Lady Bird Lake – Downtown Austin Texas Hike and Bike Trail

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Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in downtown Austin Texas is the perfect inner-city getaway! A beautiful escape to nature without leaving the city – I often make a pit-stop for a quick walk by the water when I’m in-between client appointments. It’s the perfect place to get a little exercise and unwind. For any solo traveler this is a great place to go for walks, bicycle riding, kayaking or canoeing around Lady Bird Lake.


Hiking around Lady Bird Lake - railroad bridge and downtown skyline of Austin Texas

Railroad bridge and view of downtown Austin skyline


Lady Bird Lake (formerly known as Town Lake) is an Austin favorite for cycling, running, canoeing, kayaking, walking the dog, taking the kids out for some nature loving, bird watching, and just getting out to enjoy some fresh air and the beauty of nature. And it’s one of the best free things to do in Austin!


Joggers on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in downtown Austin Texas

Joggers on the Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail


Canoeing on Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Springtime Canoeing on Lady Bird Lake


The Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail was planned and envisioned by community leaders including Lady Bird Johnson, with the intention of beautifying the shoreline of Austin’s inner-city lake. Originally name Town Lake the name was changed to Lady Bird Lake in 2007 in honor of the former First Lady of the United States and resident of Austin Texas.

Wildflowers bloom along the shoreline of Lady Bird Lake and springtime is welcomed by the vibrant blooms of the red bud trees and the fragrant wisteria blooms.


Wildflowers along Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Wildflowers along Lady Bird Lake


Wisteria bloom in the spring along Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Wisteria bloom in the springtime along Lady Bird Lake


Wildflowers blooming along the Hike and Bike Trail at Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Wildflowers blooming along the Hike and Bike Trail


The lake was created in 1960 due to the construction of the Longhorn Dam which is owned and operated by the City of Austin and the Lower Colorado River Authority. The dam was constructed to create a reservoir for flood control, as well as a cooling pond for the Holly Street Power Plant, with the added bonus of creating an outstanding recreational area.


Map of Longhorn Dam area of Lady Bird Lake - originally named Town Lake

Map of Longhorn Dam area of Lady Bird Lake – originally named Town Lake


Lamar Bridge over Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Lamar Bridge over Lady Bird Lake


Turtles are abundant along the trail – sunning themselves on logs – if frightened they all dive into the water.

The largest urban bat colony summers at the Congress Avenue Bridge overlooking Lady Bird Lake. From March to August people line the bridge and shoreline to view the bats descending from the bridge at dusk. Approximately 1.5 million Mexican Free tailed bats – that’s more bats than people living in Austin! I even took my mom to see them – they’re quite an amazing sight.


Seven turtles sunning on a log at Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Seven turtles enjoying some midday sun on a log at Lady Bird Lake


Lady Bird Lake is a haven for all sorts of birds including the Great Blue Heron, Yellow-Crowned Night Heron, Green-Backed Heron, American Coot, Mourning Dove, Ruby-Crowned Kinglet, Egrets, Mallard Duck, Wood Duck, Tufted Titmouse, Cliff Swallow, Bufflehead, Red-Bellied Woodpecker, Double-Crested Cormorant, Monk Parakeet, Carolina Chickadee, Carolina Wren, Red-Winged Blackbird, Belted Kingfisher, and the Pied-Billed Grebe.


View of Lady Bird Lake - near Toomey Road

Lady Bird Lake – near Toomey Road in downtown Austin Texas


Canoeing with the view of downtown Austin Texas skyline

View of downtown Austin skyline


Canoeing at dusk along Lady Bird Lake in downtown Austin Texas

Springtime canoeing at dusk along Lady Bird Lake


Improvements are currently underway to complete the Riverside Boardwalk that extends to Lakeshore Park east of Interstate Hwy I-35 with completion expected in mid 2014.

With over 10 miles of trails Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail in downtown Austin is my favorite inner-city escape to nature. Mayfield Park takes a close second, with peacocks roaming free on the grounds of the park.

Do you have a favorite inner-city escape or nature trail?

Want to learn more about Austin Texas? Read these related posts about ATX now:

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About the Author

Susan Moore spent 7 months traveling solo around Southeast Asia back in the 90's. Returning to Canada she found a job working on rotation in Siberia Russia. She later moved to Austin Texas where she started a bookkeeping business, allowing her to work remotely. Currently Susan is in year 5 of a solo road trip around the USA and Canada, living a nomadic life, and writing about her experiences with a focus on hiking and cultural encounters. Read all about Susan » You can reach Susan Moore at Facebook or Twitter or Instagram

18 Replies

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  1. Reader Wil says:

    Your enthusiasme is absolutely catching. I should like to go and see the turtles myself!
    Have a great week.

  2. I have a friend in Austin. yet another reason to visit!

    • What are you waiting for?! Haven’t you had enough of winter? Besides beautiful spring weather we have all sorts of great live music down here – you would find some great inspiration for your blog Roger.

  3. Hildred says:

    Wonderful touch with nature and recreation to have in the centre of a city – I would stop often too!

  4. Gattina says:

    Very beautiful area !

  5. Love the photo with the turtles basking! :D

    Seems like a really nice park to go on a walk, …and canoeing! (I’ve never been but something about it feels so calm and relaxing)

    • I used to go canoeing around Banff and Lake Louise when I lived in Calgary but I haven’t been since I moved. It is relaxing but it can also be a good workout for the arms with all that paddling!

  6. What a beautiful place. I would love to visit and see the bats too.

    • The bats are fun to watch, there are so many they look like dark clouds roaming through the sky. They eat up lots of mosquitoes for us too! There have been several bat colonies nearly killed off by a fungus in the past year. So far the Austin bat colony seems to be doing fine though.

  7. Margy says:

    It’s so good when large cities (and even small towns) plan for natural places within their boundaries. It’s so important to get away from the hectic place and have the quiet to reflect and relax. – Margy

    • It improves quality of life a great deal – I always feel relaxed & recharged after a hike around the lake or sitting in a park to just observe and enjoy nature. It’s cheap therapy :)

  8. Joy says:

    Looks the perfect place to recharge the batteries, what an amazing escape for the city dweller. I imagine there are lots of the winged variety of ladybirds too although I think you call them ladybugs.

  9. Diane Westwell says:

    What a perfect oasis in the centre of a bustling city, beautiful photography too.
    Lady bird Johnson was quite a charismatic character and such a fitting tribute to her.
    I live in a leafy suburb in a large city, there are lots of parks, gardens and woodland around, which are welcome retreat from city life, but nothing quite as spectacular as that.

    Best wishes,
    Di. from Liverpool UK,

    • Thanks Di, we are lucky to have such a great park in the city center. I bet you have some gorgeous parks in Liverpool – and without the intense heat like we have during Texas summers. Thanks for stopping by!

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