Forest Ridge is a beautiful trail in Northwest Austin. Because it is a preserve, the park is only open for limited portions of the year. Stay on the trail while visiting to not disturb the endangered Golden Cheek Warbler!
The Forest Ridge trail running loop you can see on the map below from our Austin group trail run is just over 7 miles. It nearly all single track with some technical and rocky trail climbs. This Austin trail offers some scenic overlooks of the hill country area just off of the Loop 360 highway. While you can take certain cut-off trails to shorten this loop if need be, this is a challenging trail.
We do have one road crossing just 1/2 mile before you hit the St Ed's Park entrance on the far northwest side of the route. Just exit the fence and head straight across the road to connect the trail. We stop our route at the entrance to St Edward's park where we turn back. There will be a green gate with a sign that says you are entering St Edward's park. We will include St. Edward's info on a separate blog. Also check back soon for a blog on connecting Bull Creek, Forest Ridge, and St Ed's park for a 15 mi trail loop!
Please reach out to us anytime you are visiting, and are looking for a great Austin trail running group to explore local trails. We love having guest trail runners!
Facilities: Restrooms and camping not available. Day park only
Best time to visit: Summer and Fall
Park Closures: Park Closes March 1st - July 31st and you must take a preservation class to gain a permit to access the preserve.
Pet Policy: No Dogs Allowed
Parking: Small Parking lot on site (see below)
1 loop max distance : 7.5 mi
Difficulty: Intermediate +
Why is this trail great for beginners?
#1 This trail is system is well marked and well traveled. You will be hard pressed to get lost, and you will likely run into others on the trail no matter what time of day you run. Still concerned? Stick to the Homestead Loop!
#2 The trails are not technical. When we say this we mean they are flat (for the most part), only a few sections are rocky or rooted, and there aren't a ton of twists and turns every 50 meters.
#3 The map is easy to follow and there are a few short sections like the Flint Rock Trail you can try out without having to commit to the entire 5.5 mile loop
This trail system is in the heart of Lakeway, Texas just on the outskirts of Austin. If you are looking for technical single track and lots of climbing then you have found your trail. We have only explored this running trail once, but by connecting the Canyonlands and Lakeway trails, you have over 10 miles of trail and plenty of vertical. There are quite a bit of intersecting trails and jeep trail / service road crossings so use landmarks to help you find your way back. It is easy to get turned around here. There is a big blue water tower next to the starting parking lot that you can use for a reference point during your run. We would get to high points and see the water tower and it helped to keep to see our starting point from afar. This is also helpful to find your way back if you get lost.
This Austin trail is located in Southwest Austin passed the Y at OakHill. It is completely marked and has mile markers leaving it easy to follow on your own. There is little elevation change. Make sure to bring water during hotter months, because there is no running water and the trail is not very shaded.
Additional Info: Parking is pretty limited, so our trail running group usually parks at the Gorzycki Middle School to avoid taking all the spots. The run is about 1 mile from the middle school to trail mostly on a dirt trail alongside the road. The trail is very runnable with a nice dirt trail. It is less rocky than Barton Creek Greenbelt and other trails around Austin. I would compare the trail terrain closer to Walnut Creek Park, but less turns and climbs. It has more of a country feel and that is partly because you are pretty close to Driftwood, TX.
Address: 9901 Farm-to-Market 1826, Austin, TX 78737
Distance: 5k and 5 mi routes
Terrain: Dirt and crushed limestone
Parking: Limited to about 10 spots (other places to park are at the nearby middle school)
Slaughter Creek Trail FB Page: Use to see if trail is closed do to wet conditions
We call this trail Joel's Loop, because this is Joel's (one of our longest withstanding trail group members) favorite route on the Barton Creek Greenbelt. This Austin trail offers about 650 ft of vertical gain. The Trail Roots running group ran this route a few weeks ago, and even with all the recent rains the majority of it is dry! There are plenty of creek crossings to dip in and soak to cool off though. This route is not super hilly, but the short and steep up and downs do wear on you. It is not a fast route and some parts are windy switch backs through the cedar trees. Some of the best views are overlooking "The Dam" and "Hill of Life" offered about half way through this route. Use the GPS file below (provided by Joel) to upload if you want to follow exactly.
