Deep in the Heart of Austin - Page 2
5. Rock Climbing at Reimers Ranch
Once upon a time, Reimers Ranch was an open secret; a private ranch with river access for fishermen and some of the best climbing in central Texas. In 2006, voters approved funding that allowed Travis County to buy 2,427 acres, securing this recreation area for generations to come. Climbers still flock to the 300-plus world-class routes that have been established in the park, mostly along a series of exposed limestone cliffs with many climbs rated 5.9 and above. Test yourself on the Crankenstein Wall or House of Pain Buttress. In recent years, mountain bikers have also overseen the creation of 18 miles of intermediate trails, while the spring white bass spawning run on the nearby Pedernales River makes this park a major draw for anglers as well. Day-use only; $10 per vehicle. (512.854.7275)
4. Road Cycling Through the Texas Hill Country
From ten-milers to centuries, you can chase Lance's shadow from the soon-to-be completed Lance Armstrong Downtown Bikeway, or explore touring routes that will take you to any number of towns outlying Austin. Depending on your fitness level, one great exercise route is the hilly 45-mile Dam Loop, heading due west from Austin, connecting Highway 360 to Highway 620 (any local bike shop can give detailed directions). The town of Fredericksburg, about 80 miles southwest of Austin, has been actively promoting other regional cycling routes. Hardcore racers will want to check out the Tuesday Nighter, an unofficial throw down just south of town, where the region's best riders compete for bragging rights. For more details check out CycleTexas.com and AustinBikeRoutes.com; for additional info on races and events, contact the Bicycle Sport Shop (512.477.3472).
3. Exploring the Lady Bird Lake Hike-and-Bike Trail
The ten-mile loop of crushed gravel that follows the shoreline of this dammed section of the Colorado River, known as Lady Bird Lake, offers a glimpse of Austin at its most active. Though it may not be the first choice of cyclists looking for a workout, between the joggers, runners, and mamas out pushing their strollers, this is certainly the first choice for downtown denizens looking to get a little fresh air. And bikes are certainly welcome—just think "cruiser" and keep your speed down. Summer evenings, if you time your exercise right, you can join the crowds watching the half-a-million Mexican free-tail bats emerge from beneath the Congress Avenue Bridge (call 512.416.5700, ext 3636 for times). The path has multiple access points along Riverside Drive south of the lake and Cesar Chavez Street just to the north.
2. Mountain Biking the Barton Creek Greenbelt
Above Barton Springs stretches a heavily wooded trail that offers some of the state's best singletrack. The greenbelt runs 7.5 miles one-way from Zilker Park to the lung-busting climb up the Hill of Life, which rises 300 feet over a distance of about a quarter mile (if you find it too easy, try riding it twice). Though the main stem is fairly flat, there are technical sections of roots and exposed rock that will tighten the fists of even expert riders. Better yet, hook up with locals and discover challenging offshoots like Travis Country. Word to the wise: due to heavy foot traffic, especially on weekends, the greenbelt is not for hammerheads. Speed demons can avoid the crowded early miles by using the alternate entrance off Highway 360. Austin Parks closes the trail after it rains. Call 512.472.1267 for conditions.
1. Take a Dip in Barton Springs Pool
When the mercury hits three digits during the scorching Texas summer, there is no more sublime joy than diving into the springs. Located in the heart of Austin at Zilker Park, the three-acre cement-walled pool is fed by four natural springs that bubble up through the aquifer. With the waters kept a cool 68 to 71 degrees throughout the year, it's no wonder that folks from all walks of life seek to reset their body temps with a quick dip. In spring and summer, the nearby grassy banks are popular with picnickers and sunbathers, while local triathletes and hardcore swimmers take laps in the 1,000-foot-long pool on most mornings, regardless of the weather. Fees ($3 per adult, $2 for ages 12 to 17, $1 children under 12 and seniors over 62) are collected between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m.
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