While I don’t miss living in Austin overall, there are three things I do miss about Austin: the beer, the food, and the trails (in that order). Trails are only last because it’s not like we’re hurting for trails up in the Front Range. However, between the short days and the wind chill in the single digits, it’s hard not to long for Texas winters.
This time last year, I was hitting the Barton Creek Greenbelt at least once a week to train for Saddle Blazer. In honor of many dirty, rocky miles logged out there, I’ve decided to put together a comprehensive guide to this awesome little trail that runs through the heart of Austin.
Part 1: Barton Springs to Spyglass, Mile 0.0 – 1.25ish
The best parking to hit up Mile 0.0 is just outside of Barton Springs (2201 Barton Springs Road, Austin, TX, 78746), across the street from Zilker Park. Parking may be ample, but the best time of year to hit this trailhead is definitely November through March, and be sure to get there early. Any later than that and you’re competing with folks who want to soak in Barton Springs or hang out at Zilker Park. On a drizzly January Saturday, you can expect to have the parking lot mostly to yourself.
The first part of the Greenbelt is a mix of rocks and dirt. The terrain isn’t too technical or challenging, though there’s one pretty soft dirt climb that you can really sink into if you’re unprepared. It also tends to be pretty empty on winter weekend mornings. Later in the year, you’ll encounter more people – families, dogs, other runners – but this first stretch of the Greenbelt is wide enough that I’ve never had any issues with high traffic. This also isn’t the most scenic part of the trail, though you do pass through some nice shaded areas and get to gawk at the crazy mansions of the people who can apparently afford to live right next to the Greenbelt.
Just before you hit the Spyglass trailhead, you’ll pass the access for Campbell’s Hole on your left. Apparently, this is a popular place to swim when it’s warm, but I would only want to stop in here for a quick dip.
With its proximity to both Barton Springs and Spyglass, I imagine it gets rather crowded. Overall, if you’re looking for an escape from urban life, this isn’t the part of the Greenbelt for you. It doesn’t feel terribly remote or secluded unless you go early, and the scenery wasn’t compelling enough to make me seek this stretch out. I actually couldn’t find any photos of this section of the trail – I certainly didn’t take any, and a Google search turned out to be a bust.
However, it does have one major draw: if you’re looking to run the whole Greenbelt as an out-and-back, you don’t have to finish on a killer hill (more on that later). It also connects pretty easily to the trail around Town Lake if you wanted to link up the two systems for a longer run.