When we first moved to Austin, we kept hearing people talk about “the Greenbelt.” I thought greenbelt meant any piece of land with grass that could not be built on. We heard this term while looking for a house
. “This home backs a greenbelt”, was a common thing to hear. Curious, we checked Google for “Austin Greenbelts”, and Barton Creek Greenbelt was the only search result.
After being here for about 8 months, we learned the Barton Creek Greenbelt is so famous with locals, its referred to as “the Greenbelt”. Located in south-central Austin, the Barton Creek Greenbelt contains over 809 acres of gorgeous trails, with the main trail spanning 7.9 miles. This particular greenbelt is considered one of the top hiking trails in Texas.
This area is not only for hiking. As one of the city’s most prized attractions, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is filled with mountain biking trails and beautiful limestone bluffs for rock climbing, and several swimming holes to enjoy.
Unfortunately for newcomers, figuring out the Barton Creek Greenbelt can be a little confusing. To help, here is a complete guide to all the public access points to the trails, climbs, and swimming holes.
1601 Spyglass Dr.
Tacos and hiking. Need we say more? Spyglass has been one of our favorite access points, mainly because there is a Taco Deli right at the trailhead. Grab some breakfast tacos and head either north or south on the trail.
If you head north (left) on the trail, you’ll get to Campbell’s Hole, a popular swimming spot. If you head south (right), you’ll catch the first of many climbing walls and great bouldering areas. If climbing is your thing, continue south and you’ll hit Seismic Wall. You can walk the creek bed when there’s no water in Barton Creek.
Barton Hills Access
2010 Homedale Dr.
If you want to reach Campbell’s Hole from the east side of the creek, you can find an access point at Barton Hills Elementary School. The street parking is located in a residential neighborhood, then head north to arrive at Campbell’s Hole.
Gus Fruh Access
2642 Barton Hills Dr.
Gus Fruh access point is another popular swimming hole and it can get quite deep, unlike Campbell’s Hole. You’ll also find several great limestone climbing walls, such as Urban Assault, as you head south. If you continue south for roughly 1.4 miles and you’ll arrive at the main access point for the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
The entrance point is located in a residential neighborhood, where street parking is limited. It’s an incredibly popular spot and parking is very limited on the weekends.
Loop 360 Access
3755-B Capital of Texas Hwy (Loop 360)
When you pull up to the address, it looks like a parking lot for an office building, but you will see the distinct Austin Parks and Recreation sign as you pull up–which all public access points have. You will also notice more mountain bikers since from here the terrain is a lot more fun. This is also the main access point for the popular climbing wall, the Seismic Wall.
The only con to this section of the greenbelt is the noise from the highway. So if you’re heading to the Barton Creek Greenbelt for meditation, you may want to start at a different access point.
Once on the trail, the fork to the left offers some magnificent rock structures, beautiful landscapes and tiny swimming spots along the way. The fork to the right brings you to the Seismic Wall or Maggy’s Wall, the prime locations for rock climbing.
Gaines/Twin Falls Access
3918 S. Mopac Expy
This entrance is the hardest to find. From Capital of Texas Highway, turn as if you’re heading south on Mopac. But instead of taking the on-ramp, remain on the frontage road. Just past the ramp, you’ll find the next Barton Creek Greenbelt access point. Look for parked cars on the right side of the road, and you’ll find the entrance near the U-turn.
There is no parking lot, either, so you have to park on the side of the road. Be extra careful of traffic when walking along the road as you enter the access point.
Why access the greenbelt from here if it’s so tricky? Because from here you can quickly reach another swimming hole, Twin Falls.
This access point is great for hikers, trail runners and mountain bikers, since the terrain is a little more diverse. Plus, it becomes less crowded from here to the last access point, which is about 2.8 miles west.
1710 Camp Craft Road
This is where you can find the famous Hill of Life and Sculpture Falls. Sculpture Falls, is another swimming hole. And the Hill of Life is…well…a challenge! It’s about a 1.5 mile downhill hike, or uphill depending on the direction you’re going. It’s great on a mountain bike and perfect for trail runners who want an extra challenge.
The western entry point is technically the ‘end’ of the trail, but it should come with a warning label. Its the most strenuous hike of the Greenbelt and is not for the faint of heart. The steep slope has a 300-foot change in elevation in less than half a mile. There are loose rocks, concrete ledges, and no overhanging trees for shade. If you’re not in tip-top shape, avoid this spot.
Violet Crown Trail
4970 West Highway 290
The Violet Crown Trail follows the Greenbelt trail from Barton Springs, and continues south and onto the Gaines Creek Greenbelt. The new section features a spectacular view of a cave, but you’ll have to hike 4.5 miles with some steep, rocky areas to get there. There are several creek bed crossings so make sure to pay attention to the trail.
Now that you know where you are going, here are a few things to keep in mind.
- You are in a dog-friendly city, it’s important to note that dogs are welcome on the trail. However, they must be kept them on a leash at all times.
- There are no restrooms on the trials
- There are no water fountains on the trail, so plan on bringing water.
- Dispose of trash and doggy waste at the access points.
Now, go explore!