Mountain biking is one of the best ways to get a great cardiovascular workout, build muscles and get in touch with nature. And there are plenty of opportunities to get out and ride in Austin.
Mountain biking is a year-round sport here, thanks to our warm climate and the hilly and rocky terrain. The city, county and a few volunteer groups have banded together to create some very popular, well-maintained trails that have signage and plenty of fellow riders to learn from.
Here are five trails to master and add to your list of single-track conquests:
1.) Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park (Beginner-Intermediate) – This popular maze of trails in north Austin is recognized by some as the best mountain bike trail in the city — although others point to the Barton Creek Greenbelt. The trail offers an exciting mix of tight corners, rocky terrain and small, but steep, drops and climbs along the creek bed, which is usually dry or easily navigable. Many of the trails are designed for beginners, but there are some cutoffs and creek crossings that are more geared for intermediate and advance riders. Though there are maps and trail markers, it’s fairly easy to feel a little lost at times. But, no worries, with so many fellow riders in a relatively small area, you’ll find your way and have fun doing it. The park is just north of Gracywoods near the intersection of North Lamar and Parmer Lane.
2.) Shoal Creek Greenbelt (Beginner) – Drop in at the southwest corner of North Lamar and West 31st Street in the Belmont neighborhood. The first stretch is the trickiest, with a descent along the face of a small, overhanging cliff. This is a great reason to wear a helmet — you don’t even have to fall to hit your head. After a couple semi-technical short climbs, you’ll be sailing along relatively smooth terrain along the creek. You can ride to Pease Park and turn around. Or, you can ride the trail all the way to Lady Bird Lake along a patchwork of bike lanes, paved trails and a bit of urban wasteland before popping up into one of the city’s most beautiful areas.
3.) Emma Long Metropolitan Park (Advanced) – The drive out here alone is enough to get a mountain bike rider excited. Winding through Hill Country along RM2222, you’ll see dozens of picturesque vistas dotted with gorgeous homes in the Glenlake neighborhood. Once you enter the park, you’ll see a motorcycle trail, follow that road (Oak Shore Drive) to the parking lot and start riding. This is probably the most technical trail Austin has to offer, with gnarly rock hopping, steep drops, big climbs and dozens of places to seriously challenge most riders. It’s only about 5 miles, but it may feel more like 500 after riding it for a couple hours.
4.) Barton Creek Greenbelt (Intermediate-Advanced) – This is a must for any Austin mountain bike enthusiast. The centrally-located park offers a wide variety of riding, with mellow areas for newer riders and plenty of jagged rocks and tough climbs for those looking for a challenge. The trail covers about seven miles, but there are many chances to short circuit that for a shorter ride. The area is quite popular, so be mindful of hikers who may wander onto bike paths.
5.) Slaughter Creek (Beginner) – Every mountain biker starts somewhere, and this is a smart place to have fun riding and build your skills. This trail was built and is maintained by the Austin Ridge Riders. But it’s also used by equestrians and hikers, so ride friendly and be careful not to spook any horses. The trail is near the Circle C neighborhood. It’s off of FM 1826 just south of Slaughter.