As Austin’s population continues to grow and the overall community maintains a pace of expansion that can, at times, seem overwhelming, some local organizations are ensuring the Capital City will preserve and increase its natural surroundings for years to come.
On Monday, February 14, the Hill Country Conservancy and Austin Public Work’s Urban Trails Program kicked off construction on the Violet Crown Trail North project, which is expected to be completed in 12 months.
This 1-mile section extends from Home Depot Boulevard to MoPac just north of William Cannon Drive, passing through the Williamson Creek Greenbelt and Indian Grass Prairie Preserve. The concrete- and stabilized-granite trail will be 10 feet wide and compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.
When complete, the Violet Crown Trail will meander 30 miles from Zilker Park well into Hays County.
Currently, there is street parking at the north end of the section that’s under construction, says public information specialist Cheyenne Dolin with City of Austin Public Works. The trail there is single track.
“It’s great for active hikers and mountain bikers,” Dolin says, “but not suitable for strollers or regular bicycles, and there’s no clear access point.”
In addition to updating that area of the trail, HCC recently took bids to finish a 1.7-mile section connecting an existing nature trail on the west side of MoPac in Circle C Metropolitan Park to La Crosse Avenue, just east of the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center at Slaughter Creek.
HCC CEO George Cofer points out that some of this work converts an existing single-track hiking trail into a wider, more accessible version and will provide access to the Wildflower Center from neighborhoods across MoPac.
The first 6 miles of the Violet Crown Trail, from Zilker Park to Brodie Lane at Highway 290, opened in August 2015. The second segment, from Highway 290 to Slaughter Creek, was completed in February 2019.
A second phase, called the Violet Crown Trail at the Wildlands, will connect the Wildflower Center to the Onion Creek Management Unit, an Austin Water Quality Protection Lands tract in Hays County.
Various portions of the trail have involved coordinated efforts among Austin Public Works, Austin Parks and Recreation, and HCC. The trail’s width, grade, and surface type vary, but segments built by the Urban Trail Program are wide, smooth-surfaced, and walkable by all ages and abilities. Heading south from the Wildflower Center, though, plans call for a single-track hiking and mountain-biking trail.
Existing signage guides visitors along the trail starting in Zilker Park, Cofer says, along the Barton Creek trail and Gaines Creek trail. This section is natural surface single track. From there, the route follows Brodie Lane, and there will be signs as well as decals embedded in the sidewalk to the trailhead for the new section off Home Depot Boulevard.
Cofer points out that the Violet Crown Trail is part of a much bigger picture, a hub-and-spoke trail system that ultimately will total hundreds of miles throughout Williamson, Travis, and Hays counties.
The trail around Lady Bird Lake forms the hub, with trails such as the Violet Crown, Shoal Creek, and Waterloo making up some of the spokes.
Existing and planned portions are on the city’s urban trails interactive web map. The Great Springs Project, a 100-mile route planned to run from Austin to San Antonio, is another element of that big picture.
Find more information and maps of the Violet Crown Trail at VioletCrownTrail.