FAQs for Urban Trail Visitors

What are urban trails? 

Urban trails are paths separated from the road that are designed for people walking or on bikes to use for transportation and recreation. 

Not all urban trails look the same, but most are: 

  • Accessible – designed for all ages and abilities.
  • Hard-surfaced.
  • 10 - 15 feet wide, width can vary by location.

 

How can I find an urban trail near my home or work?

There are about 50 miles of urban trails in Austin. View our interactive urban trail webmap  to see existing urban trails and trails projects that are funded for near-term design or construction. You’ll also find our long-term plan for a citywide urban trails network. 

To find a trail near you, scroll down to the second map. Then use the search feature to enter an address. The map will automatically zoom into the location you entered. Zoom out until you see a trail or bicycle facility.  Click on that trail for more information. Please note: Length miles are the total miles in a trail network, which may not be fully connected.  

What do I need to know before I go out on the trail? 

Austin’s urban trails are a great place to begin exploring outdoor spaces. Below are some important guidelines to keep yourself and others safe. 

  • Be prepared! Check the weather, wear comfortable shoes, and bring water. 

  • People walking, running, on bicycles, and more use urban trails. Be aware of others who are traveling at different speeds. Leave space for people to pass on your left as you travel on the right side of the trail. 

  • Observe wildlife from a distance and never approach, feed, or follow them. 

  • Do not litter and scoop your pet’s poop. Trash can harm wildlife and pets, pollute waterways, and litter can ruin another’s experience. 

  • Visit our Trail Tips page for more helpful guidelines. 

Why does the City build urban trails? 

Trails provide many benefits, as they: 

  • Provide safe and free ways for people of all ages to get from place to place. 
  • Expand public spaces for people to enjoy, interact, play, and exercise.  
  • Increase access to nature. 
  • Help reduce traffic and improve air quality by having fewer vehicles on the road.
Can I bring my dog to the trails? 

Pets are welcome, but keep them leashed and under control for the safety of your pet, other visitors, and wildlife. Always bag and throw away pet waste to protect wildlife and maintain water quality. 

Who should I contact about trail maintenance? 

Keeping Austin's urban trail system free of debris and trash is one of our top priorities. Please use the Austin 3-1-1 mobile app to report trail damage, trash, obstructions, or other issues.  

On the mobile app go to: 

Park Ground Maintenance 

Click on location, then click on Trails.

Next, click Issue and select an issue from the list.  

In the description, be sure to include the trail name and the specific location in your service request, along with any other important information.  

If possible, upload a photo to better help us identify the issue you are reporting.  

How can I stay informed about urban trails? 

The Urban Trails Projects page has in-depth information about ongoing urban trail projects. 

We send email updates about individual trail projects, and a quarterly newsletter with the latest news on Austin’s urban trails. Subscribe here to receive updates about the trails that are most important to you. 

You can also follow the Austin Public Work Facebook page for timely updates about urban trails and other Austin Public Work’s projects. 

FAQs about Urban Trail Planning and Projects

How does the program decide where to build trails? 

The 2014 Urban Trails Plan identified 407 miles of urban trails to be built throughout the City. The plans divide trails into “Tier I” and “Tier II” trails.  When prioritizing trails, the Urban Trails Program considers: 

  • How close the trail would be to destinations. 
  • How many people could regularly use the trail. 
  • If the trail can connect to sidewalks, bike lanes, or other trails.
  • Community support for the trail.  

The Urban Trails Program also considers funding, environmental constraints, and construction feasibility. 

What is a Preliminary Engineering Report (PER)?

A Preliminary Engineering Report (PER) is a document that gathers all the information needed to recommend trail route options, the cost of each route, and materials needed. The report also includes information about the trail’s impact on nearby property owners, wildlife and water quality, and more. 

Multiple city departments consider these factors to make sure that a new trail follows all plans, policies, and standards before the design process begins. A certified, independent wildlife biologist is also part of the PER team to consider how each route option impacts local wildlife. 

What happens after a preliminary engineering report? 

First the trail will go through multiple phases of design – from 30% to 60% to 90% complete. Each phase is reviewed by various City of Austin departments. 

If the trail crosses land that is not owned by the City, the Urban Trail Program works with the property owner to purchase an easement for use of the land before the project moves forward. 

When the trail is fully designed and all easements are in place, the project goes to bid for construction. 

Agreements are made with other City of Austin departments to determine who handles the maintenance and operations of the trail. The Watershed Protection Department oversees protection of creeks, the Parks and Recreation Department oversees the park system, and the Austin Public Works Urban Trail Program oversees the construction and maintenance of the surface, bridges, shoulders, and trees along Urban Trails. 

What are the “Phases” referring to on the Urban Trail Project Pages? 

Large urban trail projects are often constructed in smaller phases or sections as funding is made available. 

How long will it take the Urban Trails Program to build a trail? 

Building an urban trail is a multi-step process that can take many years to complete. 

The process begins with defining a route and conducting environmental reviews. Preliminary engineer reports (see above), considering land availability and public input, and design, all take time. 

Funding must also be identified to build trails, often in the form of bonds or grants.  

Finally, to construct the trail the City must bid out the work to private consulting firms. 

What happens at Public Meetings for Urban Trail Projects? 

The Urban Trails project team provides information and project updates to the community, and the community shares their input about the project. This is just one of the ways the City collaborates with residents to make a trail that reflects the needs and wants of the local community.

How will urban trails impact the environment? 

Urban trails offer a way for people to travel in a safe, affordable, and sustainable way. When walking, biking, and transit are a safe and realistic option, people  are less reliant on cars and can reduce their car trips. Fewer motor vehicle trips improves our air and water quality, as well as our quality of life.  

Keeping the environment healthy is important to us. We consider the trail's environmental impact from the start. All environmental protections in the City Code are applied to the design and construction of urban trails. If City of Austin staff, the community, or appropriate boards and commissions are deeply concerned about environmental impacts, a "no build" option is considered.