When most Austinites hear “Bull Creek Park,” they are likely to think of the popular park at 6701 Lakewood Drive that was devastated by Tropical Storm Hermine in September 2010. The rest of the Bull Creek Greenbelt–a 3.5 mile trail along the banks of the creek–is not as well-known.
We discovered the Bull Creek Greenbelt about 5 years ago and we’ve enjoyed it ever since. Our favorite starting point is Lakewood Drive, just off Loop 360. There is a small gravel parking lot to your left (heading south on Lakewood Drive from 360). This is the view of Bull Creek from the parking lot.
We walked north on the trail and stayed on the west side of the creek. The trail consists primarily of limestone and it will take you under Loop 360.
Attentive visitors will be rewarded with sightings of butterflies, lizards, fish, grasshoppers, and many other interesting creatures. I was determined to get a photo of this bright orange dragonfly!
After about 1/4 mile of walking along the relatively flat and easy-to-navigate limestone adjacent to the creek, you will have to climb a small incline and walk along a ledge (pictured below) to continue on. If you are new to hiking with your family, you may want to consider this your turning-around point. On the other hand, if your family is experienced with rough terrain and the children are all about age 5 or older, you should be able to manage the trail.
If you are able to proceed, a lovely surprise is just up the path! About 1/3 mile from our original starting point, we came upon this tiny yet charming waterfall.
We spent some time examining the area around the waterfall.
Cool, clear water gathered in little pools. The waterfall setting was shady and refreshing.
We continued hiking along the creek until our total distance covered was just under 1/2 mile. After a water break, we made the return trip to our starting point. We crossed the creek and explored the other side briefly.
The Bull Creek Greenbelt presents a paradox for visiting families: the area is at its loveliest when there has been enough rain to replenish the creek and limestone seeps and springs yet the very presence of all of this water makes the limestone very slippery. Wear sturdy shoes, pay attention to your footing, and stay focused on the hike (in other words, avoid distractions like cell phones).
The trail had very few visitors when we were there (late morning on a Friday). If solitude is not your cup of tea, you might want to plan an early evening or weekend visit. You can read more details about the Bull Creek Greenbelt in this Austin Explorer description.
Austin Active Kids Opinion: If you can handle a slightly challenging trail that is off the beaten path, you will find a lot to explore at the Bull Creek Greenbelt!
Outing Time: About 1 hour
Outing Distance: Less than 1 mile
Reminders: The City of Austin will post signs if there are water quality issues. We see people swimming almost every time we visit but we prefer to find other locations for recreational swimming for safety reasons. The children will occasionally wade or splash but we do not wear bathing suits or otherwise treat it as a “swimming outing.”