It's no secret that the best place to run in Austin is the Lady Bird Lake Nature Trail. The nature trail has numerous loop routes that range from 3-10 miles, countless entry points and amenities like restrooms and water fountains along the entire trail. It's the perfect place to get a good run in Austin.
This is easily one of my favorite places to run in our beautiful city. There is a 5k route starting at the Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge which is my go to route when I'm looking to get in a 5k.
View from the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge. The rough halfway point of the 5k.
Parking and Starting
There is an abundance of parking near Austin High School along Stephen F. Austin Dr., but the best place to park (in my opinion) is underneath the bridge on the other side of the tennis courts. I like this spot because it's completely free on the weekends and you have to pass restrooms that have hand washing sinks before even getting to the trail. Plus, there is always a TON of spots in the shade, which comes in clutch when dealing with the Texas heat. This is usually where I park on the weekends.
A Local's Tip: Drive a little further and you'll find a gravel lot across from Veteran's Park underneath the Mopac bridge. This lot is completely free all the time.
The starting point is just across the street at the Roberta Crenshaw Pedestrian Bridge that runs underneath Mopac.
If you walk down the gravel trail to the right of the bridge a little ways there are several water fountains for humans and dogs. This comes in handy when you're finishing the run, especially if you have your dog with you.
There is a large open space in front of the bridge where you'll see runners warming up or cooling down from their run. A big reason that I like this spot so much is because the starting/ending point is so easy to get to and very convenient with the water fountains and restrooms. This makes it a great spot to meet up with friends.
Start out by running straight across the bridge then take an immediate left once you cross over. You'll find yourself on a gravel trail with the lake on your left and the famous Zilker Park on your right. When I took these photos the Austin City Limits crew was setting up the fences for the festival, which at the time was about two weeks away. It was a little crowded when running by the workers/machinery and the fencing obscures some of the views, but this entire route is usually really beautiful and open.
I like starting the 5k loop this way because there are some hills and stairs that you'll hit on the first half of the run, saving the flat part of the run for the homestretch. But if you're looking for a challenge head out in the opposite direction and save the hills for the end of the loop!
One of the best things about this route is that it is very well shaded and there are multiple places that you can stop for water for you and your dog. Making this route perfect for any time of the year! There are two public restrooms along this route and Austin Parks and Rec does a great job keeping up with them. They're not half bad for a public restroom if I do say so myself!
About .85 miles into the run you'll come across Lou Neff Point on your left hand side. This is a great spot to grab a quick sip of water and view of downtown.
A Local's Tip: If you have a SUP board or kayak you can paddle up Barton Creek from Lou Neff Point to listen to some music during ACL.
If you're like me, every now and then you like to hit a 5k with some stops for strength and HIIT exercises. Lou Neff Point has loads of stone walls that are perfect for step ups, box jumps or core work. This route has tons of stopping points just like this one that are great for adding in some extra exercises.
Turn the corner at Lou Neff Point and continue to follow the trail. Soon you'll come to the 1 mile mark, which is right at the Barton Creek Pedestrian Bridge. Take the bridge across the creek to continue with the loop.
The trail winds its way back towards Lady Bird Lake and towards the Lamar Blvd Bridge. The next half mile stretch is honestly my favorite part of the entire loop. You get some really cool views of the Lamar Blvd Bridge and downtown. As you can see from the photo on the right.
Be ready to slow down quite a bit as you pass underneath the bridge. The trail narrows a lot, and seriously, my head has come inches from hitting the concrete arch because I didn't slow down enough for the walking traffic. Once you run past the bridge you'll go a few hundred feet and come to a flight of stairs on your right hand side. Take the stairs up and turn either left or right to take the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge over the lake.
Somewhere on the top of the bridge is the halfway point of the 5k. If you're going in the direction I'm describing it's basically all down hill from here. In a good way!
This is perhaps my favorite place to look at the skyline. I've been on that bridge at all hours of the day and night. The view is always incredible, but the best time to go, in my personal opinion, is right at sunset.
Like many Austinites I am a transplant. I moved here in 2016 and I have a vivid memory of the first time I really saw our ever changing skyline. I'd been here for maybe a month when I was riding shotgun going north across the Lamar Blvd Bridge. The sun was minutes away from setting below the horizon, casting long shadows from the trees across the lake; making it appear darker than it really was. The redness from the sun's rays hit the buildings in a way that made them shine like freshly polished gold. It was the most beautiful city scape I'd ever seen. I've traveled all over this country and I'd never seen a city quite like this one. In that moment, wave of gratitude filled me and I knew that this place was special. Golden Hour makes everything more magical doesn't it?
A Local's Tip: Take this loop on a sunset run. You won't regret it.
At the end of the Pfluger Pedestrian Bridge there is a fun little loopty-loop ramp that takes you back down to the trail. There is also a set of stairs if you're not into running in a slightly dizzying spiral. This is another great spot to grab some water from the fountain or stop for box-jump-break.
This is officially the home stretch. By the time you come off the bridge you're a little over a mile from the finish line. The back stretch of this route is fairly flat with some fun spots to stop and take in the views from the other side of the lake. Luckily, this side of the route is also well shaded. And if you're in need of a restroom break before you make it back to the parking lot don't sweat it! There is a restroom and more water fountains about 3/4 of a mile from the start point.
This route is perfect for new runners, walkers, or anyone looking to get in an exact 5k. The fact that this route is a loop really makes me happy. There is something about not having to turn around and back track that really gets me fired up about a route!
A Local's Tip: Take a cooldown walk up the hill to grab a post run smoothie from Juiceland!
This route is so popular that I didn't even need to create my own route on Strava. CLICK HERE for the route. Strava is a free app that gives you access to thousands of routes to run. You can share your activities with friends and join clubs anywhere to run with. If you don't have one already, create a free account and join The Recreational Runners Club. Let's run together!
Strava Club: Recreational Runners