When you really want to feel connected to the community of Austin, a walk along Lady Bird Lake will have you soaking in the city’s happy vibes as you enjoy gorgeous lakeside views of downtown. Whether you’re trying to work on some fitness goals or simply just try to clear your head, the Roy and Ann Butler Hike and Bike Trail is a wonderful place for the body and mind.

The 10-mile Ann and Roy Butler Hike and Bike Trail can take you full-circle around the shores of Lady Bird Lake, which gives you plenty of terrain to get your body moving. It’s Austin’s most popular recreational destination, where you’ll find inspiration among other fit Austinites running, walking, biking, pushing strollers and walking their dogs. Everyone can enjoy the pretty views on these maintained paths. Besides a great destination for exercise, it’s also a celebration of community spirit, with friendly faces ready to chat with you about your pups or kids, or just give a smile of encouragement as you’re off on your morning run.IMG_1687If you’re a newbie to the Trail, we’ll try to break it down here for you so you know where to go and what to expect…

First of all, the Trail access is free, of course! It’s open for use from 5 a.m. to midnight each day, with a curfew between midnight and 5 a.m. While you will certainly see Austinites of all ages on the Trail, you’ll find that this is not a great spot for young kids to freely roam. Bikes and joggers will zoom by, and small children could easily get in the way of those who are serious about their workout. But the Trail is great for jogging strollers, and kids who go for a ride can enjoy the sights along the water’s edge. You’ll often spot turtles and ducks, and there are plenty of little spots along the Trail to pull over and take breaks where the kids can feed ducks or just enjoy pointing out canoes, kayaks and their nature observations. The Zilker Playground is also just off of the Trail and a great place for kids to get out and play for a little while. The Trail is a great place to meet up with other parents, too. You’ll often see groups or pairs of friends using the hike and bike trail as a destination to meet up and catch up on daily life.

If you’re feeling ambitious about your run, you can opt for a 7 or 10-mile loop around the entire path, but it’s also easy to take on shorter routes, too. There is a 3.1-mile loop, as well as a 4-mile and a 5-mile loop. Click here to view a really great map of each of these loops from the Trail Foundation website.IMG_1681The Trail Foundation also provides a very awesome interactive map of the Butler Hike & Bike Trail that points out routes as well as water fountains, restrooms and parking lots. Click here for the interactive map.

During the week, it’s pretty easy to find parking along the Trail, and the paths are not nearly as crowded as on weekends. You may have good luck parking by Austin High as well as under the MoPac bridge near the Austin Science and Nature Center in Zilker Park. You’ll find that the trail on the East side (east of I-35) is generally a lot less crowded if you’re looking for a more peaceful hike.

In 2014, the Boardwalk portion of the Trail completed the 1.3-mile gap along the south shore. The Boardwalk Trail is an impressive stretch of the trail that features piers and concrete planks, and many viewing areas. It’s definitely a fun place to view the city skyline and stop for a photo. You can access the Boardwalk Trail from the northeast corner of the American-Statesman parking lot, off the Riverside Drive sidewalk at Blunn Creek, from the northeast corner of the Riverside and I-35 intersection and at International Shores Park. Click here for a map of the Boardwalk Trail.

No matter what part of the trail you choose to explore, it’s obvious that this is really a gem in the heart of Austin. Lady Bird Lake‘s natural beauty attracts thousands of people to walk, jog, bike, boat, picnic and play. Go out and enjoy it!