The Slaughter Creek Preserve trail is literally the hidden gem of Austin's trail scene. Barely visible from the road and fairly difficult to find, the access point for this 5-mile loop trail is located near at the edge of the Circle C neighborhood near the creek. The trail is a restored savanna that is maintained by the Austin Wildland Conservation Division as a water quality protection land program. This bi-directional trail is primarily used for hiking, trail running, and mountain biking. Even though the trail isn't usually too busy, be aware that you might have an equestrian encounter. The trail itself is not technically difficult, but the landscape means that shade is sparse.
What Makes It Great
Built and managed by volunteers from the Austin Ridge Riders, the 100 acre preserve’s main purpose is protecting the land’s ability to filter rain water into the underlying aquifer. It is a haven of solitude amid a sea of suburbia. At the trailhead you’ll find information about the Trautwein homestead which is still on the property—an interesting pre-hike read. The trail crosses the creek and winds around 3 hills. During wildflower season, one can experience the beauty of lots of color as the preserve is slowly being reclaimed by nature. Prairie grasses, birds, and woodland creatures are starting to return as well. One might even see a roadrunner or a fox. This is not to say that the trail is in bad shape. Part of it is actually covered in crushed granite and supposedly ADA compliant. Just after the trail begins, bikes are routed clockwise while hikers and equestrians are routed counter clockwise. One can expect to spend the majority of this hike in the sun walking through exposed grasslands with the occasional patch of Oak and Juniper trees along the way, so pack plenty of water and bring sunscreen! For those looking for a shorter hike, around the 2-3 mile mark, you can head back toward the trailhead for a total distance of 3.5 miles. The trail is quite busy on the weekends and closes when it rains, so make sure to check the Facebook page before heading out.
Who is Going to Love It
With only a few rocky sections along the way, the un-intimidating terrain is perfect for those looking for a peaceful and easy hike close to town or for novice mountain bikers and trail runners. Horse lovers will also appreciate the meandering loop around gentle hillsides. It’s easy enough for children, but they should be well-supervised due to the trail’s popularity for mountain biking. This trail is a literal walk in the park for those accustomed to more rugged terrain. Dog lovers will have to leave Fido at home for this one as no dogs are allowed on the preserve. (Who really has a dog named Fido?)
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
If you haven’t been here before, it can be quite difficult to find. Parking is free and is located off of FM 1826 just near where the creek passes under the road. You’ll see a sign that says “Water quality management area” near the entrance. Take the unmarked road to the (I cannot overstate this enough) very small parking lot. There are about 20 spaces if you use the “General Lee” method to get in and out of your car, so get there early. Once the lot is full, there is no overflow parking. The trail is open during daylight hours, but the automatic gate closes at dusk. As mentioned above, no dogs. But horses are permitted. After your hike, take the short 10 mile drive to the Salt Lick for some BBQ.