Austin, the vibrant capital city of Texas, is renowned for its dynamic culture, thriving music scene, and a love for outdoor adventures. Nestled amidst the city’s bustling urban landscape lies a true gem for nature and fitness enthusiasts alike—The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake. This beloved trail stretches along the picturesque shores of the Colorado River, offering breathtaking views, serene landscapes, and a refreshing escape from the city’s fast-paced energy.
Whether you’re a seasoned hiker, an avid cyclist, or simply someone seeking a rejuvenating stroll amidst nature, the Hike-and-Bike Trail is a must-visit destination. With 10 miles of well-maintained paths, diverse flora and fauna, and numerous attractions along the way, it’s no wonder this trail has captured the hearts of locals and visitors alike.
To ensure you make the most of your experience, I’ve compiled a list of 15 helpful tips to know before you go. So, lace up your boots and dust off your bike. This guide will equip you with everything you need to embark on an urban adventure along this iconic trail.
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail
The Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail around Lady Bird Lake is a 10-mile stretch of stunning urban outdoor beauty, which would not be here today without the effort of two 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 Thames Path, they wondered if something similar could be accomplished back in Texas.
Once they returned home, these two visionaries declared that it very likely could.
And then it was.
Today, almost three million pairs of feet enjoy this beautiful trail every year, just as Mrs. Butler and Mrs. Johnson suspected they would.
So, next time you’re headed to Austin for a conference or convention downtown, be sure to pack a pair of walking shoes.
You’ll probably going to want to enjoy at least one trip around what the locals call the trail.
15 Helpful Tips
For parking and access point information click here. Then 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 prepared for at least seven miles and a couple of hours, check the map and plan a shorter route. This is such a scenic trail that it’s easy to get on, keep going and going, and then suddenly realize how far you’ve strayed from the car. While it’s no fun to run out of water, time or energy on the trail, it’s also downright dangerous in the heat of a Texas summer.
2. The trail is well-maintained.
Because Lady Bird is a constant level lake, and due to the dedication of many volunteers, the trail is well-maintained and accessible pretty much year-round.
3. Bicycles go fast.
Bicycles go fast on the trail around Lady Bird Lake. 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. But don’t rely on it. Keep your dog close by, and turn to look behind you before exiting or veering toward a water fountain. The basic rule of safety on the trail is to stay far right and in single file formation where you can.
4. Prepare to take pictures.
Make sure your phone is fully charged before taking off for a trek around the trail. The Instagram-worthy photo ops are plentiful, no matter the season or time of day.
5. Scooters don’t work.
There are so many scooters on the streets in Austin, and they are lots of fun to ride! But, while people sometimes assume they can meander off the street and onto the trail with a rented scooter, it just doesn’t work. Scooter tires and 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 watch to track steps, distance, calories burned, time, or all of the above. That way, when you make it ALL the way around Lady Bird Lake, you’ll be able to substantiate an obligatory brag.
7. Kids get tired.
Many families make the mistake of going too far and end up carrying a hot, sweaty, tearful little one the rest of the way. So, if you’re taking the grandkids for a fun stroll around the trail, plan to start small.
8. Dogs are welcome.
Dogs are welcome on the trail around Lady Bird Lake, but you will need to clean up after them. I’ve never liked the idea of taking our small grand dogs on the trail, though. I certainly wouldn’t mind scooping up their poop – it’s the bicycles whizzing by that make me a little nervous.
9. Take some water.
There are water fountains around the trail, but they’re some distance from each other. So, fill your bottle when you have an opportunity. In addition, don’t plan on relying on the fountains alone. Dog bowls are available at the base of the fountains, but you might want to carry a folding bowl with you, 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. And the trail around Lady Bird Lake is a place where you could definitely get one. You should be okay with a hat, sunglasses and some sunscreen, though.
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 to grab lunch. If you hike way over from the north side onto a long stretch of boardwalk on the south, and then decide 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. I, thankfully, have not needed to find out. Things happen, though. So, just be aware that should omeone in your party have an incident that requires help, places to exit the trail aren’t very apparent. If you’re not familiar, treat your walk about the water like you would any other lengthy hike. Take yours and your party’s fitness level into account. Don’t overestimate the level of everyone’s stamina, especially in the heat of the summer. Know your limits and those of the people who go along with you.
13. The trail is beautiful at night.
The trail at Lady Bird Lake is a big draw for tourists and locals alike, and it’s busiest during the day. However, it’s prettiest at night! Lights reflect off the water. Cruisers quietly wait for glimpses of the bats. People stroll slowly or get in one last run for the week. So, even if the sun has set, you can still enjoy time on the trail. (Some early morning fitness enthusiasts use headlamps to light their way before dawn.)
14. You might see some weirdness.
With all the recent city growth from technology sectors, some of the old and beloved weirdness of Austin has gone by the wayside. Yet, Austin is still one of those places where people feel uninhibited and don’t mind being themselves in a whole lot of unique ways. On the Ann and Roy Butler 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 dancing some funky jigs, nearly naked. So, if you’re out to capture a bit of the essence, the trail might be a great place to start.
15. Staying safe is a worthy concern.
During the day, there are plenty of people on the trail, which makes for more safety. And while staying safe around an inner city hiking trail is always a worthy concern, if you take basic precautions, you’ll be able to enjoy the beauty of this one without too much worry. Notice your surroundings. Let someone know where you’re going. Maybe share your phone’s location. And don’t be out on the trail late at night.
Have you done the hike-and-bike trail around Lady Bird Lake?
Do you have any other tips?
Please feel free to share in the comments!
Encouraging intentional adventure in the midst of the city,
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