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Austin Hike & Bike Trails


Austin has several miles of hike & bike trails.

MOUNTAIN BIKING generally doesn't cover mountain biking issues, but here are a couple of resources we have:

* Here's a link to the Austin Ridge Riders web site.

* Local group: Church of the Knobby Tire.

* See below for Jim Summers' review of some local trails.


Austin Mountain Biking Trails

by * 441-3344 * Nov. 1996

Much more to the Green Belt than most people know: Jackson Hole to Hill of Life side loop

I also thought there were aspects of the trail that would appeal to intermediate-advanced riders that were not on the map or on any discussion I've seen. Jeff ?, the guy who runs the mountain bike touring company in Austin and I got together early in his tour guide career and I showed him some of these trails. A very pleasant intermediate 1 to 2 mile loop off the main green belt occurs after Jackson Hole. It goes from the trail due west to parallel 360 and then drops back down to the main trail about 1/4 -1/2 miles from the Hill of Life. A black rock marks the start, but now the side trail is becoming more obvious.

It is a very nice technical climb in places, simply pleasant in others. You can enjoy a screaming descent back down to the main trail. It has places on it more rugged than the Hill of Life, but they do not last very long. However, the entire climb is longer, so it's nearly an equal test of the legs and more so a technical challenge. I'm pretty convinced the trail is legal, but I can't swear to it, as it goes all the way up to the fence by 360, parallels it, and then drops back down.

The Hill of Life used to be closed and we should rename it Hartman Hill in honor of the guy who opened it

By the way, I call that hill Hartman Hill. Several years ago, John Hartman orchestrated a meeting with the Parks and Rec board to get the trail on it opened. The people at the top of the hill had cut a deal with Parks & Rec to keep it closed so riff raff like me would not be parking up there and hiking or riding up or blasting down. Hartman turned up at least 10 major neighborhood groups to argue against the special deal. The local folks turned out in mass to oppose us wild people, even hiring Carol Rylander, the former mayor or council person at the time. Due to Hartman's diligence in getting the other neighborhood groups there, we now have the Hill of Life to enjoy and can make a loop of the ride by going back on 360. Some interesting history not many know about. Hartman's not even a mountain biker, but a hiker who spent many hours on the trail.

Great old-style hill climb across the Twin Falls

To find a really great trail, go across the Twin Falls. Once you go across the stream, you'll see trails going left and right. Go right. The trail crosses over a log and is otherwise smooth. After about 1/4 of a mile the trail will head down towards the creek. Just before that down turn starts, you'll see a faint trail going off to the left which is much less worn than the main singletrack. It leads off to the left and goes under some trees. You cannot tell any decent trail is there at all due to the tree cover. I have shown that trail to several people, including Jeff. Only now is it scarcely visible versus nearly invisible. The start to this long climb is quite difficult, although top riders can probably do it. It ends up being a long technical climb up, about three times as long as the Hill of Life and much more in the tradition of mountain biking like used to prevail in Forest Ridge before all the fences and shit fucked it up. There are some enticing side trails off the climb up, but none of them go anywhere of interest that I've found.

Once you get to the top there are some side trails, but they seem to lead to places we are probably not welcome. I've ridden all over the area, but it's a development-regression in the process of taking place. I doubt we are really welcome on the long climb, but I don't know. Anyway, the two trails--Jackson Hole to Trail of Life loop and this one--add a considerable challenge and a lot of fun to the standard old Green Belt ride. For sure, if either or both trail is not legal, putting it on the Net would get it closed fast.

If you want, I can show these trails and any others I describe to you. Please be advised that I'm 50 and woefully out of shape, having been unable to ride, hike, or run for 6 months due to a knee injury. I'm just now getting back to trying 5 minute runs and short rides with an unsure prognosis.

No one ever mentions the area behind Toys R Us

Other trails off the Green Belt which are not on the Mountain Biking in Austin home page include the labyrinth of trails behind Toys R Us. There is so little publicity about that I guess it must be illegal, but there is some mighty fine riding there and several options to take going up or down.

