Visit Mount Bonnell, Austin
Mount Bonnell, Austin’s highest point within city limits at 775 feet above sea level, should be included on any Austin Things To Do list. No visitor can leave the Texas capital city without hiking up Mount Bonnell and checking out the spectacular Austin views visible from what was once the city’s highest point.
A popular destination going back all the way to the 1850s, there is some question as to the origin of the name. Most likely, it was named for George Bonnell who moved to Texas in the 1830s to fight for Texas Independence. He later published the Texas Sentinel and was killed in 1842, during the failed Mier Expedition.
But Mount Bonnell isn’t a popular Austin Tourism spot because of the history. People come here for the view.
And the view is incredible. The panoramic view encompasses an incredible bird’s eye view of Lake Austin down below. To the southeast, the Austin Texas skyline is visible and off to the northwest, there’s a great view in the distance of the Pennybacker Bridge (aka the “360 Bridge” after Loop 360, which is alternatively known as the “Capital of Texas Highway” – why give something one name when you can give it three?).
There are minimal facilities here – basically a few picnic tables and a pavilion. Parking consists of spaces on the side of the road (MT BONNELL RD).
There are two access points to the overlook area – a rocky trail from the north or a set of steep stairs (99 in total) at the south end. But we’re not talking about a major hike here – sensible shoes and a camera are all you’ll need – and some water and sunscreen during the summer.
It also tends to be one of the more popular Austin Texas attractions – both locals and tourists come here often and it’s also popular for special occasion photography sessions (weddings, graduation, something involving your dog, etc.) so expect a crowd.
Park hours are from 6am to 10pm – curfew enforced after hours.
With an elevation of about 780 feet above sea level, Mount Bonnell sits almost 200 feet higher than its surrounding area. It’s become a popular picnic spot, romantic outing, and free Austin attraction.
Austin visitors and residents willing to take a short hike up Mount Bonnell will be rewarded with panoramic vistas of Lake Austin and the downtown skyline.
Hiking Austin’s Mount Bonnell
Reaching Mount Bonnell’s summit is more of a stair-climbing workout and less of a hike. Steep stone stairs lead visitors to the top. People with athletic abilities ranging from beginners to advanced do the hike every day. Rails along the stairs help visitors ascend safely.
Mount Bonnell sits in about five acres of parkland located at Covert Park in Northwest Austin. But the name Covert Park doesn’t mean much to Austinites, who instead just refer to the area as Mount Bonnell.
The short hike up and mini leg workout is worth it for the pleasant atmosphere at Mount Bonnell’s peak, where visitors will find a stone pavilion with great views of Lake Austin and the Texas Hill Country landscape. The pavilion tends to get crowded, but off the pavilion, visitors can hike down a more rustic stone area for more privacy and closer views.
Austin’s downtown skyline is also visible from a picnic area near Mount Bonnell’s pavilion and makes for a great photo. And even the University of Texas’ famous tower can be spotted.
Visitors who want to take a scenic route down Mount Bonnell can choose another option besides the stone stairway. A dirt and gravel path next to the pavilion offers scenic views of the hillside and lake.
Getting to Mount Bonnell in Austin, Texas
Mount Bonnell is located at 3800 Mt. Bonnell Dr. 78731. A curfew is enforced from 10 p.m. to 5 a.m. During the summer months, get there early and make sure to hydrate.
DIRECTIONS: From Mo-Pac (aka Loop 1), take 35TH ST exit and head west (left from the south; right from the north). 35TH ST branches into FOOTHILL DR (right) and OLD BULL CREEK RD (left). Continue onto OLD BULL CREEK RD and then turn right onto MT BONNELL RD. Continue traveling north a short distance until you see a bazillion cars parked along the side of the road.
Mount Bonnell History
Mount Bonnell — named after George W. Bonnell, who moved to Texas to fight for its independence and later became commissioner of Indian Affairs of the Republic of Texas under Sam Houston’s presidency — has a historical marker designation. According to the Texas Historical Survey Commission, Mormons built a mill at the foot of Mount Bonnell by the Colorado River (called Lake Austin in that part of town) in the mid-1800s. But a flood destroyed the mill, forcing the Mormons who had settled there to move west. Records show that as far back as the 1850s and 1860s, Mount Bonnell served as a popular picnic outing destination for Texas nature lovers, just as the site does today.
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. Covert Park, Mount Bonnell, elevation 785 ft above sea level, is the name given in the 1830s to a peak on the ridgeline overlooking the Colorado River in Austin Texas. A hundred years later, that land was deeded to Travis County by the Covert family of Austin as a gift for use as a public park, resulting in the establishment of COVERT PARK AT MOUNT BONNELL In 1972. Mount Bonnell is generally believed to have been named after early Texas newspaper publisher George W. Bonnell, who moved to Texas in 1836. George W. Bonnell was publisher of the local paper The Texas Sentinel and was prominent in early Texas and Travis County Austin affairs after the War for Independence. There’s a cute pavilion at one end of the Mount. It’s a perfect place to carry out a romantic proposal. You will have a free credit-only cast nearby surrounding you with big applauses.