The Barton Creek Greenbelt: Best Access Points

Barton Creek Greenbelt

January may not be the ideal month for a visit to the great outdoors, but since this morning’s weather report is promising some unseasonably warm days ahead, and with spring not too far off, I thought I’d serve up one of Austin’s best outdoor destinations—the Barton Creek Greenbelt.

For those of you who love Lady Bird Lake’s Hike and Bike Trail, but are looking for a more rugged, less urban experience, the Greenbelt will be a welcome change of pace. Comprising an area of 809 acres and a total length of 7.9 miles, this amazing nature reserve, only minutes from Downtown Austin, lets you wander in the isolation of steep limestone cliffs, untamed vegetation, countless hiking and biking trails and dozens of natural swimming holes and waterfalls.

With spring on the way, the creek will soon be at it’s peak flow, though veteran hikers will tell you that the Greenbelt’s waterways can be a bit unpredictable—high-water years are remembered with a touching sentimentality. These, after all, are the same people who risked their lives to hang those rope swings from the branches of the trees along the creeks edge.

Though most people tend to enter the Greenbelt from an access point along the side of Loop 360, veteran visitors are quick to point out the value of knowing it’s lesser known entrances. Each part of the reserve has it’s own special characteristics.

Here’s a rundown of the Greenbelt’s access points:

Loop 360 (3755-B Capitol of Texal):
This is the main access point to the Greenbelt due to its location at the center of the trail. This entrance leads to some of the finest trails near the Seismic wall and will take you either west to Twin Falls or east to the Gus Fruh pool. Parking is available right alongside the highway.

Zilker Park:
Closest to Downtown Austin, the Zilker Park entrance leads to an easy trail ideal for mountain bikes and families who are bringing strollers.

Scottish Woods Trail (1710 Camp Craft Rd.):
This entrance lies on the opposite end of the Greenbelt and offers a more challenging experience. Less crowded, this access point begins with a downhill climb towards the creek. Numerous paths diverge from the main trail, offering a chance for more adventurous hikers to explore. Choose this entrance if you want to earn your visit to Sculpture Falls.

Twin Falls Access (3900 Frontage of Mopac):
On the other end of the spectrum, this entrance offers easy access to Twin Falls and is a short walk from Sculpture Falls. This is the best choice for someone looking to get to the Greenbelt’s best swimming spots. Unfortunately, during dry seasons these areas can only be explored on foot.

Gus Fruh (2642 Barton Hills Dr):
A direct access point to the Gus Fruh pool. This is an ideal place for dogs and kids to play. This is also one of the best areas for rock climbers. Climbing areas are located on the other side of the creek. “Guide Wall” is a good place to start.

Spyglass (1500 Spyglass Dr.):
This is also a good access point for climbers, and is the only way to reach Gus Fruh’s cliffs when the creek is too high. “The New Wall” is only fifteen minutes away.

If you decide to hit the trail, don’t forget to check out this handy map, complete with contours and top destinations, courtesy of the Austin Parks and Recreation Department. They also provide an incredible, exhaustive list of Austin trails.

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  1. Emil Refus says:

    I’ve never had a problem parking on Scottish Woods Trail, which is why it’s my favorite trailhead for the Greenbelt. SWT is extra-wide (so you’re not interfering with traffic and nobody’s going to take off your door when you get in/out of your vehicle). It’s in a quiet neighborhood with kids, so please be cautious driving/biking and respectful of people’s property (PLEASE BE CAREFUL NOT TO LEAVE TRASH).

  2. dirty Joe says:

    Mountain bikes should not be allowed on the greenbelt. They tear it up and there’s no room to pass. I’ve been hit by several inconsiderate jerks riding their bikes while listening to ipods. Idiots!

    • I love to ride my bicycle but not on the greenbelt. I prefer to walk my dog, when I go. It seems there is no where that I can go that a bicycle rider is not streaking by me. Most of the time, they make sure they slow down, but when they don’t it is unsafe for all of us.

      Slaughter Creek, behind the Alamo Drafthouse is a wooded area with deep shade and a narrow trail, that barely accommodates one person in some areas. A fast, quiet rider almost took out my friend and I when we were walking our dogs there, recently.

      Now, the one area, ten miles from my house that is a safe place for dogs and people to recreate is being being taken away,. Only the smallest scrap, near the busy road is left for our canine companions to enjoy with their friends.

  3. Scottish woods trail is in a small neighorhood. parking is limited and you suggesting that this should be a major entrance point is ridiculous. it is a small neighorhood now being crammed by cars, and poor parking. Emergency vehicles have a difficult time with this entrance. The city needs to close neighorhood access points and open up the tract of land maybe around the barton creek mall area where they have purchased land and can build proper parking and not swamping small neighorhoods with trash and parking issues. i hope in the future your article will not be recommending this entrance as it is also not an entrance that is emergency vehicle accessible.

  4. Good article. The greenbelt is a major attraction and one of the best places to mtn bike in the state (that I know of). Also, print the map and take it to Office Max and have it laminated for ~$2

  5. Thanks! I’ve been looking for a guide like this.

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