If all the old-timers are to be believed, there was a time in Austin when the small population and laissez-faire attitude meant that public cannabis smoking was as common as Bird scooters are today.
Unfortunately for us, we now live in an anti-cannabis, pro-two-wheeled-death-trap world. So we have to find quiet little pockets where we can enjoy our favorite hobby. With such a wealth of outdoor space, though, we’re spoiled for choice. So check out some of these discreet local places, but remember — smoke at your own risk.
1. Pennybacker Bridge Overlook
Just south of the iconic Pennybacker Bridge (that’s the 360 Bridge, for the uninitiated) sits a natural outcrop where you can take in quite the vista. Park at the gravel turnoff right before the bridge, and hike up the short (but slightly steep) trail to the overlook. Enjoy the views of the bridge and the boats cruising along the Colorado River. Like most places with a great view, this area will be busier around sunset, so plan accordingly.
2. Pease Park
Although it’s famous (locally) for the annual Eeyore’s Birthday Party bash, the 84 acres at Pease Park are worth visiting year ‘round. There’s open green space, plus plenty of walking trails along Shoal Creek. It also has the distinction of being Austin’s first public park. There are plenty of picnic tables here too, so you can get good and baked before you feast.
This is a family-friendly park, so step among the trees and away from the playground and splash pad, you weirdo.
3. Atop the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse parking garage
This isn’t as creepy as it sounds. The top floor of the parking garage next to the South Lamar Alamo Drafthouse is uncovered. So instead of huddling in a concrete corner, you can smoke in the fresh air, with an unmatched view of the downtown Austin skyline. Then head downstairs, catch a movie, and snack on some tasty (albeit pricey) Drafthouse food.
4. Zilker Park
While Zilker is probably the most popular park in town, it’s also one of the largest. At 350-acres, if you can’t find an out-of-the-way spot, you just aren’t looking hard enough. There are large, flat, open spaces where you can see anyone coming from a mile away. Or find a secluded place within the trees. Zilker also has a disc golf course, so you can huck a Frisbee, take a leisurely stroll, and call it a sport.
5. Snake Island on Lady Bird Lake
For somewhere truly discreet, how about somewhere you can only reach by boat? Snake Island on Lady Bird Lake east of I-35 is just the place. Rent a kayak (or BYOK - Bring You Own Kayak) and push off from the green space around Lake Shore Drive. Within a few minutes, you’ll paddle up to the banks of an itty-bitty island inhabited by some trees and a few old plastic chairs. Perfect for a secret smoke sesh.
Bring a GRAV Taster with Silicone Skin for this trip. The silicone will protect it if it falls out of your pocket while you get into or out of your kayak — an action that I’m convinced is impossible to do gracefully.
6. Laguna Gloria
Laguna Gloria is part-museum and part-sculpture park on the shores of Lake Austin. The museum building is a gorgeous 1916 Italianate mansion that used to be a private home. Before you enter the house, wander the 14-acre grounds and take a little “personal time” to explore the sculptures. Laguna Gloria gets busier on the weekends, but during the week you can go for a peaceful walk and get all cultured.
7. Blunn Creek Preserve
Sitting right behind St. Edward’s University is a sweet little park called Blunn Creek Preserve. Unlike some of the other parks in town, Blunn Creek is still rugged and rough. Although it does get some foot traffic, it’s not nearly as busy as the nearby Blunn Creek Greenbelt. Plus, it’s on the site of an ancient volcano. Don’t worry, it’s extinct. Check out the volcanic overlook while you’re at the park.
8. Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk Trail
The Lady Bird Lake Boardwalk may not seem discreet, sitting right downtown in a popular running and walking area. And yes, it can be busy. But all those straight paths make it easy to see someone coming a long way off.
With a little GRAV Dugout in your pocket, you can do a quick pack-and-smoke in seconds, and have it put back in its carrying case before you reach the next jogger.
9. Outside the Long Center
The Long Center can be packed when there’s an event. But when there’s nothing going on (which is usually the case during the day), there’s a big grassy knoll out behind the concert hall that’s practically abandoned. From there, you get one of the best views of downtown in the city. Spread out a blanket, bring a snack, and toke away.
10. Mayfield Park and Nature Preserve
Next to Laguna Gloria in Tarrytown, you’ll find Mayfield Park & Nature Preserve. A historic cottage sits on the property, surrounded by gardens and koi ponds. Once you wander away from the house, you’ll find 21 acres of quiet nature trails to explore, where you can partake undisturbed.
Back near the house, you may spot a few members of the preserve’s peacock and peahen population. They roam freely here, so leave the wildlife alone and just take in the sights.
11. Mount Bonnell
We’ve come full circle, from one place with an amazing view of the Colorado River to another place with an amazing view of the Colorado River. Mount Bonnell requires a bit of a climb. 106 stone stairs are between you and a lovely overlook of West Austin.
Most of the visitors to Mount Bonnell congregate right at the top. But there’s a longer path back to the bottom that gets much less use, and where you can do what you have to do. And again, just don’t go at sunset when it gets busy.
Things to Remember
While local attitudes to cannabis are generally pretty easygoing, it is still 100% illegal in Texas. So know the risks before you decide to partake. Also, remember that possession of oils and vapes that contain THC is a 1st-degree felony in Texas. So if you’re going to smoke, stick to flower.
Plus, if you’re smoking anything outside, be hyper-aware of your environment. A dropped roach in dry conditions can lead to devastating wildfires. And that is the opposite of cool.