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A far out hike, close into Austin

Lower Falls at Bull Creek

So close, yet so far out…a gorgeous family-friendly hike near to downtown

When most visitors think of Austin, they think bars, music, nightlife. But just as crucial to Austin’s attractiveness as a tourist haven, is its natural setting and opportunities for being immersed in nature while still within the city limits. A great spot for getting away from it all close to town is the Lower Bull Creek Greenbelt in Northwest Austin.

Less than a 20-minute drive from downtown Austin is the trailhead to “Inga’s Trail” at the Inga VanNynatten Memorial Trail & Bull Creek District Park. You will want a car to get here from downtown. Near the intersection of Spicewood Springs Road and 360 on Lakeland Drive is a gravel lot (when you are near the Marquis Apartments entrance, you’re close) where hikers park. Across from this lot is the trailhead marker that will lead you into the greenbelt.

Seasonal waterfalls on Lower Bull Creek Greenbelt.

Along the trails…

After meandering down and over the first creek crossing, you will begin hiking on a rocky incline that will lead you above the creek and offer views on your right. These are sheer drops of 30 feet or so, so watch your footing, but there are great sightings of the creek from this vantage.

After about 15 minutes of climbing up the rocky path (there is the occasional bench for resting), you will pop out into an open field where the distant hills rise up to look slightly like you’re in a different setting, like a hike in a meadow in Colorado. If you are hiking this in summer, it won’t feel like Colorado but the views of the hills are still lovely. If you’re hiking in spring, lucky you, as the wildflowers will be in full bloom.

After about 10 minutes of this landscape, you descend down and to the right to begin meeting back up with the creek. Watch carefully, particularly in summer for poison ivy lunging at you from the wall of foliage. You’re in nature, in Texas (snakes live here), so, watch where you’re going.

At this point, you can hear the water roaring again, and the ground gets muddier as you are nearing the side trail off to the right, leading straight down to the water. You can see it as you walk. Or if it’s summer and overgrown, you can hear it. Follow the sound. You are looking for a muddy side trail to take you down to the creek. If it’s a weekend day, just follow the dogs and their owners. All dogs love the falls.

The Big Reveal…

After hiking for about 20-25 minutes or so, you’ve found the lower falls at Bull Creek Greenbelt. What’s great about this spot, is that you can swim, wade and play in this shallow rock ledge of a water expanse in almost every season. Cold winter days, no. It’s much too cold. But, on warm winter days, you can hike down here to see the change in grasses and trees. In summer, it’s fun to swim and rest in the shallow water. On a hot summer day, by the time you walk back to the car, you’ll have dried off.

Now that you’ve reached the falls…you’ve earned a rest. Have a seat on the rock overhang, enjoy whatever food or small picnic you’ve packed in (and will pack out), lay on a towel, or watch the dogs play. (This is not an official off-leash park but most dogs are roaming).

When you’re soaking in the sights at the falls, you can see why so many hippies set up base camp in Central Texas in the 1960s/70s after visiting the city’s many greenbelt trails. The real reason that Austin is “hip” now is that it was “hippie” then. So, get out there and take a hike.

Planning ahead…

Most of Bull Creek is fairly primitive and used primarily for hiking, so:

  • Make sure to bring plenty of water and wear sunscreen. Hats and towels during the summer are advisable. You can wear a swimsuit as well if you plan to swim.
  • You are hiking in a city park, but there are no facilities along this trailhead.
  • This trail is not recommended for young children as this is hiking and the terrain is uneven.
  • This is, however, a great trail for dogs. There are plastic bags at the Inga’s Trail marker and be polite and pack out any “donations” your dog may leave behind!
  • Try to hike this trail in spring or before noon in the summer.

August 10, 2018

Why Does Austin Make Me Sneeze?

Collection of items for Austin's allergy season, including Kleenex, neti pot, and various over the counter medications

Welcome, Austin visitor! Have your eyes started to itch? Are you sneezing? Can’t go anywhere without a tissue? Does it feel like you’re coming down with a scratchy throat and bad cold?

Relax. Your trip isn’t ruined.

You’re not sick (though you may want to die).

You’ve just met Austin’s allergens.

What’s Irritating In Austin’s Air

Collection of items for Austin's allergy season, including Kleenex, neti pot, and various over the counter medicationsGenerally speaking, Austin has great air. Low pollution, little smog, few ozone action days.

“We have first-time guests actually ask, ‘What makes Austin smell so good? Why does it have such a unique scent?’” said Chereen Fisher, Top Trip Rentals founder and owner. “It’s a mix of things, I think: our unique limestone-y soil and then everything that’s in the air.”

