AAA Travel Tips / Austin Off the Beaten Path

Austin Off the Beaten Path Benedek
By AAA Travel Editor Laurie Sterbens
October 07, 2021
While there is no shortage of fun things to do in Austin if you're the outdoorsy type, why limit yourself to the city when the beautiful Hill Country is just minutes away? Escape for an afternoon or a weekend to the hills just west of the city, where you can explore miles of hiking trails leading to striking river views, hidden waterfalls, swimming holes and caves. Benedek

Hamilton Pool Preserve

24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
(512) 264-2740
Hamilton Pool Preserve is a must-see jewel in the Hill Country, with a 50-foot waterfall that tumbles over a limestone outcropping into a natural swimming pool surrounded by a grotto. From October to April, sign up for a Saturday guided tour where you'll learn about the natural history of the preserve during a somewhat rugged mile-long hike. Hiking, swimming and picnic tables are available year-round, but you'll need to call ahead for reservations to enter the park from April to October, when access and hours are strictly limited.
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AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Milton Reimers Ranch Park

23610 Hamilton Pool Rd.
(512) 264-1923
Just a mile from Hamilton Pool Preserve is Milton Reimers Ranch Park, a 2,427-acre preserve that includes 3 miles of Pedernales River shoreline. With 18 miles of trails through the hilly central Texas landscape, it's a popular destination for mountain bikers. Rock climbers flock to the park's deep canyons, while anglers aim to catch white bass in the Pedernales River. You can hike down to the river where you'll find a beach and grotto, but even a short stroll from the parking lot takes you to a perfect spot to snap selfies overlooking the river. A two-hour guided tour is available on Saturdays, October through April.
flickr/Marcus Calderon

Pace Bend Park

2011 N. Pace Bend Rd.
(512) 854-7275
Pace Bend Park occupies more than 1,300 acres of a peninsula surrounded by Lake Travis, offering more than 9 miles of shoreline with spectacular views, especially along the limestone cliffs and coves on the west side. Miles of multiuse trails wind through the park, offering a variety of routes for hikers, bikers and horseback riders. Be on the lookout for deer, fox, ringtail cats and whitetail deer along these trails.
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flickr / CC BY ND/SEWinds

Pedernales Falls State Park

2585 Park Road 6026
(830) 868-7304
Whether you prefer a short, scenic stroll or a challenging 6-mile hike, this park on the Pedernales River has you covered with nearly 20 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails. Depending on which route you choose, you'll be rewarded with scenic overlooks and features including the Duck Pond and the crystal-clear Jones Spring. After your hike, relax alongside the beautiful falls or take a dip in one of the swimming areas downstream.
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AAA/Laurie Sterbens

Westcave Preserve

24814 Hamilton Pool Rd.
(830) 825-3442
A 40-foot waterfall splashes into a clear pool at Westcave, among the highlights of the nature preserve surrounding the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center. The cave and waterfall are only accessible to the public through a weekend-only guided tour, a two-hour trek past grassy plains, through a limestone crevice and into a canyon filled with plant life. If you're visiting during the week, enjoy the Uplands trails. Leading through live oaks and ashe juniper savanna, they offer seasonally changing views of grasslands, wildflowers and wildlife. Into bird watching? Look for the Murphy bird blind, where you can add your sightings to the logbook.