Most of us in the Lake Travis area are familiar with Austin’s Mount Bonnell, well-known for the spectacular view from the top, but there are plenty of locals who have never actually made the short hike to see it for themselves. If you’re in that category, put it on your springtime bucket list!
It’s a shorter hike than you might think, and is easily accessible via a scenic drive on Mt. Bonnell Road (map). There’s no cost, the parking is free, it’s not commercialized and doesn’t take long at all. You can pop by for a brisk 20-minute walk or bring a picnic and stay for hours. If you can, plan to catch the sunset from the top. Breathtaking. Just bring a flashlight for the trip down.
Once you park, there are two ways to make your way to the top. You can climb the long, steep staircase or opt for the path on the right side. I prefer the path because you get to enjoy the lake views on the way up. Either way, it’s a surprisingly quick walk and easily doable with young kids (just make sure you stay on the path and don’t let them get too close to the edge!).
From the top you can see Lake Austin, the 360 Bridge, gorgeous lakeside mansions and the downtown skyline from a single viewpoint. It’s actually very little work for a huge payoff and makes a spectacular photo opp.
There’s typically a wide mix of people there. You’ll see runners, dogs, families, photographers and more enjoying one of Austin’s oldest tourist attractions. It’s a great place to take out of town visitors, because it’s quick and gives them a fabulous view of the city.
Oh and one interesting tidbit I read on Wikipedia: “Legend has it that Mount Bonnell was once called Antoinette’s Leap, after a young woman who leaped to her death to avoid being captured by Native Americans who had killed her fiancé.” Eek. I thought that was interesting, but last time I was there I couldn’t help trying to guess where she might have jumped. It was a little eerie, but then again most great landmarks have an interesting history. Mount Bonnell is no exception.