Lady Bird Lake is One of the Best Fall Hikes

Lady Bird Lake is a body of water in Austin, Texas, which is used by residents and visitors throughout the year. The Colorado River feeds this body of water, formerly known as Town Lake. Swimming is no longer allowed in Lady Bird Lake, but there are many other reasons to visit.

You will not find Lady Bird Lake on any list of the best places to hike in the fall. However, the spectacular fall colors are impossible to miss in November. Those who say the leaves don’t change colors in Texas, have never been anywhere near Austin. Lost Maples State Natural Area is good. Austin, may be better!

A view of downtown from Lady Bird Lake.
Lady Bird Lake in Austin, TX

Several parks are along this lake which gets its name from the former First Lady. We noticed more than a few stunning views on the lake during our visit in the fall. There is a ton of room to walk, run, or bike near the water. Furthermore, there are views of Texas Hill Country, and the position is very close to downtown Austin.

Who says Lost Maples is the best place to hike in the fall?

How to Get to Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas

Address: 2207 Lou Neff Rd, Austin, TX 78746 (Zilker Park)

Fees: none, but some areas are pay-to-park

The address above will take you to Zilker Park, where you can find free parking near the lake. From there you can easily access Barton Creek, or walk across the pedestrian bridge to downtown. However, there are many options for parking around the lake.

Things to Do at Lady Bird Lake

  • Walk your dog
  • 10-mile hike-and-bike trail
  • Fishing
  • Paddling
  • Disc golf
  • Dog park
  • Splash pad
  • Spring-fed pool
  • Bat Observation Center
  • Botanical Gardens

Lady Bird Lake has more than enough amenities to keep you occupied the entire day. During the afternoon most people take advantage of the hike-and-bike trail, or watch their kids play sports. The lake maintained a stunning appearance as the sun set. If it’s warm, you will notice hundreds of people paddling on the lake.

The hike and bike trail during sunset.
Hike and Bike Trail

The 10-Mile Hike-and-Bike Trail

A 10-mile hike-and-bike trail flanks the Colorado River on both sides. Several bridges cross the river at various points along this dog friendly trail, making it possible to complete a full loop. You will find at least 10 different parks around the lake, including one dedicated to the dogs of Austin.

Downtown Austin provides a nice backdrop from various positions along the lake. The colorful leaves of fall made the views even better. As we hiked around the lake we noticed far more dogs than children. Would you expect any less from one of the most dog friendly cities in the nation?

Lady Bird Lake in the fall.
Lady Bird Lake

Paddling Trail

We did not notice too many people out on the water during our fall visit, but the lake is a popular spot for paddling and rowing. In fact, there are three loops which provide more than 10 miles of paddling. Tom Miller Dam Loop, Barton Springs Loop, and Festival Beach Loop are the three recognizable paddling trails. You can bring your own boat and paddle for free, or you can rent one from a nearby facility.

Lady Bird Lake Paddling Trail Map

Swimming in Lady Bird Lake

Swimming is not allowed at Lady Bird Lake because of past incidents. Furthermore, potentially harmful materials may be within the lake and cannot be seen from the surface. The police do patrol the lake by boat. If you would like to swim, use the Barton Springs Pool instead.

One bridge across Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.

Fishing at Lady Bird Lake

Fishing is another popular activity at the lake. We noticed a few people fishing from boats. Bass and carp are two common types of fish you might catch at the lake. Outboard motors are not allowed on the lake, and there are fishing regulations on the lake.

The Bat Emergence

Head to the Congress Avenue Bridge and you may notice the largest urban bat emergence in the country. Millions of Mexican free-tailed bats fill the sky prior to sundown when it is not raining. However, there may be times whey they emerge after dark.

A bat emergence is a spectacular sight like nothing you have seen before. The daily event is free and takes place as late as November during the year. It may take all of the bats up to one hour to emerge from the Congress Avenue Bridge.

The Colorado River at McKinney Roughs Nature Park.
The Colorado River

Hiking Trails Near Lady Bird Lake

There are a host of other parks near the lake, including Texas State Parks and Lower Colorado River Authority Parks. Each of those parks will charge an entry fee. Prior to hiking around Lady Bird Lake, we hiked eight miles at McKinney Roughs Nature Park, which is a short drive east of Austin.

Here is a short list of parks in the area with dog friendly hiking trails:

  • Barton Creek Wilderness Park
  • Barton Creek Habitat Preserve
  • McKinney Falls State Park
  • McKinney Roughs Nature Park

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.

We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.

Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.


David Earley


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