Mountain Biking the Austin Area
Please do not miss Emma Long when you come to Austin. You would be making a big mistake. This place is way too good to be left to the grip-twisting-throttle-jocks. Way too fun.
I am talking about an Austin city park with a four-and-one-half-mile loop of rocky, technical single-track, often used for organized mountain bike and motorcycle racing. Though the trail is not extremely difficult, you should expect to work up a pretty good sweat, because it is demanding. There are even a few places where you will have to walk. Emma Long will definitely keep you awake as it snakes through the cedar trees and swoops up and down the sides of the hills. You will encounter ledges that drop one or two feet, and if You are unsuspended You might want to carry an extra front wheel or two. You will find lots of loose rocky conditions and several spots that could be concealing a certain Mister Bustyerass. As you circulate clockwise, you will be guided by arrows and mileage markers every one-half mile.
Ahhh, I love the smell of castor-bean-oil motorcycle exhaust in the morning; it smells like victory. Get on your bikes and ride.
General location: Emma Long Metropolitan Park is located in far west Austin, near Farm to Market 2222 and Loop #360.
Elevation change: The lowest point in the park is near 620", and the highest pushes 840", so there is potentially 200' of vertical work as you make a lap. You will find that the trail covers at least 150' of that, the higher sections to the west and the lower back east.
Season: Unless there is an event that prevents you from doing laps, this park is open year-round.
Services: There is a litter barrel at the trailhead parking lot. If you require anything else, you will have to load up before you head out. The nearest pay phone is back toward town on FM 2222. There are closer bike shops, but I have listed my pals at Bicycle Sport Shop as a source for information on this park.
Hazards: There are at least a dozen ways to get maimed/mortally wounded/ killed while riding here. The loose trail conditions and steep terrain combined with the short line of sight while approaching many or most of the turns offers you a multitude of mangling methods. There are plenty of sharp-ended tree limbs along the trail-certain eye-pokers. I would not faint if I saw a snake out here, especially early in the year. There is an archery range nearby, but it is across the paved road, so don't stray far off the trail. The normal rider follows the arrows that lead you clockwise, but how many normal mountain bikers do you know? 'Nuff said.
Rescue index: I saw something here that I have never seen at another trailperhaps it's because this is a motorcycle park-and that was signs for Emergency Medical Services (EMS) entrances. Several tracks into the trail area have alphabetic markers identifying each one. That means absolutely nothing if you are riding here alone and get stranded. The buddy system is the best guarantee of a clean rescue from this area. You are in a fairly remote location while riding here, and the nearest pay phone is miles away. If it was needed, a cellular phone would in no way be a waste of the few ounces one weighs.
Land status: This is a parcel of Austin Parks and Recreation Department land, specifically set aside to be used by motorcycles and other two-wheeled traffic, nothing else.
Maps: The only map I have located is the 7.5 minute quadrangle Austin West. See a map here.
Finding the trail: From FM 2222 and Loop #360 in far west Austin, go west on FM 2222 to the traffic light at City Park Road. Turn left and follow City Park Road for about 4 miles to Oak Shores Drive, then turn left and go about a mile to the sign for the motocross area. Pull all the way in and park in the large open area at the end of the road. At the west end of the large open area you will see the trailhead and where the trail heads off into the trees. Follow the trail until you pop out of the trees at the eastern end of the open area, near where you drove in. There are signs every one-half mile marking your distance and many arrows to keep you on track. There is supposedly a shorter loop than the"Main Loop," but all I ever saw were signs for the main one.
Notes on the trail: Good trail. Fun, fast, tricky. One of the best in the area for most skill levels of riders. This place gets raced sometimes, and I can promise you that after three or four loops around Emma Long, you're gonna be cooked if you are doing anything like a race-pace. One interesting thing I saw while riding here the last time was some "splat" players. You know?-the paintball shooting game. I saw and heard them doing rapid-fire off in the trees. Crazy game. I like to shoot, but that just looks like too much fun.
I think I read about combining "splat" with mountain biking; that could be good for a few laughs.
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