Oh, Austin. From your people to your outdoor spaces to your laid-back vibe, it’s no wonder people are flocking to our town in droves. For parents, a great way to get out of the house is by exploring parks with our kids. That said, it can be easy to go to the same parks over and over again. Why not try to mix it up and try out a new park? We’re going to highlight our favorite parks in different parts of the city. Here are our top 5 parks in west Austin:
Commons Ford Ranch Metropolitan Park – 614 N. Commons Ford Rd.
Although it’s not a traditional park in that it lacks swing and slides, there is still plenty more to explore at Commons Ford Ranch. A 1.2 mile trail leads you to a picturesque spot on Lake Austin where dog owners sometimes let their pups off-leash to fetch balls from the water or run around. There is a volleyball court setup and a dock to dip your toes into the water, if the weather’s nice. There is a restored cabin you can check out on the property and lots of space to run around and explore. It’s also relatively uncrowded. We didn’t spot any restrooms on a recent visit, so go before you head out.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park – 1600 City Park Rd.
Emma Long is a local gem that’s nestled in the hills of West Austin. There is plenty of shade from mature trees, water to swim in, picnic areas, hiking trails and plenty of space to explore. You can even camp at Emma Long. There is an entrance fee of $5 per day during the week and $10 daily on weekends and holidays and cash is NOT accepted (you can pay with credit). Outside of the park (and not subject to the entrance fee) is the shady Turkey Creek Trail, a favorite for families who want an easy hike with their furry companions. This is off-leash, so if you have any non-dog lovers in your crew, you should probably skip Turkey Creek.
Reed Park – 2614 Pecos St.
Admittedly, Reed is very central, but it does have the secluded feel of the other parks on this list, with the bonus of having more of the familiar park elements, like a playscape and swings. Reed is tucked back behind a street in Tarrytown and is small but has lots to offer. In the summer, the neighborhood pool is popular, and year round kids enjoy exploring the creek which winds through the park. A large field is perfect for kickball or other impromptu games, and a trail behind the park leads all the way to Scenic Drive. The Park also has a little slice of old Austin in the form of the Taylor Lime Kiln, which you can read about here.
Reimers Ranch – 23610 Hamilton Rd., Dripping Springs
Reimers Ranch is next door to two other favorites for Austin families, Hamilton Pool and Westcave Preserve. Although both of those parks are wonderful in their own right, Hamilton Pool can require some advance planning and Westcave is open to tours and by appointment, whereas Reimers has something to offer families open year round, from 7am until twilight. The easiest thing to do is to hike around the park, ending at the “beach”. You can also go mountain biking on the trails, fish and watch the rock climbers. Fees are $10 per vehicle (cash and check only). Pets are allowed. Guided tours and birding tours are offered on weekends.
Wild Basin Wilderness Preserve – 805 North Capital of Texas Highway
Wild Basin is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and is managed by Travis County and St. Edwards University. The Preserve has 2.5 miles of trails, which are relatively flat and family-friendly. The trails are accessible from sunrise to sunset. Wild Basin also offers educational events, guided hikes and a Creative Research Center for student education and research. Because of the fragility of the preserve, there is no bikes, pets or picnics allowed. There is no entrance fee, but donations are accepted.
What is your favorite park in West Austin?