Depending on the time of year, that “something in the air” could be any number of things. According to Allergy and Asthma Center of Austin, ATX is often listed among the top 5 American cities for allergens.

With more than 300 days of sunshine annually, Austinites love their outdoor lifestyle. Whether exercising or lounging,  spending time outside means getting a handle on any allergy issues.

Knowing what’s blowing in the wind in any given month provides some helpful information for avoiding sneezes, sniffles, and snot.

Here’s a handy breakdown of seasonal pollen and particles you’ll likely breathe in on an Austin visit.

Austin’s Fall Allergens (September, October, November)

Cedar elm in fall behind agave with bird perched on it
Cedar elm. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Fall Elm (also known as cedar elm; native to central Texas; produces little round seed pods called samaras; prominent in east Austin)

Ragweed (10–30 percent of the U.S. population reacts to ragweed, known as ‘hay fever’; ragweed can grow as tall as 2 ft., though we’ve seen 5 ft. plants in particularly wet years; one plant can create billions of grains of pollen per season; often found along Barton Creek greenbelt)

Weeds/Grasses (central Texas’s weed season, from August–November, is one of the longest in the country; includes Johnsongrass, one of the top 10 worst weeds in the world, and carelessweed aka pigweed–pigs love to eat it; watch out for contact rashes when on single-track trails)

Austin’s Winter Allergens (December, January, February)

Trees shade Austin's Lady Bird Lake Trail near 1st Street Bridge
Oaks overlooking 1st St. Bridge. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Mountain Cedar (locals swear that a good bowl of spicy tortilla soup helps combat infamous “cedar fever”; those yellow clouds hanging above those scrubby trees aren’t smoke but visible pollen; most Austinites hate cedar trees–actually Ashe junipers–with a passion; yep, you can make gin from the berries)

Weeds/Grasses (yup, still hanging around; because winter is relatively mild with few hard freezes, Austin has a long growing season)

Oak (February to late May, Austin’s gorgeous spreading oaks carpet cars and patios with a greenish dust and dropped clusters, called catkins; just forget about washing your car for a while)

Austin’s Spring Allergens (March, April, May)

Mountain Cedar (watch the allergy forecast–we swear cedar fever ends)

Weeds/Grasses (in addition to the pollens, watch out for poison ivy along Austin’s trails; “leaves of three, let it be”)

Mesquite (Texas ranchers don’t like this native thorny tree, which is really a legume; bees like the flowers; Austin’s wild monk parrots eat the beans)

Oak (live oaks, Spanish oaks, red oaks…we’ve got lots of oaks)

Smoke from Mexico (spring agricultural fires in Mexico and central America blow into Texas, bringing hazy days and trouble for asthma sufferers)

Privet (aka ligustrum; City of Austin has identified ligustrum as an invasive species; sadly popular in older landscapes)

Texas Mountain Laurel (you’re probably not allergic, but that’s what smells like Grape Kool-Aid)

Close up image of bloom from Texas Mountain Laurel
Blooming Texas Mountain Laurel. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Austin’s Summer Allergens (June, July, August)

Blooming star jasmine in Austin
Star Jasmine, an evergreen vine. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Star Jasmine (late spring, early summer; not actually an allergen, but extremely fragrant flowers scent the Austin air; people hold “white” parties when it blooms)

Saharan Dust (north Africa sends Texas gusts of fine dirt; on the up side, the Saharan dust makes summer sunsets truly gorgeous, as light filters through the particles)

Pet Dander (year ’round; Austin loves its dogs, so odds are good that you’re sharing that patio restaurant with Fido, not to mention just about every other public place)

Mold spores (year ’round in central Texas; even when Austin is in drought conditions, check the mold count)

5 Austin Allergy Resources

Pink and blue sunset over Circuit of The Americas track near Austin
Austin’s summer sunsets wow, like this one at Circuit of The Americas. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler
  1. Know you have allergies? Start over-the-counter medications before you visit. Pack your neti pot for sinus irrigation (just use bottled water, not tap water, to skip amoebas).
  2. Check the daily predicted count, like the KVUE Allergy Forecast, before and while you visit.
  3. Got asthma? Want to exercise outdoors? Take a look at Austin’s air quality index report before you hit the Barton Creek greenbelt or Lady Bird Lake Trail.
  4. Need something to feel better? Locally owned People’s Pharmacy can help with traditional medications and advise on alternative remedies.
  5. Does ingesting local products help with allergies? We don’t know if there’s any truth to whether local bee pollen helps, but we’re willing to see if drinking locally-made Austin Reserve Gin from Revolution Spirits helps with cedar fever.

