The Ultimate Trail to Tavern 3-Day Weekend in Austin

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Known for its live music, tacos, and outdoor recreation, Austin does many things well. On a nice day, which is pretty standard in Texas Hill Country, Austinites know how to spend a full day that’s equal parts exploration, exertion, discovery and indulgence.

Austin has countless options for ways to spend your days in the outdoors, be it on trails or patios, but do as the locals do and opt for both. Here’s our three-day itinerary pairing the best of Austin’s trails and taverns. Live like a local for a weekend, and even get out of town for a day. Either way, you really can’t go wrong in Austin.

Day One

The boutique Heywood Hotel is within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and nightlife.The boutique Heywood Hotel is within walking distance to restaurants, shops, and nightlife. vjlawson2001

No visit to Austin is complete without a visit to one of its many greenbelts. Kick off your trip at Barton Creek Greenbelt — 13 miles of winding trails along Barton Creek, through lush green forest, over protruding root systems and past red rock walls. If you’re visiting in hotter months, start your day early to avoid the heat that comes with a Texas Summer.

Pick up the trail at Twin Falls for a particularly great hike now that Barton Creek is once again flowing. The trailhead is at 360 and Mopac, just a couple miles from downtown, with a parking lot for easy accessibility. The trailhead lies at mile 4.75 of Barton Creek Greenbelt, with Twin Falls just a half mile down trail. You can also get to Sculpture Falls at mile 6.25. This is an out-and-back hike, so take on as much (or as little) distance as you’d like, though we recommend visiting both falls before turning back.

Once you’ve gotten your trail fix, an old school Austin establishment called Dry Creek Cafe & Boat Dock is calling your name. The cash-only bar has neither a boat dock nor a cafe, but it’s full of old Austin charm, characters, cheap beers, and a good ol’ country jukebox. The best part? The patio overlooking Austin’s Mount Bonnell.

As for dinner, head past Mount Bonnell (a great place to watch the sunset), before stopping by Laguna Gloria and Mayfield Park to see the beautiful live oak trees, peacocks, and gardens that are on the grounds. Then, grab a seat at nearby Draught House Pub & Brewery, showcasing a vast selection of local Austin brews and the city’s best food trucks, including Best Wurst on Mondays and Quality Seafood on Tuesdays. Insider’s tip: There are free brats every Saturday at 4 p.m.

When you’re ready to call it a night, get cozy at one of Austin’s most quaint local hotels: Heywood Hotel. Located on Cesar Chavez on Austin’s East Side, staying at Heywood gives you the opportunity to explore a different side of Austin before and after your daily field trips (if you feel so inclined). Boutique indeed, the hotel has just seven rooms in an old house that pair old Austin bungalow charm with minimalistic, but still well-dressed touches like artwork by local artists. And, it’s within walking distance of some of Austin’s most celebrated businesses.

Day Two

Breakfast at Mi Madre’s is a must.Breakfast at Mi Madre’s is a must. Matthew C. Wright

Today you’ll take advantage of one of Austin’s many waterways and partake in an old-school tradition: a trip down the Lower Colorado River. Whether you prefer a canoe or a kayak, you can rent one from Cook’s Canoes, an old-fashioned canoe livery situated on the Lower Colorado in Webberville, Texas, about 25 minutes east of Austin.

But first, breakfast tacos. Since you’re staying on the East Side, head to Mi Madre’s Restaurant** **on Manor Road for some of the best breakfast tacos in the city, all served on housemade tortillas. We recommend going a la carte, so take your pick and fuel up for a day on the water. You can’t go wrong with a #6 (potato and egg) or a #15 (carnitas, avocado, and cilantro).

From there, you’ll head toward Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard, which becomes FM 969 before arriving in Webberville at the livery. Like the days of yore, the old men who run the livery will load you into a yellow school bus, take you up river and let you paddle your way back. Opt for the 7 or 11-mile route that’ll give you a quiet, easy ride down a wide section of river, hugged by giant trees, green shoreline, and the occasional sand bar that makes for a good breaking point.