Pedernales & Lake Somerville

Other trials not mentioned there include Pedernales and Lake Somerville. I have not ridden Pedernales in years, but when I did it seemed there was not much distance. Lake Somerville is great for a night ride or taking utter beginners. It's not much fun if you want a challenge beyond a few bumps to the butt.

LCRA land

A guy I met from the Texas Bicylce Coalition at the Bicycle Sport Shop told me that the LCRA has 2500 acres of land up around Lake Travis which they have opened to mountain bikers. It is not yet advertised and is mostly jeep trails. The guy said it has no single track yet, mostly jeep-type roads, but that it is pretty. He said the start was a hard hill. He said if you called the LCRA they would give directions. Whether it is any fun for technical riders I don't know.

Forest Ridge

The Forest Ridge area was more fun for me than many places I traveled to for rides, such as Colorado (three different trips to different locales), and Moab. Now it is so wrecked by the high fence and the trail closures, I seldom go there. Houses are now built on some of the better trail intersections. Nonetheless, some excellent trails probably survive. Not too many people know about the nice trails that lead off the gravel road near the end of Jester Estates road and head down to Spicewoods Springs. There are some great descents here and decent climbs back. There are, or were, several routes down and back. Much of that is private land, I think, so I don't know what would still be open or appropriate to post on the net.

Once down on Spicewoods Springs at the trail head by the stream, there is an access to trails near the horse stables which are decent climbs and worth exploring. It's only about 1/4 to mile away. Coming back down from that and heading Spicewood to 360 you can go in the White Horse or White Castle loop road and slip back into the Forest Ridge area. This is now a road leading up to the housing that is going in, so that may be illegal or closed now too. We've lost a lot more than we've gained in the last several years when it comes to trails.

Another trail that starts near the Jester Estates road end leads down a long way and ends near someone's back yard. I guess that's illegal too.

East of 360 trails

You probably know the trail across 360 from Forest Ridge. It was a wonderfully challenging out and back ride that is now fucked up by housing developments-regressions. It went along the ridge line on the east side of 360. There may be by-passes for the houses in the way, but I don't know. Finding them there on my last ride was very aggravating.

Another trail on the east side of 360, which may be somewhat intact, goes from the Davenport Ranch park off of XXXX out to the water tower just before the Nature Center on 360 near Bee Cave. There are some really grueling jeep road hills in this area. These hills definitely will challenge you. I wonder if Overend could come up one of them when he was in his peak. I know some of this trail should be legal, as the hilly and rough jeep road is the access to a power line. The trail going into the water tower area puts you in the warbler preserve, but no fences were crossed or signs observed when I was last there before the leg injury. This trail is so hard and rough that I have never seen another rider there, yet the "expert" riders say they like it. I never advanced beyond sport, but I like the technical stuff.

Back to Forest Ridge

Even if much of Forest Ridge is wrecked, there are still a lot of excellent trails there. Not too many people seem to ride the trails going directly off from the base of the water tower. Right after you come up to the water tower from the 360 parking lot, you see a row of rocks blocking the trail down to jeeps. Instead of going on past the rocks and next to the water tower, turn right and within 1/8 of a block you'll hit two or three excellent descents. There are at least two other good descents on that side of the gravel road too. Maybe they are private. Who knows? They are much more technical than the stuff on the other side of the road, with some exceptions.

Hamilton Pool

There's also the private trail out at Hamilton Pool or Park where the shooting range is. There was a nice race there some years ago. I think it's still available. The course was great.

Well, that exhausts my top of the mind recollection of trails still surviving around Austin. I only hope the legal ones stay that way and the open private ones last a few more years.

Memories of Bastrop Park

Years ago, before the Bastrop Park declared mountain bikes unwelcome, the hiking trail was a great beginner to intermediate ride. I could tell you how to access the untraveled end of the trail and reduce the probability of rangers finding you by 95%, but it's still not as much fun as what can be found in Austin still. The rangers seem to set up their patrols for those entering and exiting the trail in the Bastrop Park near the park road. Access exists elsewhere.

If you can stand a slow riding, out of shape guy, I have free time starting 12/23/96 to about 1/07/96. I could show you these places and maybe you could show me some new ones to replace the losses from development-regression.

-- Jim Summers, 441-3344

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