Summer is here and it's time to occupy the kids with fun, productive, physically active time killers. Bike riding is a winner, and we've collected some very friendly, safe places for the kids to ride. They can have fun, get good practice, and you won't be terrified on the streets.
Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail: After the spectacular mile-long boardwalk was completed in late 2014, the Ann & Roy Butler Hike & Bike Trail (also known as Lady Bird Lake trail) now makes an incredible 10-mile loop through downtown. The trail is great for bikers of all ability; it’s flat, features crushed stone or pavement in some sections, and is wide enough to accommodate bikers, walkers, runners and the occasional stroller. There are great stops along the way and any number of ways to enter or leave the trail. And, if you need to cut the ride short or make it longer, there are several pedestrian friendly bridges that you can cross to complete a loop. Best for a weekday ride, as it can get quite crowded on the weekends!
Butler Park: If you're looking for a great place to teach a little one how to ride or need to get in some practice laps on an easy, flat surface Butler Park, across from Auditorium Shores is smooth, safe and calm. Plus, there’s a great splash pad to cool off in afterward.
- Distance: 10-mile loop; several options to cross the river and go shorter or longer.
- Starting Points: Auditorium Shores (920 Riverside Dr.), Butler Park (1000 Barton Springs Rd.), Fiesta Gardens (2100 Jesse E. Segovia St.), Lamar Beach (1200 Cesar Chavez St.), Roy Guerrero Park (400 Grove Blvd.), Zilker Park (2100 Barton Springs Rd.)
Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park: Whether your young ones are just learning to ride off road or just want a bit of an adventure, Walnut Creek trail in north Austin is a perfect place for beginner and intermediate mountain bikers. There are, without a doubt, several challenging trails, but this 293-acre park is well marked and features a number of great routes for riders of all levels. Plus, if you’re into BMX, there is an incredible pump track there.
- Distance: over 15-miles of trails. Most beginner-intermediate.
- Starting Point: Walnut Creek Park (12138 N. Lamar Blvd.)
McKinney Falls State Park: There are a number of great trails inside this state park, just over 10-miles from downtown. With a longer section of paved trail on the 2.5-mile Onion Creek Trail and scenic views from the nearly 3-mile Homestead Trail, it’s a great place to spend a morning or afternoon with the kids and feel like you’re truly in the wild.
- Distance: Up to 9 miles of trails, round trip.
- Starting Points: McKinney Falls State Park (5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy.)
The Veloway: This is a fabulous, 3.1 mile inline skate and bike-only path near Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center. Since it’s totally free of motorized traffic and also one way to users, it’s a great place to bring a beginner to practice climbing hills, balance, passing and turning. And, at nearly 23-feet wide, this is likely the widest path you’ll ever bike on - plenty of room to stay close or alongside your group. The Veloway also occasionally holds events and parties, so stay tuned to their website for more info or get in touch to organize your own!
Also, there is also a 1-mile paved trail in nearby Dick Nichols Park that is great for kids.
- Distance: 3.1 mile loop with an additional 1-mile loop.
- Starting Points: The Veloway (4900 La Crosse Avenue)
The Walnut Creek Hike & Bike Trail: Also known as the Austin to Manor Trail, this is a great fully paved east side trail that runs for nearly 8 miles along Boggy Creek and Walnut Creek. At 10-feet wide, this is a great intermediate bike path. It has two-way traffic, and at peak times, can have a lot of bike traffic. Many experienced riders use this as a trail for uninterrupted riding and many more use it as a convenient commuter trail into Austin. In any case, it's a great place for getting kids more comfortable with longer rides and developing the skills they need to alert their presence and pass pedestrians.
- Distance: 7.3 miles, 14.6 round trip.
- Starting Point: Govalle Park (5200 Bolm Road)