Collection of items for Austin's allergy season, including Kleenex, neti pot, and various over the counter medications

 

 

 

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September 25, 2017

ACL Memories: Reflecting on 2016

Clouds at sunset at ACL 2016

Now that the dust has settled (literally), let’s take a moment to reflect on Austin City Limits 2016.

This year, ACL festival managers went for a younger crowd and the music skewed heavy on EDM. I wandered around and saw a number of bands: Catfish and the Bottlemen, Melanie Martinez, and Cage the Elephant all played fabulous sets, full of energy and showmanship.

Why You Need an ACL VIP Pass

There wasn’t a must-see band for me; honestly, I went because I had a Top Trip Rentals VIP pass.

I LOVE the VIP area of ACL. If you have the money, it is so worth it (a VIP pass is about $450 per day versus $100 per day). Just beyond the VIP gatekeepers lies the promised land–air conditioned flush toilets; free drinks from Tito’s Vodka and Troublemaker Wines; free food from local vendors, like Ranch 616, and catered meals from Central Market. It’s called the “Grove,” and the area’s shady and relatively quiet. There are even big-screen TVs showing the stages and others set up for football.

It’s an oasis for sure in a sea of people and heat.

ACL Venue is the Big Star

Clouds at sunset at ACL 2016
Sunset at ACL 2016

There are moments of pure transcendence at ACL.

Ironically, I ended up spending as much time watching the crowds and clouds as I did the bands.

Don’t get me wrong–the music is great. But Austin has a lot of great music happening at all hours in all places all across town most of the time.

What makes ACL such a great experience music is the setting. Austin’s Zilker Park, nestled on the edge of Lady Bird Lake, provides a great view across the water of Austin’s ever changing skyline.

It’s really a gorgeous site to experience live music.

October 13, 2016

Tips to Enjoy Austin Like a Local

Crowd enjoying picnics on Auditorium Shore in Austin on 4th of July

The people, the attitude, the winter weather, the music–there’s a lot to love about Austin. So, how do locals narrow down what to do when entertaining out-of-town friends and family?

Whether visiting for a few days, traveling for work, or enjoying Austin’s signature festivals and events (ACL, SXSW, F1, The University of Texas Longhorn games, and more), our Top Trip Rentals’ staff members can guide visitors to live like a local.

Here to help are some of our favorite places and things to do in ATX. #goplaystay

Postcard that says "Go Play Stay" and #toptripping for Top Trip RentalsRebecca’s Top 5

  1. Walking the Barton Creek greenbelt (and stopping for swims in Barton Creek along the way).
  2. Wednesday night margaritas and “Texas Radio Live” at Guero’s Oak Garden.
  3. Shopping the monthly specials at Room Service Vintage.
  4. Counter Cafe’s brunch (she recommend the mango mimosas and Counter Benedict).
  5. Strolling Lady Bird Lake trail in the evening, with a stop at Alta’s Cafe for a drink.
Austin Skyline from the hike and bike trail
The 10-mile hike and bike trail circles Lady Bird Lake and gives spectacular views. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Sandra’s Top 5

  1. Drinks at Javalina Bar on Rainey St.
  2. Mountain biking at Walnut Creek Park.
  3. Exploring Barton Creek greenbelt with my dog (with snacks and water).
  4. Barbacoa tacos from La Esperanza, across from St. Edwards University on S.Congress.
  5. Dancing the night away at Highland Lounge.
Bike path with compass rose at Walnut Creek Park in Austin
New bike trail runs from Walnut Creek Park to South MoPac. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Brenda’s Top 5

  1. Enjoying the show at Esther’s Follies.
  2. Angie’s Mexican Food on East 7th Street.
  3. Visiting the Texas State Capitol (the grounds and the building).
  4. Time with friends at Grove Wine Bar.
  5. Climbing the steps at Mt. Bonnell.
View of Lake Austin from the top of Mt. Bonnell
Sunrise from the top of Mt. Bonnell is worth climbing those 99 steps. Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

Rene’s Top 5

  1. A trip to Mayfield Park to see the peacocks.
  2. Touring the outdoor exhibit at AMOA’s Laguna Gloria location.
  3. Dining at Fonda San Miguel Restaurant.
  4. Austin City Limits!
  5. October weather.
White peacocks on the porch at Austin's Mayfield Park.
Peacocks rule the roost at Austin’s Mayfield Park. There are even white peacocks! Photo Credit: Leah Nyfeler

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September 30, 2016