Getting there: We're describing a way to get to the parking under the MoPac bridge here because at the time of the hike all of the parking around Auditorium Shores were taken up by construction.
From MoPac, take the Bee Caves Road exit (Hwy 2244). Take a U-turn at the light and head back towards Zilker Park.
Upon passing the Zilker Botanical Garden on the left take the next left. The soccer fields should be on your right as you continue down the road, which will turn to the left and then head to the MoPac bridge over Lady Bird Lake. There
is ample parking around and under MoPac bridge and this is right next to the hike and bike trail.
The Hike: The Lady Bird Lake Hike and Bike Trail (long known as the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail) is the most used trail in Austin. So if you're looking for a place of quiet and solitude, look elsewhere. If you're looking for pleasant, mostly flat, walk with several excellent views of downtown Austin and Lady Bird Lake, then Lady Bird Lake may fit the bill.
Although the stated distance for this hike is 7.2 miles, you can choose a different turnaround point to cut the hike to 4 miles. We're showing you almost the complete trail here, including the lesser used portions of the trail to the east of Congress Avenue.
The starting point for our hike was under the MoPac bridge on the southern side of Lady Bird Lake. We headed east back towards the heart of Zilker Park. On a few occassions you can see the soccer fields to the right. At the waypoint marked, "Train", you'll cross the narrow gauge railroad tracks that carry the Zilker Train that has delighted kids for years. There's also a water fountain
at this spot, in case you're thirsty.
The trail becomes more tree-covered from this point through the waypoint marked, "Lou Neff Point". There is a gazebo here right at the confluence of Barton Springs and Lady Bird Lake. There are some good views here, a water fountain and strip of waterfront just to the south where people like to feed the ducks.
The trail heads south, away from Lady Bird Lake, for a moment and crosses over an arched footbridge before heading north again back to the Lady Bird Lake shore. Once back to the shore the trail turns to the east again towards Lamar Blvd. Lamar Blvd. used to have sidewalks for pedestrians, but several accidents caused the sidewalks to be closed and a new pedestrian bridge being built. You can see the construction going on at the waypoint marked, "New Bridge".
Lady Bird Lake cuts through the heart of downtown Austin.
As the trail approaches Congress Avenue the park area along the shore is known as Auditorium Shores. Several events and concerts are held in this area every year. At the waypoint marked, "SRV", you can find a statue of Stevie Ray Vaughn, a musician who made his home in Austin and was killed in a helicopter crash. The waypoint "Mile 0" is the start of the trail mile markers, which we are running against at this point. This is also very close to the Congress Avenue crossover point if you want to take a short trip of 4 miles back to the trailhead.
The trail on the other side of Congress is less used and will eventually run into an apartment complex at the point marked, "Trail End". It's not the end of our hike though, as we work our way towards Riverside Drive and continue to head east to I-35. The sidewalk here is right next to the roadway where cars are steaming by at a high rate of speed. To make matters worse, the only "steep" hill is in this section of the hike.
Right before you get to I-35 there is a Dog Park, marked with a waypoint of the same name, on the left. Inside this large fenced area you can let your canine friend roam free with lots of other dogs. I-35 contains a separated pedestrian crossing which gets you back to the north side of Lady Bird Lake.
Now the trail heads west and we're back to trees and grass and not cars and streets. This section of the trail is less used and provides a bit more peace and quiet than further west. The waypoint marked, "5th", is where you will find two historical markers. The first is an indication that on that spot the 5th military district was headquartered after the Civil War. The second indicates that on that spot, the first use of Barbed Wire took place.
This tower was used as part of an effort to quarry clay from the Zilker Park area.
The trail continues to head west through downtown Austin, the face of which is changing by the day. Once you cross under the Congress Avenue bridge you'll encounter many more walkers, runners and bicyclists.
Lady Bird Lake's trail does provide a few feeder trails that are ripe for exploration. One of the best is the Shoal Creek trail, the start of which is marked by the waypoint, "Shoal Creek". That trail heads north for 3 miles and will be highlighted in a separate page later.
Lady Bird Lake has not always been a recreational site. The waypoint "Clay Tower" marks the point of a large concrete and iron structure that was used to ferry
clay from the southern shore of the Colorado river. At one time there was a brick factory nearby this location. This is the only tower remaining of three originally built and was in use from 1902 - 1942. You can read more about it on
Austin Explorer's Long Gone Austin page.
By this point, the hike is all but over. All that remains is to cross Town Lake on the pedestrian bridge under MoPac and the circle is complete.
Town Lake was renamed
in honor of Lady Bird Johnson on Monday, August 6, 2007. Lady Bird was actually instrumental in getting the area around Town lake transformed from an unsightly flood zone into a recreational centerpiece for the city, so it seems a fitting tribute.