The weather in Austin is about as consistent as the workout schedule you planned when you started counting down the days to spring, and we all spent winter hidden inside our dorms and apartments, avoiding layering on puffy Patagonias and the biting breeze of winter winds.
Story and Photos by Danielle Smith
Despite the extended winter weather, this is the heart of Texas, and the sun always comes out eventually. When it does, residents of this city should prepare to take full advantage of all of the outdoor adventure that Austin has to offer. This list does not intend to limit options, but instead makes suggestions on some great places personally experienced by ORANGE staff members.
This hippy haven, located off of Highway 71, is a little far from the heart of the city, which makes it a great one-day-getaway. UT student Sydney Gawlick describes Hamilton Pool as “just an enchanting work of nature.” “It seems like it should be hidden away in some vacation spot or tourist-ridden island,” she adds.
The 232 acres of preserved nature serve as an oasis for swimming, hiking and simply hanging out. The park is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily and costs 15 dollars per car for a daily pass. During the summer, people flock to this oasis, and a waiting line forms due to the maximum capacity allowed by the park. Waits can be up to an hour and a half, so pack a picnic and head out early for the full experience. Tours are given every Saturday at 10 a.m. for the first 30 guests interested. Covered by the entrance free, this tour is led by a member of the park staff, and he/she takes the group on a mile-long hike, while informing them about the history and purpose of the preserve. Whether you’re interested in learning more about the park or just want to enjoy the refreshing water and scenery, Hamilton Pool is a place where “the water is fresh, the air seems fresher, and you just kind of feel renewed,” Gawlick says.
If you’re looking for adventure but don’t quite have a whole day to spend, Mount Bonnell can serve as a fun, fresh-air-filled break in a busy day. Austin native Elizabeth Morrow says Mount Bonnell is one of her favorite places in Austin. "It shows downtown, one our beautiful rivers, and the hill country all in one overlook. I usually go to sit with friends and talk and take pictures and just relax," she explains.
Mount Bonnell also serves as a common date spot where couples can bring a bottle of their favorite beverage and enjoy the romantic setting the lake view provides. Several little nooks provide secret spots for couples to cozy up and enjoy watching the sunset on the water for a pleasant Austin evening. “It isn't confined at all, so lots of people can be there, but it still feels very private,” Morrow assures ORANGE.
The rocky staircase that leads up to the overlook on Mount Bonnell has its pros and cons. If you’re looking for a hardcore hike, there might be a better spot, given that there is less than a mile of trails, and the jagged rocks and drop-offs can require an amount of caution. But if you’re in need of a convenient and low-cardio way to gaze out over the city or into that special someone’s eyes, give Mount Bonnell a try.
Over 800 acres of natural landscape stretch from Zilker Park to the Lost Creek neighborhood area to make up Austin’s Greenbelt. This expanse of possible adventure is broken into three parts, known as the Barton Creek Wilderness Park, the Upper Greenbelt and the Lower Greenbelt. This is a great spot for hiking, biking, swimming and rock climbing, although it’s important to know that hikers and bikers share the same trails; it's important to be aware and alert. Natural swimming spots tend to dry up in the summer with the low amounts of rain Texas receives, but, in early spring, the natural pools create cool spots to soak in the sun. There are not water fountains available, so be sure to pack your own water and snacks depending on how long you want to spend there.
Also, the Greenbelt is a place where people looking for all different levels of physical activity can go and enjoy themselves. Whether you’re a hardcore hiker, a casual biker or just packing a picnic, UT freshman BJ Crowell says the scenery and serenity of the Greenbelt provide a great venue. “It’s the kind of place where I just look around and think how glad I am that I get to live here in Austin,” Crowell adds.
If Austin's outdoorsy experience is the kind of adventure you are looking for, grab some friends and head out to one of these three special spots. Spring has sprung, and it’s the perfect time to push the pile of papers on your desk aside and cross something off of your bucket list.
Write in the comments section to let ORANGE know about other awesome outdoor adventure spots you and your friends find. Happy Hiking!