Address: Moonshadow Access at 7am. 3906 Travis Country Cir (neighborhood access/not a public trailhead)
Parking: Street parking available
Distance: 6.4 mile loop
Facilities: No bathrooms
Additional Info: To get to the trail you must use the groomed crushed granite 200 meter trail that heads east from Travis Country Cir. This dead ends into the Greenbelt access (on "Power line" ) where you will start on the single track. This is called Power line because you will see the tall power lines above and the head straight across the greenbelt from East to West. You can take Power Line trail straight down 1.25 mile to the creek.
Riverplace trail is a point to point trail in west Austin off 2222 and Riverplace Blvd. With 1,000 ft of vertical gain in 3 miles Central Texas trail runners use this route to practice their hill running! While this is not a rocky terrain, the elevation gain will challenge beginner to experienced trail runners. As an out and back you can get 6 miles. If you extend into the Panther trail you can get a little more mileage. The Panther Trail has some great swimming holes to soak in during or after a hot run.
Address: 8820 Big View Dr across from Woodland Park at River Place
Parking: Street parking available
Distance: 5-6 mile out and back or 5 mile loop using Riverplace Blvd
Facilities: No bathrooms, chairs and charcoal grill at bottom of hill
This West Austin trail is located right on the Colorado River! While the trail system is only near 4 miles long it is well worth it! What is unique about this trail system is the diversity of terrain. While the trails close to the river are flatter and mostly dirt and lined with Pecan trees, the trails further inland are rockier and more technical and include some elevation change.
I lived on off Cuernavaca back in 2009 for a year and would use these trails every week for my marathon training workouts. There is a 1 mile loop that is beginner friendly and offers a slight incline on the Southern side of the park. This loop is great for interval or fartlek workouts. This park has little traffic weekday mornings. Mostly you will see neighborhood folk walking their pups.
Parking is limited. If you come on a Saturday mid morning you might be out of luck. You can park on the road outside of the park if you have no other options. Inside the park there are spots for about 10-15 cars. There is a bathroom/outhouse on the trail close to the lake, but it is not very visible. Visit the Austin Parks website for more info!
Across the road is where you start running more inland. This trail is all single track and runs along a spring. At the top you arrive at a beautiful soaking hole. During dry summers this is barely running, but it still will hold enough water to sit. After the run take a dip in Lake Austin (The Colorado River). There is a sandy shore that is knee deep and perfect for an ice bath or cool down soak.
McKinney Roughs is a great option just outside of Austin. The trails are different from much of the hill country trails with taller pine trees and more granite instead of limestone. Because this trail is made for horses, it is wide and less technical. This is great for those looking for a beginner friendly course. It is well marked as well, so with this above map you should be set to run on your own. This is not a great trail to run after recent rains. The Riverside trail turns especially muddy and is not fun. There is a small entrance day fee. You can start at either the Pope Bend Trail Head or at the Headquarters. By combining most of these trails you can get 15+ miles of trail.
This is a fun and challenging 10k trail loop. The trail is mostly single track with a few wider sections. It is pretty challenging and technical. There are lots of ledges and sharp drops and climbs. There are no long climbs, but the repetitive up and downs wear you down after a loop or two. The trail is marked with signs on trees that say "main loop" which can be easy identified. This is the 5.5 mile loop. To get the rest of the 10k loop you have to cross the parking lot and add on the 1/2 + mile of trail that starts just on the south side of the bathroom.
Best breakfast option post run: Ski Shores located on Lake Austin! Great for post run tacos and beer! Located 5 minutes from the trailhead. Ski Shores is closed for the winter months.
***Note- This park is a motocross course and closed to hikers and runners unless otherwise specified. Most dirt bikes and mountain bikers don't get out to the course until about 9 am though, so if you are off the trail by 8:30 or 9 you typically don't see many people.
Deception starts from a few different access points. The one I like to use is the Brushy Creek Sports Park parking lot. You jump on the Brushy Creek Regional trail to warm up a few minutes and head west for less than 1/2 mile. There will be an unmarked single track trail on the South side of the trail that heads up into an open field. There is where you will find the start of Deception. Take your 2nd right hand turn after you cross the fence line.
This trail has plenty of twists and turns and rolling hills. There are a few steep climbs but nothing too long. The trail is fairly easy to follow and not too technical. Deception is an out and back trail, but has a few access points along the trail where you can drop off extra water if need be. There are ways to connect the end of the trail back to Brushy Creek as well, but that takes some personal exploration on your end! Start early around sunrise to avoid mountain bikers. Check it out in March/April to see Bluebonnets!