If you’ve recently moved to Austin, you may or may have not heard of “the greenbelt”. Especially when the weather is nice and water is flowing, it seems like everyone is talking about it. I know you’ve definitely heard of Barton Springs Pool, which is right where the greenbelt ends before entering Lady Bird Lake. But if you’ve recently moved to town and you’re looking to enjoy the outdoors while the weather is just right in Austin, then you’ll need to check out the 809 acres west of Barton Springs – The Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Accessing Austin’s Crown Jewel
There are several points you can access the greenbelt depending on how long you wish to be out on the trail. When I go out there I enjoy a mix of hiking, swimming, and laying out on the creekbed. Hands down my favorite access point is right near Barton Springs Elementary School. If you plug in the address 2010 Homedale Drive, Austin, TX 78704 – it will take you right to the spot. This entrance point will drop you right at a spot on the trail where you can access the rapids, cliffs, and twin falls. The first few times I went down here, I got lost on the way back. Here’s a tip for getting down there and back – going down you’ll always make right turns to get to the creek and on the way up you’ll always make left turns to get back to your car.
The Rapids, Cliffs, and Twin Falls
By parking at the above location and walking down, the trail will take you to the rapids. On a weekend when there’s water in the greenbelt, you’ll typically find people relaxing on the creek bed, canoeing down the stream, hiking the trail, off road biking, playing the bongos, practicing yoga, and swimming. If you get down there around 9/10:00 a.m., it’s usually pretty quiet and traffic starts to pick up around 1:00 p.m.
I’ve been going to this spot for a few years now and it has taken me this long to discover there is actually a trail up to the cliffs. When you walk down to the rapids, you’ll walk to your right and walk towards the cliffs. Through the trees you’ll see a small trail that takes you up to the cliffs and caves. Be careful since rocks are loose, but this is one of the most gorgeous views of the greenbelt.
If you walk down the trail from the main entrance and go to your left for 2.5 miles, you’ll run into Twin Falls. If you’re looking for some deeper swimming holes, this is a good spot to head to. If you’re only looking to head to Twin Falls, then I recommend parking at Capital of Texas Highway/360 and MoPac. There is a business parking lot you can access from heading West on the 360 access road and turning into right before you hit MoPac. If you decide to walk to Twin Falls from the above point, just make sure you pay attention to how to get back. If you follow the trail that runs along the river, then you’ll always be ok.
The best time to access the greenbelt is after a heavy rain in the spring or the fall. If there hasn’t been much rain, then the creek beds will dry up. It’s still fun to hike and rock climb, but you won’t be able to enjoy the water activities. If you’d like to check water levels before heading out to the greenbelt, you can visit the National Weather Service website. If the levels are above 3 feet, definitely head out to the greenbelt and explore Austin’s 809 acre jewel. It’s one of our prized treasures!