can be scary to think of what might happen if you or your dog step out of your lane at the wrong moment. That said, just remember to stay far right and in single file formation where you can.
4. Prepare to take lots of pictures.
If this is your first trek around the trail, you’ll definitely want to make sure your phone’s battery is well-charged and ready for lots of Insta- worthy photo ops. But, the landscape changes with the seasons, so even those who are familiar with the path are bound to encounter plentiful new sights of scenic beauty every time they go.
5. Scooters don’t work.
There are so many scooters on the streets in Austin. They’re so much fun to ride! But, while people sometimes assume they can meander off the street and onto the trail with their rented scooters, it just doesn’t work. Scooter batteries are no match for the gravel and sand that make up the trail’s terrain.
6. Track with an app.
Use an app on your phone or wear your Fitbit to track steps, distance, calories, time, or all of the above. That way, when you make it allllllll the way around the lake, you’ll be able to substantiate the obligatory brag.
7. Kids get tired.
Many zealous families make the mistake of going too far and wind up carrying a hot, sweaty, tearful little one the rest of the way. So, if you’re taking the grandkids for a fun stroll, plan to only go a little ways down the trail and then head back.
8. Dogs are welcome.
Dogs are welcome, but you will need to clean up after them. I personally would not take our granddogs because of the bikes that whiz by so fast. You really need to hold the leash tight and close, and that doesn’t seem like much fun for either me or my sweet little Ranger and Duncan.
9. Take some water.
There are water fountains around the trail, but they’re far apart, so fill your bottle when you find them, but don’t plan on relying on the fountains alone. Dogs can get a drink at the base of the water fountains, but you might also bring a folding bowl in case Rover gets thirsty between fountain stops.
10. The forecast is mostly sunny.
Yikes. Nobody wants to ruin a great trip to Austin by getting a painful sunburn. Unless it’s dead of winter, however, the hike-and-bike trail at Lady Bird Lake is place where you could definitely get one. You should be okay with some sunscreen, hat and sunglasses.
11. Restaurants are off the beaten path.
The geographic location of the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail can be a little deceiving when it comes to planning lunch. If you get way over from the north side onto a long stretch of boardwalk on the south, and then decide you want to eat at a fun place near the Capitol Building, lunch is definitely not happening for a while. Been there, done that.
12. Emergencies occur.
I’m sure there are ways to get off the trail and call a cab or use an app on your phone to get a ride should you or one in your party have an incident of some kind that requires help; however, places to exit the trail don’t seem very apparent. Therefore, if you’re not familiar, treat your walk around the water like you would any other lengthy hike, taking your own fitness level into account and not overestimating your stamina, especially in the end-of-summer heat. Know your limits and those of the people who go with you.
13. The trail is beautiful at night.
The hike-and-bike trail at Lady Bird Lake is a big draw for tourists and locals alike, and it’s definitely busiest during the day. However, it’s also really gorgeous at night. So, if your wonderful weekend in Austin is coming to a close, and you find yourself lamenting that you never got to head down to the trail, go even if the sun has already set. Lights are reflecting off the water. Cruisers are quietly waiting for glimpses of the bats. People are still strolling and getting in that last opportunity for a run. Nighttime is really beautiful on the hike-and-bike trail at Lady Bird Lake.
14. You might see some weirdness.
When we first moved to Austin, the famous Keep Austin Weird slogan was a better fit than it is now. With all the recent growth, some of the weirdness has gone by the wayside. However, Austin is still one of those places where people feel pretty uninhibited and don’t mind being themselves in a whole lot of unique ways. On the hike-and-bike trail, that’s as true as it is anywhere else in the city. I’ve seen people jogging in western boots and doing some pretty funky nearly-naked dance-walking in groups. So, if you’re out to see some of the last of the weirdness Austin has to offer, the hike-and-bike trail at Lady Bird Lake might be a good place to find it.
15. Staying safe is a worthy concern.
Some of our friends love biking the trail in the early morning hours before the sun comes up. They wear headlamps and stay together. During the day, there are plenty of people around, and the trail feels very safe. Basically, staying safe on an inner city trail is always a worthy concern, but if you take basic precautions, notice your surroundings, and don’t be out there late at night, you will likely be able to enjoy the beauty without worrying much over your safety.