When you make it back to the landing point, swing by Live Oak Brewery in nearby Del Valle, which is about a twenty-minute ride back toward Austin. Find a seat within the rows of picnic tables under the live oaks and kick back with a house-made beer. They’ve got everything ranging from year-round, seasonal, and limited edition beers. Live Oak Brewery also hosts local food trucks so you’ll have the opportunity to sample some of Austin’s most well-known mobile cuisines. And, if you feel up for another brewery,Zilker Brewing Company is just a few blocks from Heywood Hotel and offers some of the best locally made beer in some of the best-designed cans.

Day Three, In-Town Option

The spring-fed Barton Springs are an Austin hot spot on a warm day.The spring-fed Barton Springs are an Austin hot spot on a warm day. Lars Plougmann

Before embarking on the day’s adventure, swing by Austin’s acclaimed Mozart’s Coffee Roasters on Lake Austin Boulevard. The long-time Austin establishment has one of the best patios in the city, incredible house-made coffee, and a wide selection of muffins, pastries and cheesecakes, always made in house.

From there, you’ll take on a section of trail in the heart of Austin. Ten miles of hiking and biking trails, known as the Ann and Roy Butler Trails, course through downtown Austin, edging along Lady Bird Lake and connecting Austin landmarks the entire way. Hop on the trail on the south side of the South 1st Bridge, heading west toward** **Zilker Park. This lakeside section is incredibly lush, shaded by giant trees, and runs parallel to some of Austin’s famous Barton Springs Road restaurants and bars.

Enjoy a leisurely two-mile walk along the lake to Zilker Park. Once arriving at the park, you can throw a blanket down and soak up the sun, toss a frisbee, or take a dip in the spring-fed Barton Springs , which is one of Austin’s most famous landmarks.

In the afternoon, head over to Rainey Street, which is one of Austin’s most celebrated neighborhoods. Once a residential neighborhood, the street is now a charming strip of old houses turned bars and restaurants. Grab an outdoor table at Banger’s Sausage House & Beer Garden, which has one of the best patios in the city and is a great place to cozy up after a day spent outdoors. Banger’s specializes in authentic German sausages and pints on pints on pints.

Day Three, Out-of-Town Option

The Jester King Brewery is well known for it’s sour beers.The Jester King Brewery is well known for it’s sour beers. Jester King Brewery

While Austin has much to offer within its city limits, locals frequent parks and waterside escapes outside the city, too. After all, Texas Hill Country is famous for its swimming holes. A local favorite is Krause Springs, which is about 40 minutes outside of town in Spicewood, Texas. Since you’ll be heading outside of town, plan to leave Austin in the morning and to spend high noon at the springs.

As you enter the 115-acre plot of land, you’re first greeted with a butterfly garden that just begs for a stroll. The property is registered on the National Register of Historic Places, so the entire place has a quirky vibe. There are 32 individual springs to enjoy, and you’ll find locals sprawled out on towels, swimming, and enjoying the shade of the towering cypress trees. Find real estate on one of the giant, water-smoothed rocks, lay out a towels and some snacks and let the day float by.

Head back toward Austin before sunset, but first stopping by Jester King Brewery for one of the brewery’s famous sour beers. Rows of picnic tables are lined up beneath gnarly live oak trees with antique chandeliers hanging from their curly limbs. Kick back in the shade of the tree and prepare for a wild sunset over the country horizon. As for dinner, order a salad and made-from-scratch pizza from Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza, which shares the property with Jester King. And, perhaps, opt for another round of sour brews. Note: Both Jester King Brewery & Stanley’s Farmhouse Pizza are *only *open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays.

If you find yourself up for one last nightcap, we suggest a rendezvous at Whisler’s. Also on East 6th, the eccentric bar features a fantastic backyard, creative cocktails and an interesting atmosphere… antique mirrors, an old bathtub, and a mezcal bar upstairs. But be forewarned: The oranges are dusted with crushed crickets *not *sugar. We speak from experience.

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Originally written by RootsRated for Toad&Co.

Featured image provided by Johannes Schneemann

11 Best Hikes in the US

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Roan Mountain Highlands, NC – Photo by Robert Aberegg and RootsRated.com

From the rolling mountains of the southeast, to the jagged peaks of the west, to the canyons, waterfalls and old-growth forests of the Pacific Coast, these trails are ones for the bucket list. By no means an exhaustive list, here are 11 hikes across the country that simply have to be on your radar. Let us know which ones we missed!

1. Roan Mountain Highlands | Asheville, NC
Criss-crossing the Tennessee-North Carolina border for 14-miles, this section of the Appalachian Trail is easily one of the most beautiful stretches along the entire route from Maine to Georgia. The views from these ethereal highlands are stunning and constant, and bring to mind visions of Scotland and Wales.

2. Baxter Creek Trail | Knoxville, TN
In truth, almost every trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park is eligible for your hiking bucket list, but one particular route that highlights the very best of this park is the Baxter Creek Trail- a 12 mile roundtrip with 4,000 feet of climbing, sweetly smelling spruce trees, and a lush rainforest understory.

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Baxter Creek Trail, TN – Photo by Miguel Vieira and RootsRated.com

3. Enchanted Rock | Austin, TX
Enchanted Rock is a 425-foot pink granite dome that shoots up from the flat Texan landscape and offers hikers an amazing place to explore. With its Native American folklore, fascinating geological formations, and sweeping views, this place is truly enchanted.

4. Superior Hiking Trail | Minneapolis, MN
Located in northern Minnesota, the Superior Hiking Trail is a 296-mile route that affords an epic adventure on the banks of Lake Superior. Whether thru-hiking or day-hiking, this trail, with its dense forests, deep gorges, and fast-flowing rivers (not to mention lovely views of the largest Great Lake) is an absolute must-experience.

5. Indian Peaks Wilderness Area | Boulder, CO
With over 75,000 acres of wilderness, plenty of towering peaks, and 133 miles of trails, visiting the Indian Peaks Wilderness of Colorado is an adventure that every hiking enthusiast should have. The Mitchell Lake Trail is one particular route that features high-altitudes, breathtaking views, and a pristine alpine lake.

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Indian Peaks Wilderness Area, CO – Photo by Steven Bratman and RootsRated.com

6. Paint Mines | Colorado Springs, CO
Located in the prairies of Colorado, the Paint Mines are a geological and archaeological wonder to behold. Sculpted over millions of years, these gulches now form a clay and sandstone labyrinth of butterscotch yellows, burnt oranges, and ruby reds, reminiscent of South Dakota’s legendary Badlands National Park.

7. Oneonta Gorge | Portland, OR
Though not much of a hike, and more like a .6-mile scramble over slippery and wobbly logs, Oneonta makes the list because it is truly one of the most stunning gorges in the country. Carved into a little cranny of the Columbia River Gorge, this picturesque canyon features lush green mossy walls and a wonderful swimming hole and waterfall at the end of the tunnel.

8. Sleeping Indian | Jackson Hole, WY
The 12-mile roundtrip up Sleeping Indian is quite possibly the best hike in all of Jackson Hole- which is saying something. What makes it so great? Well, aside from the pristine pine forests and wildflower meadows, Sleeping Indian has the best views of the Tetons that you can find anywhere in the area, and it’s not even in the Tetons.

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Sleeping Indian, WY – Photo by Dina Misner and RootsRated.com

9. Big Basin Redwoods State Park | San Francisco, CA
Located in California’s oldest state park, the Pine Mountain Trail, in Big Basin, is a thigh-burning journey that leads hikers through a dense forest of scented pines, ancient oaks, and towering redwoods until they reach the spectacular viewpoint known as ‘Buzzards Roost.’

