• Samantha Linnett

Hiking Trails, Wildflowers, & Paint Parks - Austin's Outdoor Spaces

Updated: Jun 17, 2018

As I mentioned in my original reflections on Austin, the city has an amazing park system filled with hiking and biking trails, dog parks, natural springs, wildlife preserves, and many other unique spaces. They've prioritized the outdoors, with 300 parks, 18,714 acres of green space, and 227 miles of hiking and biking trails. While the majority of my time at SXSW was spent in the hub of Downtown, I made sure to take a few breaks to explore their urban outdoors.

The Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail

This awesome hiking and biking trail runs 10 miles through the City, starting in the Southwestern quadrant and winding its way up along the Colorado River. On my Sunday morning in Austin I walked 3 miles of the trail, picking it up by the Barton Springs Municipal Pool and walking into Downtown, finally exiting the trail at the Congress Avenue Bridge.

It was such a beautiful way to start the morning, weaving through this unique blend of greenery and city. You felt so close the peaceful outdoors, yet were always reminded by views of skyscrapers through the trees or the massive pieces of bridge infrastructure you occasionally walked under that you were in the middle of a great city. The contrast was stark yet calming; a momentary escape from the bustle of the city without ever leaving it. The trail was filled with people, most of them biking or running and a few walking their dogs. My favorite part of the trail was a section that went through an off-leash dog park. It was so busy with furry, four-legged friends running around, chasing balls and sticks and jumping into the river, with a few eager enough to run up and say hello to everyone that passed.

Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center

Wednesday morning I spent about an hour and a half exploring the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is The University of Texas at Austin’s botanic garden "dedicated to inspiring the conservation of native plants in natural and designed landscapes." The Center was founded by Lady Bird Johnson and Helen Hayes in 1982.

Although I was there in early March, some of the wildflowers had already started to bloom. The pops of color throughout the facility were beautiful and super fun to photograph, as well as a nice peak of Spring weather that was nonexistent at home in Syracuse. The staff were incredibly friendly and happy to point out the most interesting things in the Center - which flowers were in best bloom, as well as their nesting owl resident (seen in last picture). For a Wednesday morning, the Center had a lot more activity than I would have anticipated with an elementary class visiting for a field trip and several families with toddlers running around.

Hope Outdoor Gallery

I visited Hope Outdoor Gallery on Wednesday afternoon for a special event they were having in conjunction with SXSW to repaint the walls of the space. An outdoor graffiti park, this was easily the most unique space I visited and was probably my favorite. The paintings and artists made for amazing photographs, as did the skyline view of the city from the top.

Soon, however, it will no longer exist in its current form.

The park is an educational project that began in March 2011 and is managed by the non-profit HOPE Events. The gallery "is the only paint park of its kind in the USA and was developed to provide muralists, street artists, arts education classes and community groups the opportunity to display large scale art pieces driven by inspirational, positive & educational messaging." The current location of the park will be torn down in June while the project moves and expands to a new, larger location at Carson Creek Ranch. The new location, "located at 9507 Sherman Rd., will allow for growing crowds by including more wall space, a parking lot and art classes for children and adults."

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