Mountain biking on the rolling hills of the Highland Lakes
You don’t need mountains to experience truly awesome mountain biking. In the Highland Lakes, rugged trails through the rolling Texas Hill Country offer a fun challenge, including at the only lift-served mountain bike park in the state.
With the addition of Spider Mountain’s bike lift and new trails in LCRA parks, the Highland Lakes has become a mountain biking mecca, despite its lack of Rocky Mountain highs.
“I would describe this area as more technical,” said Charlie Riou, president of the Austin Ridge Riders, a Central Texas mountain biking organization. “There are some really challenging trails in the Hill Country, but you can also find some good beginner ones.”
Riou and the Austin Ridge Riders are advocates of the sport, often working with the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department to create more riding opportunities in Hill Country parks. Over the past several years, the Austin Ridge Riders and the LCRA teamed up to make several of the trails in the river authority’s parks multi-use.
The LCRA even incorporated a green, blue, and black grading system to mark the difficulty of its trails. Green is the easiest; blue, medium; and black the most technical and challenging.
The Highland Lakes area boasts a large variety of trails for all levels on both public and private land.
Among the first true mountain biking trails built in the Highland Lakes are the 10 miles at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area. The park features a beginner’s loop as well as challenges for more advanced riders. A great thing about Muleshoe is that the rough patches, such as rock gardens or drop-offs, have rideable bypasses, making the trails accessible for all cyclists.
Located at 2820 CR 414 in Spicewood, Muleshoe helped open the door to more trails in the area.
Just west of Muleshoe Bend is the LCRA’s Grelle Recreation Area, 640 CR 412 in Spicewood. While smaller in acreage, Grelle has more challenging trails with technical drop-offs and rock gardens without the ride-arounds.
Across Lake Travis from the Spicewood parks is Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, 706 CR 343A in Marble Falls. Where Grelle and Muleshoe have single-track trails, Shaffer Bend has wider ranch trails, making the park a great place for families to take a nice bike ride through the countryside.
OTHER PUBLIC TRAILS
Just outside of Johnson City, mountain bikers can escape to Juniper Ridge Trail at Pedernales Falls State Park, 2585 Park Road 6026.
“It’s a challenging one,” said Stephen Garmon, the Pedernales Falls State Park interpretive ranger. “I don’t think it’s for a beginner, but a lot of riders come out for it.”
The 10-mile trail weaves its way through the park, offering peeks at places you can’t see from a car.
Mountain bikers can also try Madrone Trail and Wolf Mountain Trail, among several others, at Pedernales Falls.
These trails, just like at LCRA parks, are multi-use, so mountain bikers might encounter hikers and horseback riders.
Colorado Bend State Park in Bend has 35 miles of hike-and-bike trails. The single-track trails offer a variety of challenges, even for the most experienced cyclists.
Pace Bend Park, 2011 Pace Bend Road in Spicewood, has miles of trails for mountain biking, hiking, and horseback riding. The park offers beautiful views of Lake Travis and a 6-mile paved road that loops the exterior of the park. The interior is only accessed via a trail system on foot, bicycle, or horse.
Outside of the park systems, mountain bikers can ride the trails at two private facilities: Reveille Peak Ranch near Burnet and Spider Mountain Bike Park on the shores of Lake Buchanan.
When Vol Montgomery opened Reveille Peak Ranch, 105 CR 114 outside of Burnet, for mountain biking, he caught the attention of riders from across the country. The facility features 62 miles of trails, including 15 miles of “hand-cut single track.” Riders can also enjoy a 25-mile, non-intersecting loop.
The ranch has trails for every level, including a Super D, a pump track, a flow track, and a gravity trail. Because of Reveille Peak's granite and gneiss composition, the trails drain quickly, so riders can get on them right after it rains. The ranch is usually only open Fridays-Sundays, but during holidays and Spring Break, it sometimes extends its hours of operation.
It also hosts a number of other activities, so check the Reveille Peak Ranch Facebook page for updates and possible closures.
Spider Mountain Bike Park, 200 Greenwood Hill Trails on Lake Buchanan, opened in February 2019. This is Texas' first lift-served bike park, so you and your bicycle can hitch a ride to the top then take any of a number of trails back down.
Trails include the Itsy Bitsy, the Stinger, the Sticky Icky, the Vipers Den, the Venom, and Charlotte’s Web. Don’t let the names scare you: Spider Mountain has something for riders of all levels.
Spider Mountain also rents equipment on a first-come, first-served basis.
Like Reveille Peak Ranch, Spider Mountain is mainly open Fridays-Sundays but does have extended hours on some holidays. It also hosts special mountain biking events, including demo rides. A knowledgeable staff can help you get started.
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