The days following Fourth of July are notoriously difficult for animal rescue organizations across Austin, as the uptick of panicked or runaway pets leaves local shelters overcrowded and with too few resources to care for all the animals.
Throughout the summer, places like Austin Pets Alive! and the Austin Animal Center are calling on compassionate individuals to foster or adopt these animals. For dog-lovers thinking about adopting (or current owners looking to spend more quality time with your furry companions), Austin is filled with leash-free places for you and your furry friend to have some ferocious fun. Here are some of the best:
Situated on the shores of Lady Bird Lake near the Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail, Auditorium Shores offers a newly renovated off-leash dog park with plenty of open space for pups to chase after balls (and the occasional unassuming wildlife) along with three water access areas for waggin' and paddlin’ in the lake.
Know before you go: The renovation included the creation of doggy showers to make post-lake cleanup a breeze.
Appropriately nicknamed due to its popularity with four-legged swimmers, this secluded wading area right outside of Barton Springs Pool is a place for pooches and their people to catch some sun and enjoy the cool spring waters.
Know before you go: Farther upstream, the Barton Creek Greenbelt offers trails for hiking, rock climbing, and several swimming holes — all within a scenic Texas Hill Country backdrop.
Emma Long Metropolitan Park
With almost 1,200 acres of protected parkland, Emma Long is one of the largest parks in Austin but only a few minutes from downtown. Among the highlights of this expansive urban park are Turkey Creek, two miles of hiking trails, and a gorgeous bluff overlooking the city.
Know before you go: On its westernmost boundary lies Emma Long's 193-acre off-leash area.
Red Bud Isle
This park is a shady oasis for dogs and dog-lovers alike. Located on a 13-acre island in Lady Bird Lake, lake shores and river waters act as a natural barrier keeping it safe for adventurous pups to swim, run, and explore.
Know before you go: This park is just as fun for humans as it is for canine companions. The park offers a half mile of shaded hiking trails, large fields, and a tree-lined shore to relax while your dog takes a dip.
Shoal Creek Greenbelt
Here in Austin, living in the city doesn’t mean having to sacrifice outdoor adventures, as many picturesque natural landscapes blend seamlessly into our bustling metro. Shoal Creek is no exception. Flowing through the heart of the city from Lady Bird Lake to 38th Street, the 76-acre park offers impressive crushed limestone and gravel trails, access to local creekside eateries, and ample shaded green spaces.
Know before you go: Shoal Creek includes more than one mile of no-leash terrain running from 24th to 29th streets.
Though there are plenty of parks, waterways, and hiking trails available for daring dogs, what about the lovable lap dogs and loungers? Yard Bar, a combination bar and off-leash dog park, offers a relaxing hangout space that both humans and their four-legged friends will enjoy. While you are sipping a local brew or chowing down on some hush puppies, your dog can play safely in a fenced yard filled with agility equipment, water bowls, and plenty of toys. Also, “Bark Rangers” are always onsite to monitor the play and keep the dogs in good spirits.
Know before you go: Enter with a day pass at just $5.50, or you can purchase a monthly or annual membership.
Work & Woof
We know how tough it can be to resist that heart-melting look on your furry friend’s face when you're leaving for work in the morning. Now, there’s a solution that’ll make both you and your canine companion happy. This modern coworking space and dog park offers over 10,000 square feet of work and play space, including traditional coworking amenities for humans and plenty of toys, beds, and agility equipment for furry companions. A large backyard area offers picnic tables for busy owners to enjoy a break with bites from rotating food trucks, while dogs are free to safely romp around.
Know before you go: Woof & Work offers day passes for $8 and a monthly membership for $45. A kennel-free daycare is also available with onsite staff treating your pups to plenty of playtime and care.
Zilker Dog Park
Arguably the best known spot on this list, Zilker features many “human-friendly” places to picnic, hike, stroll, and take in views of the downtown skyline. But, this Austin hot spot also has a doggone great off-leash area boasting rolling hills and impressive scenery along the shores of Lady Bird Lake.
Know before you go: The expansive area, located at 2100 Barton Springs Rd., is not fenced; keep a close watch on your furry friends.