The Runner’s Guide to Texas
From paved city paths to mountain-peak trails, there’s something for every kind of runner in Texas
Not only is Texas expansive, geographically speaking—it’s incredibly varied, too. There are canyons and mountains, prairies and woodlands and coastline. And each of the state’s regions offers a unique experience for runners of all abilities. With so many opportunities to log miles, where to start? We caught up with some of the state’s most dedicated runners for their best recommendations.
Explore the Running Trails in Texas’s Capital City
Austin is the self-proclaimed live music capital of the world, but it’s also a city of runners. The beating heart of Austin’s run scene is the Lady Bird Lake Trail, where you can tackle the full 10-mile loop or detour onto the Barton Creek Greenbelt for miles of more secluded running and swimming. (Cool off at Gus Fruh, a deep limestone swimming hole in the Greenbelt). Nearby McKinney Falls State Park offers waterfalls, wildlife, and winding trails—take the Homestead Trail and add on the Flint Rock Loop and you’ll find it hard to believe you’re still within Austin city limits. Or jump on the Bull Creek South to North trail in northwest Austin for an out-and-back excellent for runners of every skill level.
After your run, fuel up on migas tacos and aguas frescas from Veracruz All Natural. Stay the night at the Line hotel, right off the Lady Bird Lake Trail, or the funky Austin Motel, amid the shops and restaurants on South Congress.
Log Some Vert in a Vibrant Border City
El Paso is home to some of the state’s best high-elevation runs, and Franklin Mountains State Park, which rises more than 3,000 vertical feet above the city, is ground zero. With more than 100 miles of trail, the options are endless: “Whether you want a steep climb, or you want rollers, Franklin offers everything,” says Mike Coulter of the local running shop Up & Running. For a taste of what Franklin can offer, head to the Tin Mines Trail, on the park’s eastern edge, a popular out-and-back that winds through desert vistas dotted with yucca and prickly pear (6.6 miles; roughly 1,000 feet of elevation gain).
If you’re up for it after a run, Franklin Mountains have great climbing, and nearby Hueco Tanks State Park has some of the best bouldering in the country. Make sure to grab some tacos at the famed H&H Car Wash and Coffee Shop or the legendary flautas from Tacoholics. Book a room and enjoy the rooftop pool at the hip Hotel Indigo, or camp at one of the nearby state parks.
Run Along a Historic Railway and Hydrate on “Crazy Water”
As far back as the late 1800s, tourists from far and wide have been traveling to Mineral Wells, in north-central Texas, for the healing powers of its mineral-rich “Crazy Water.” Today the water is still bottled in town, but the old railway that delivered travelers into town has been converted into a 20-mile-long rail trail that’s perfect for running. If you’re up for it, run the 5.8 miles from downtown Lake Mineral Wells State Park, where you’ll find another 12.8 miles of trails (don’t miss the slot canyons in the Penitentiary Hollow area).
After your run, go for a swim in the lake or soak your bones at the Crazy Bath House, in town, where you can also book a room for the night. While in Mineral Wells, grab a schnitzel or a salad at the Hole in the Wall Grill & Bier Garten, and have a drink at the Coffee and Cocktails restaurant.
Run Lakeside in the Heart of Barbecue Country
Just 100 miles from both Houston and Austin, Lake Somerville State Park’s nearly 40 miles of trails should not be missed. Running through the densely forested pockets of Lake Somerville State Park can feel like running through an equatorial jungle, says Chris McWatters, whose Tejas Trails puts on the Trailway Trail Race here each year. “It’s a really beautiful park, right there on the lake,” McWatters says. The trailway connecting the park’s two sections is low-gradient 13 miles one-way with lots of side-trail options, like the Sandy Slough Trail, which leads to one of the most picturesque spots in the park. Add on the Alligator Loop (1.5 miles), but keep your eyes peeled for the toothy reptile basking on the banks of Yegua Creek.
After your run, take a boat out on the lake, go for a swim, or cast for catfish and bass. And don’t forget to stop for the legendary barbecue at Snow’s BBQ in nearby Lexington or historic City Meat Market in Giddings. Book a room at the rustic Cavalry Court in College Station, where you can relax with a Ranch Water cocktail around the firepits in their spacious courtyard.
Endless Trails and Lively Arts Scene in San Antonio
San Antonio is known for its food, culture, and history. It also boasts some of the best urban running in the state, with 80 miles of greenway trails, quick access to state parks and natural areas, and “tons of little pockets of running clubs and cultures,” says Jessie Winnett of iRun Texas, a local running store. On the greenway trails, “you can basically run from one side of the city to the other,” she says.
The Rock ’n’ Roll Marathon comes to town every year and draws thousands of participants to its downtown run, but locals also love to run in the Prickly Pear Trail Run (it has 50K, 15K, and 5K options), held every year at McAllister Park. McAllister, Eisenhower, and Friedrich Wilderness parks, all located within city limits, offer trail running that can be “as rugged and technical as you want them to be,” according to Winnett. For a longer run, tack on sections of the Salado Creek Greenway to the Blue Loop, winding through the south Texas scenery in McAllister Park.
After working up an appetite on your run, grab a Curry BBQ Bowl at Curry Boys, a restaurant at the intersection of Southeast Asian curry and Texas barbecue. Next, peruse one of San Antonio’s world-class art museums: the new Ruby City art center, the McNay Art Museum, and the San Antonio Museum of Art. Stay the night at Hotel Havana or book a room on the river in the historic Pearl district at the trendy Hotel Emma, and take a dip in their rooftop pool.
Texas is more than a state, it’s a state of mind. From Big Bend to the Gulf Coast & everywhere in between, your next adventure awaits. No matter what experience you’re after, we can’t wait to see you soon. Plan your next Texas getaway at traveltexas.com. Let’s Texas.