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9 of the Best Parks in Austin

Posted by Brad Pauly on Thursday, January 30th, 2020 at 10:10am.

Aerial shot of Zilker Park and downtown Austin

Austin has beautiful weather most of the year, which makes it a great city for those who enjoy a day relaxing at the park or a fun hike with their dog. There are a lot of parks across Austin, both free and paid. Here, we present nine of the most popular parks in the city.

Commons Ford Ranch

The prairies at Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park have been recently restored. The process involved a controlled burn of the non-native and invasive species that had begun growing there. With the land ready for new planting, over 70 types of native grasses and wildflowers were planted to ensure that the park is full of vibrant plant life year-long.

Commons Ford Ranch, like most metropolitan parks, is open to the public from 5 AM to 10 PM. The park is situated on a massive 215-acre plot, giving you plenty of room to explore.

Mary Moore Searight

At 342 acres, this metropolitan park is even more expansive than Commons Ford Ranch. Dotted along the 6 miles of trails at Mary Moore Searight, you'll find a variety of exercise stations and playgrounds for the kids. If you are into radio controlled airplanes, you'll find a section of the park dedicated to flying them, though you'll need to be a member of the Hill Country Aeromodelers club to fly there. The park also features an area where you can let your dog run off-leash.

Mary Moore Searight is open from 5 AM to 10 PM.

McKinney Falls State Park

Much larger than the metropolitan parks, this 682-acre state park was opened in 1976 after the land was donated to the state by J.E. Smith in 1971. McKinney Falls State Park features numerous trails, but the real attraction is its namesake. Located along Onion Creek are the upper and lower waterfalls. While there you can visit the ruins of McKinney Homestead, a limestone house built in the mid-1800s and occupied until it burned in the 1940s. The park is a popular location for swimming, although heavy rains often raise the bacteria levels of the water to unsafe levels. During those times, swimming is disallowed.

The park is open from 8 AM to 10 PM and the price of admission is $6 per day for adults. Kids 12 and under are admitted for free.

Zilker Metropolitan Park

This metropolitan park has a lake where you can canoe or kayak, trails for hiking, and a swimming pool to relax at when your day is done. Zilker Park also frequently hosts musical acts. The famous three-day Austin City Limits music festival is held in the park every year. A local radio station also puts on a free summer concert series features blues musicians.

Zilker Park is open from 5 AM to 10 PM. On weekends and holidays, there is a $5 per car parking fee.

West Austin Park

This park has a variety of activities that you can enjoy. There is an off-leash dog park where you and your family pet can spend the day playing. An amphitheater allows for events like movies and music at the park. There are a fantastic playground and pool for the kids to enjoy. Adults can find recreation too, should they choose to try their hand at the French game of pétanque on the park's court.

Admission to West Austin Park is free. The pool is open during the summer but is closed on Mondays.

Sparky Park

As its name suggests, Sparky Park began its life as an electrical substation. The drab building was quite an eyesore and the citizens of Austin that lived near it were not happy. This led the city to commission an artist to breathe new life into the old buildings and turn the area into a park. Now the walls of the old substation are covered in stone, gems, mirrored balls, shells, and a variety of other whimsical ornamentation that give the entire park a surreal fantasy aesthetic.

Because of its unique, almost fairy tale inspired appearance, this park is a great place to bring the kids. They will love exploring the quirky and off-beat art.

Mount Bonnell / Covert Park

The star attraction of Covert Park is Mount Bonnell. This 774-foot peak is the highest point in Austin and will give visitors a breathtaking view of the city. Although it is a bit of a hike to climb the 106 stone stairs to the top of Mount Bonnell, one needn't be an athlete to make it there. The walk is easy enough for everyone, and in fact, the area is very popular with tourists of all shapes and sizes.

Covert Park is a Metropolitan Park, which means that it is open from 5 AM to 10 PM like the others.

Bull Creek District Park

If you are looking to escape from it all and simply commune with nature for a day, then there is no better park in Austin than the Bull Creek District Park. There are 3 entrance points along Bull Creek's 11-mile run. Over the course of that 11-mile watershed, you will see some of the most beautiful rock formations that Austin has to offer. 

Bull Creek District Park is off the beaten path, which makes it great for lazy and relaxing hikes but also makes it a great opportunity for mountain biking. So Bull Creek has you covered whether you want to wind down or get pumped up.

Mayfield Park

For a different side of Austin's natural beauty, visit Mayfield Park. This cottage estate turned park features lily ponds teeming with turtles, palm trees, 2 acres of gardens, and peafowl roaming the grounds. Of course, visitors can also make their way through the old cottage on the grounds and the interesting architecture that surrounds it, such as the archway at the entrance of the Bell Trail or the pigeon cote.

Outside of the rock wall that surrounds the estate is the 21-acre Mayfield nature preserve. This preserve will give you a more raw side of nature than the well-manicured and meticulously maintained estate.

And More!

These are some of the most popular parks in Austin, but there are many more. Too many for one list to include, in fact. If you are looking to live near your dream park, the experts at Pauly Presley know the Austin area very well and can find you a home near a park that will exceed your expectations. To get started finding your dream home with the help of a realtor you can trust, contact Pauly Presley today!

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