A walk in the park. The expression means something easy to do, even pleasant. And no wonder — who doesn’t like spending time in a park? Austin has a plethora of them, from city pocket parks to our crown jewel, Zilker Park, to far-flung county greenbelts and Lower Colorado River Authority properties. Here are a few lesser known places to enjoy that walk, along with a host of other pleasant pursuits.
Jessica Hollis Park — 14100 Low Water Crossing Rd.
Located on the far north shore of Lake Austin, this 62-acre LCRA park is ideal for picnicking, swimming, kayaking, and paddleboarding. Expect the water to be brisk; you’re just below Mansfield Dam, meaning said water comes from the bottom of Lake Travis. Parking is $1 per hour.
Mayfield Park and Preserve — 3505 W. 35th St.
These 23 acres contain a complex of shallow ponds and gardens nestled around a restored cottage, originally purchased by the Mayfield family in 1909 as a summer home. The family had peacocks, and the descendants of those birds still roam the park. A network of trails explores the surrounding woods, some leading to the shores of Lake Austin. No pets allowed.
McKinney Roughs Nature Park — 1884 Hwy. 71 West, Cedar Creek, Texas
This 140-acre LCRA park, on Highway 71 just 13 miles east of Austin-Bergstrom International Airport, has roughly 20 miles of multiuse trails to enjoy by horse, bike, or foot, with routes featuring wooded hills, open meadows, and Colorado River front. The park also offers guided outdoor and water recreation activities, including a zip line course. $5 entrance fee (12 and under free).
Richard Moya Park — 10001 Burleson Rd.
Highlights of this 100-acre county park include sizable pecan and oak trees, shady picnic table and grills, and Onion Creek beneath Moore’s Crossing Bridge. Its metal spans came from a bridge installed across the Colorado River at Congress Avenue in 1884 and dismantled in 1910. See all this on a two-mile, paved hike (or walk) and bike trail.
Shipe Neighborhood Park — 4400 Avenue G
Named for Monroe Martin Shipe, an early promoter of the park’s Hyde Park neighborhood, this gem is one of the city’s oldest parks. Shipe features a swimming pool with a colorful mosaic mural, a wading pool, playground, basketball and tennis courts, and open grassy areas perfect for lazing away summer evenings. A log cabin-style shelter house built in 1929 to host recreational activities still stands, and warm weather reveals the genius of its breezeway design. The Elisabet Ney Museum is next door.
Southeast Metropolitan Park — 4511 Hwy. 71 East, Del Valle
This Travis County park hides a walk to remember, the three-mile Primitive Trail loop through wooded hills, across wildflower meadows, past fishing ponds, and into rocky gullies. Except for occasional glimpses of the Austin skyline, you’ll never guess downtown lies mere miles away. Catch-and-release fishing allowed in the ponds; look for wildlife and birds along the trail. Dogs allowed on leash.