As guidelines require people to social distance and shelter-in-place, the outdoors and nature has been calling louder than ever. Austin and the surrounding hill country offer endless opportunities for family adventures. The following family-friendly destinations provide safe and fun ways for your little and big adventurers to get outside and explore all that nature has to offer, including waterfalls, rivers, swimming holes, and hiking trails.
Milton Reimers Ranch Park
23610 Hamilton Road, Dripping Springs, TX 78620 www.parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/reimers-ranch/
Travel about 30 miles west of Austin to this gem of a Travis County park. Day use fees have been waived over the last several weeks, but there is typically a cash-only entrance fee ($5 per person, children under 12 free). Dogs are allowed. You can spend hours exploring the trails and playing and swimming in the Pedernales River. The trails are wide and easy to follow up and down the river. It’s a short hike from the main parking lot down to the river, but if you want to get away from crowds, you can hike along the Lower or Upper Canyon trails. From the parking lot, if you go left on the Lower Canyon trail for about half a mile, you’ll be able to access some shallow water for playing. If you go right on the Upper Canyon Trail and turn to go down to the Lower Canyon trail for about 1.5 miles, you can find a deeper section of the river with some cliffs for jumping. There are over 13 miles of hiking and biking trails, but the Lower and Upper Canyon trail is very family-friendly with the best views. The shore along the river is a combination of rocks and sand, and kids can’t get enough of the clear, flowing water.
Crockett Gardens and Falls from Cedar Breaks Park
2100 Cedar Breaks Rd, Georgetown, TX 78633 www.tpwd.texas.gov
You can drive about 30 miles north of Austin for one of the most memorable family hikes. The trailhead at Cedar Breaks Park will lead you down to the Crockett Gardens and Falls, which is approximately 5.5. miles total, there and back. There is an entrance booth, but no fee to use the hiking trails at this park. Dogs are allowed. The trail system is part of the longer San Gabriel Goodwater Loop that snakes around the banks of Lake Georgetown. About a mile into the trail, you can hike down to cliffs overlooking the lake, take photos, and even jump in to cool off. The final destination is well worth the long, easy hike. The trails are wide and well-shaded. At about 2.5 miles, you will encounter a sign that leads you to the Crockett Gardens and Falls via a narrower, grassy trail. The falls are green and gorgeous, and the kids will love playing in them and climbing up to the top. Kids will definitely want to wear water shoes and a swimsuit for this hike.
Sculpture Falls via the Barton Creek Greenbelt/Hill of Life Trail
1710 Camp Craft Rd., Austin, TX 78746, www.austinparks.org
This adventure is right in the heart of Austin and offers boundless trails and swimming holes for exploring. You may have to tolerate more people on this trail, especially on weekends, but there is plenty of amazing space to share. The trail is free, and dogs are allowed. There are multiple access points for the Barton Creek Greenbelt, but a favorite for an active family is the Hill of Life trail. This entrance has a challenging and somewhat steep descent on the way down and ascent on the way back, but it’s well worth it and is an excellent way to exhaust your little adventurers. Kids will want to play in the water along the trail, but the real reward is the oasis you can find at Sculpture Falls, about 1.5 miles into the hike. This can be a popular spot, but if you go at the right time, early on a weekday, it can be very enjoyable. This out-and-back hike can take hours if you allow your hikers to stop and explore at multiple points. Be prepared with lots of snacks, water, and sunscreen.
Kelly Gin is a mom based in Austin, TX. Follow her family adventures on Instagram at @hillcountryadventurekids.