The Violet Crown - South Austin’s Newest Trail System Now Open

In 2006, the city of Austin Parks department started an ambitious plan to open up southwest Austin to hikers and bikers. The planned regional trail, called the Violet Crown Trail, was to begin in central Austin and pass through the urban wildlands of Barton Creek Wilderness Park, eventually ending in Hays County. Once complete, it will be the longest trail of its kind in Central Texas.

the violet crown trail consists of a mixture of wide gravel and paved trails.

the violet crown trail consists of a mixture of wide gravel and paved trails.

Though the trail is currently still in the process of being completed, the first 9 mile section between Lady Bird Lake and the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center is now open to hikers and bikers. A combination of wide gravel and paved trails and some single track, the Violet Crown is a wonderful way to explore Southwest Austin and makes this area more accessible than ever before. Winding through the rolling countryside of the City of Austin’s Water Quality Protection Lands, the Violet Crown Trail offers bikers a safe and easy ride in a uniquely natural Texas Hill Country setting.

The Violet Crown Trail represents the greater vision of Hill Country Conservancy’s work to get people out on the land. Users will have the opportunity to experience conservation lands like never before – surrounded by wildlife, clean streams, and the breathtaking views of land preserved by HCC and its partners.

The lady bird johnson wildflower center is a gorgeous educational center dedicated to the preservation of central texas’s unique flora and botanical ecosystems.

The lady bird johnson wildflower center is a gorgeous educational center dedicated to the preservation of central texas’s unique flora and botanical ecosystems.

Mike’s Bikes and Tours is now offering a bike tour of the Violet Crown Trail from mid-September to mid-June that includes an hour stop at the Wildflower Center (entrance fee is included).  The Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center includes beautiful gardens, walking trails, a cafe and a gift shop. Lots of things to see and many beautiful photo opportunities! 

This tour is available Fall - Spring and is great for riders of all levels! Sign up now and let us give you the Violet Crown Tour!


riders of all age and skill levels love the violet crown!

riders of all age and skill levels love the violet crown!

The Low-Down on Austin’s Famous Congress Avenue Bats

If you hang out in Austin for any period of time, you’ll notice something - the people here are crazy about bats. There are bat statues, bat murals, and once, Austin even had an ice hockey team named after the bats. So what’s the deal with the bat’s, you ask?  Read on friends!


Austin is Home to the Largest Urban Bat Colony IN THE WORLD

Mexican free tail bats and babies nesting in central texas

Mexican free tail bats and babies nesting in central texas

That’s right, Austin is home to the world's largest urban colony of bats!  Each year in March, over 1.5 million Mexican free tail bats return to the Ann Richards Congress Avenue bridge to birth and raise their young. Surprisingly, the colony is almost exclusively female (minus the young), as the males stay behind in Mexico awaiting their mates return in September.  No one knows exactly why the males stay behind, it’s just one of the mysteries still surrounding these amazing creatures. 

Bats Eat Bugs

Bat sculpture in downtown austin

Bat sculpture in downtown austin

If you’ve ever been outside in Austin in the summer, you might have noticed the bug situation - there are tons of them.  Mosquitoes, the scourge of southern summers, are plentiful here and it’s a constant battle keeping them at bay. Each night, Austin’s bat population comes to the rescue, eating some 10,000 - 20,000 pounds of insects, including mosquitoes and other agricultural pests. This free service the bats provide to the city’s human inhabitants is invaluable, and Austinites are very thankful for the critical role they play in the urban ecosystem.

Bats are Entertaining

austin ice bats logo…..can you tell this is from the ‘90’s??

austin ice bats logo…..can you tell this is from the ‘90’s??

As it turns out, bats are fond of dramatic exits. Each night, on que, the bats emerge, en masse, from their nests under the bridge to feed. The bats’ nightly mass exodus takes almost an hour to complete and is truly a natural wonder. This spectacle is truly a sight to behold, and onlookers start gathering around the bridge in the evening, jockeying for the best viewing position. When the bats start to emerge, they are so densely packed together that from a distance it can look more like a stream of smoke than a bunch of tiny individual creatures.

Bat Viewing Facts

So now that you know what’s up with the bat’s, you’re probably wanting to know the best way for you to them. Here are a few facts for viewing Austin’s Congress Avenue Bats: 

  • Best dates to see the bats are July to October

  • The bats always fly out from under the Congress Avenue Bridge to the east

  • Bats start their flight at sundown, around 8:45 at night in summer, earlier in fall

  • Local tour operators can take you to the best viewing spots

Our Congress Avenue Bat Tour is one of our most popular tours because people love the bats! This tour will take you along the Butler Hike and Bike Trail to a viewing spot right by the bridge where you can see the bats emerge in all their glory. It's a fun and easy tour that is perfect for riders of all skill levels.

If you are planning a trip to Austin during the summer or fall, you definitely want to make seeing the bats a priority. We promise, these little critters are top notch performers and never fail to disappoint their adoring audiences.