10. Tequepis Trail | Santa Barbara, CA
The best part about the Tequepis Trail isn’t the smooth single track, or the 3,000 feet of elevation gain over 9-miles, or even the gorgeous views of Cachuma Lake. The best part about the Tequepis Trail is that it’s the closest trail to the Cold Spring Tavern– a rustic restaurant hidden in a sycamore forest offering blues music, craft brews, and delicious Tri-Tip sandwiches.

11. High Rock Lookout | Seattle, WA
The view from this old fire tower yields some of the most unbeatable views of Mt. Rainier that you can find anywhere in the Pacific Northwest. While it’s only a 3-mile roundtrip, this hike is not for the faint of heart, as it features quite a bit of elevation gain as well as dizzying, vertigo-inducing heights. But the views… wow.

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High Rock Lookout, WA – Photo by Douglas Scott and RootsRated.com

See You at the Watering Hole

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Nothing says summer like “CANNONNNN BALLLL!” With some tips from the outdoorsy folks at RootsRated, we’ve put together a list of our favorite summer watering holes around the country. So lather up the sunscreen and get your water shoes on – we’ll meet you in the splash zone.

Austin-Swimming-featureJacob’s Well – Austin, TX

A quintessential example of Central Texas aquifer and spring formations, Jacob’s Well Natural Area gives visitors the unique opportunity to swim directly in an artesian spring. About 40 minutes from Austin, outside Wimberly, it’s close enough but far out too. The spring’s cool, clear water surrounded by rock ledges and lots of trees represent what all Texas swimming holes used to be, and should be. Read more about it before you go to get a better appreciation of its history and beauty, and help keep it beautiful. Open 9am-9pm. Admission is free.

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Red Rock Crossing  – Flagstaff, AZ

This trail boasts the “most photographed view in Arizona” (Cathedral Rock), but Red Rock Crossing has much more to offer than just a few photo opportunities. Start at a paved parking lot with a picnic area, and hike out on an easy, sandy trail, crossing the river several times, until the trail peters out (or keep going to reach other, more strenuous, Sedona trails). The whole area is ripe for swimming and wading, and there’s even a vortex nearby for the curious. Just remember to purchase a parking pass – a day pass is $5.

15273019579_a5b94c00ec_kSkinny Dip Falls – Asheville, NC

This may come as a disappointment for some and a relief to others, but Skinny Dip Falls is not actually a clothing-optional swimming hole. This rugged and serene pool is located at the headwaters of the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River. Waterfalls, jumping-off rocks, a deep plunge pool, and shallow areas for wading make it a perfect swimming spot. If you’re determined to go au naturel, there are plenty of secluded spots to be found by exploring upstream. Located just a half mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Mountains-to-Sea-Trail, Skinny Dip Falls is a great place to cool down after hiking in nearby Graveyard Fields or Black Balsam Knob.

DeSoto Falls – Mentone, AL   photo-2-e1430182256324

Located at Lookout Mountain north of the actual park lies one of our favorite spots to swim. Water spills over a rocky ledge, falling 104 feet into a deep and wide pool straight from the set of The Goonies. The climb down to the pool can be difficult; we recommend only confident scramblers attempt to access this pool. A cave cuts into the cliff behind the waterfall, a perfect place to hang out while mist from the waterfall cools you off. Although still part of DeSoto State Park, it’s not technically in the park, but located 7 miles north, towards Mentone, AL, near the small town of Valley Head. Take route 117 out of town turn right onto 613 which should dead end into a viewing platform of the falls.

131191-1291-featureCummins Falls – Cookville, TN 

Once a popular hunting ground for Native Americans roaming the waterways, there’s a beauty at Cummins Falls that transports you back in time. You cant help but marvel at the serenity, then dive right into the green water with a good holler. And you’ll have earned it by the time you get there – the trail itself is 2.5 miles out and back with changes in terrain and slight elevation gain. Through the rolling hills along the Blackburn Fork River, you’ll finally end where the stream gives way to a majestic 75 foot cascading waterfall that feeds the perfect swimming hole at the base. Spend a few hours experiencing the trail in its entirety and branch out on smaller trails to get a different glimpse of the gorge.