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Take a hike. No, really. 10 of Austin's best hiking trails to take in the beauty of the Hill Country.

11/23/2010 - Jay Janner/AMERICAN-STATESMAN -  Ryan Littlepage and his girlfriend Megan Moore, stroll on the Hike & Bike Trail along Barton Creek on Tuesday Nov. 23, 2010.  The two live in Washington, DC, and they are in Austin visiting family for Thanksgiving this week.

If the only walks you take in Austin are to score margaritas at happy hour, you’re missing out. Austin is a city known for its outdoor spaces and swaths of green, but there’s so much to explore it can be hard to know where to start — and easy to return over and again to the places we know and love. For anyone looking to dig a little deeper into the city’s natural beauty, here are 10 hikes you’ll want to put on your list.

Mayfield Nature Preserve

If you decide to hike Mayfield Nature Preserve, you won’t be alone. About two dozen peacocks roam the premises, sometimes perching atop rooftops and trees. They’re the main attraction at this West Austin park, which also features lily ponds filled with turtles, breathtaking gardens and a historic cottage. All this makes Mayfield a popular wedding destination, but you can swap out the white dress for shorts and walk down the park’s main trail, which only takes about 30 minutes and leads you to a dock with a dazzling view of Lake Austin.

Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake

Lady Bird Lake may be best known for the kayakers and paddle boarders that flock its gleaming water every summer, but it’s also an ideal spot for those who want to get their exercise in on land. The Ann and Roy Butler Trail traces the perimeter of the lake, and anyone who hikes it will get to glimpse the best that Austin has to offer: lush greenery, serene water, recreational parks and the downtown skyline. The whole loop is 10 miles, but bridges that span across the lake make a shorter hike easily customizable.

A wooden bridge crosses a swampy area along the Kirby Nature Trail in the Turkey Creek unit of the Big Thicket National Preserve. Credit: Pam LeBlanc/AMERICAN-STATESMAN

Turkey Creek Trail

You won’t find wild turkeys roaming this trail, but you will find dogs — Turkey Creek Trail is the only off-leash zone in Emma Long Metropolitan Park. Approximately 3 miles long, this secluded and tree-shaded trail zig-zags over Turkey Creek. It makes for a flat, not too challenging hike, but be wary of slippery rocks. You may want to bring waterproof shoes, especially if it’s rained recently.

Mount Bonnell on Friday July 12, 2019.  [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Mount Bonnell

Also known as Covert Park, this summit is a tried and true spot for those looking for a chill hike that yields high rewards. Though Mount Bonnell’s peak is 775 feet high, a brief walk up 102 steps will get you to the limestone stoop, where one of the best views in Austin awaits. Mount Bonnell has been attracting tourists since the 1850s, and it’s become a local tradition to venture to the top with a picnic basket and date. Even sans-boo, a sunset view from Bonnell is bound to make anyone feel romantic.

Barton Creek Greenbelt

A trail so beloved it’s simply known by one name, the Greenbelt is an essential hiking spot for the outdoor enthusiast. Traveling through South Austin, the Greenbelt offers 12 miles of trail to roam, but there’s plenty of entry spots, so you can tackle as much or as little terrain as you’d like. It’s also the perfect spot for all the biathletes and triathletes out there — the area is chock full of swimming holes like Campbell’s Hole and Sculpture Falls, is often frequented by mountain bikers, and features the Urban Assault, a limestone wall frequented by climbers.

Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve

Get in your hike with a side of education at the Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve, managed by Travis County and St. Edward’s University. The preserve is the site of much of St. Edward’s field research, but is open to the public for hiking and learning. At the welcome center, you can get primed on the flora and fauna contained within the park — including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, which you might spot if you’re lucky. Located off of Loop 360 and featuring a 2.5 mile stroll, this is one of Austin’s most accessible and scenic trails.

Southern Walnut Creek Trail

If you’re looking to get your head in nature without getting your feet too dirty, take a walk on Southern Walnut Creek Trail. Longer than 7 miles, this trail consists of wide concrete paths that are perfect for those with bikes, strollers, or subpar hiking shoes. Though the pavement feels urban, foliage and trees surround the winding path, making it feel like an escape from the city. Make sure to bring your phone — the trail features various overlooks with Instagram-able views.

Fall foliage at McKinney Falls State Park on Wednesday November 11, 2020.  [JAY JANNER/AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

McKinney Falls State Park

Austin only has one state park within its city limits, but it’s a good one. For those looking to get a respite from Austin’s urban landscape, McKinney Falls State Park awaits with almost nine miles of trails. History buffs will enjoy the 3 mile Homestead Trail, which winds by namesake Thomas McKinney’s old gristmill and house, and the shorter Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail has a sturdy surface for anyone looking for an easier stroll. The park has plenty of campsites for anyone looking to make a weekend out of exploring all the trails.

St. Edward’s Park

For those looking to avoid the crowds, St. Edward’s Park is a hidden gem tucked away in Northwest Austin. Surrounding Bull Creek, you’ll find waterfalls and cacti patches in this scenic park. St. Edward’s contains tons of trails, with something for every type of hiker. The popular Creek Trail is a shady stroll through lush greenery, and for those seeking a challenge, Hill Trail offers a steep climb up limestone cliffs, rewarding those who take it on with gorgeous views of the creek and the city.

Bloomed sunflowers along the Slaughter Creek trail in Austin on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. [LOLA GOMEZ / AMERICAN-STATESMAN]

Slaughter Creek Trail

Most hikes in Austin are dog-friendly, but few are suitable for your pet horse. Enter Slaughter Creek Trail, a 5 mile loop in South Austin that’s perfect for hikers, mountain bikers, and yes, horse riders. The trail snakes its way through wildflower fields, which come to life in the spring. It’s well marked, making it suitable for hikers of all experience levels. Just make sure to pack the sunscreen and sunglasses — this trail doesn’t get a ton of shade.