Shoal Creek is brilliant because it is a little bit of the country that goes right through the middle of town. It is a little crowded some days, with walkers, runners and bikers all sharing the trail. North of 15th street, the creek is more kid friendly, with wide, flat trails, although there are a few spots where you need to cross the creek over rocks. There is also a few tight turns with limited visibility, near 31st street, so watch out for bikes. There is a dog park near 24th street, if your kids don’t like dogs, you can avoid that area. Pease Park is just north of 15th street, with a playground and restrooms.
Through downtown, south of 15th street, the trail is strangely inconsistent and fascinating. There are gaps in the trail, rocks to climb and a few places your feet might get wet. There are unusual very old remnants, like part of an wooden bridge encased in the bricks and cement of a newer but still old bridge, just above your head, between 5th and 9th street, or the wood-and-screws-only bridge, just before you get to Lady Bird Lake, that used to carry trains. Contrast that with the new, very modern condos being built right up to the edge of the creek. This part of the creek alternates between looking abandoned, mismanaged and sad, then remarkably beautiful. An advantage of this section is that while you are on a hike, you are also downtown. Climb up the stairs at 3rd, 5th or 9th streets and you can get a snack at Whole Foods, go to the Austin Children’s Museum, or, if you aren’t with the kids, have a beer at the Tiniest Bar in Texas.
If you hike Shoal Creek, leave a comment below with what you liked or tips for other hikers. I would love to hear your story!