Warm, sunny weather and an abundance of rolling hills make Austin an excellent locale for cyclists, especially those who want to get off road. Some of the best rides run along the area's numerous cool, blue-green rivers and creeks, which are incredibly inviting after a long, challenging ride. The routes that follow are some of our favorites, some of which are also legendary among Austin mountain bikers.
Just south of downtown, this pleasantly easy trail circling Town Lake is not to be missed. Although it's very well-travelled (read: sometimes crowded), the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail is the centerpiece of the Austin urban biking experience. Because of this trail's popularity, you won't likely pick up much speed here, but the smooth gravel provides a relaxing place for people-watching and looking out over the sparkling water.
Pedalling along the scenic, wooded Greenbelt, you might almost forget that you're in the middle of an urban area. The rocky, untamed-looking single-track winds along both sides of Barton Creek, a waterway whose levels vary drastically depending on recent rainfall. One outlet to the trail is in Zilker Park, near Barton Springs pool, which is an excellent spot for a picnic lunch or post-ride swim.
This highly-technical, rocky, single-track snakes through cedar trees and roller-coasters up and down hills, making for a fun and challenging ride. Located west of town, the four-and-a-half-mile loop is popular with mountain bikers and motorcyclists. It's one of the best trails in the area for riders of most skill levels.
A few miles east of Austin, officially in Smithville, lies Rocky Hill Ranch, a mountain biker's paradise. The privately-owned Ranch consists of more than a thousand acres of varied and rugged terrain, and it's set aside entirely for biking and camping. For a modest fee (around $7), the genial owners will set you loose on this land full of single-track, cedars, pines, and some pleasant surprises. The first time I rode at Rocky Hill, my companion and I barrelled down a road shadowed by pine trees, emerging to find ourselves in a peaceful pasture covered entirely with bluebonnets (the state flower). The Ranch also provides other important amenities that make for a satisfying day tripfood, drink, and showers. The cafi near the entrance serves an excellent cheeseburger and the owners always keep ice-cold Shiner Bock beer, a Texas tradition. Needless to say, I return to Rocky Hill whenever I can.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication