Words and photos by Leslie Kehmeier
Austin, Texas? For mountain biking? The capital of the Lone Star State isn’t usually on the radar when it comes to destinations worthy of riding. However, when you think about the food, the vibe and the Hill Country terrain, it totally makes sense. Here are five reasons that Austin should be your next mountain bike trip.
#1) The Food
Tacos, barbecue, pizza, grilled cheese and kimchi fries. No matter what your heart desires, Austin is ready to serve up something to satisfy any craving, anywhere in the city. While a good chunk of the culinary wonderland is made up of food trucks, be sure to seek out the strip malls and traditional retail centers for delicious and unique creations. Great food is everywhere.
Don’t Miss: Chi’Lantro is a unique fusion of Korean barbecue and Mexican flavors. Kimchi fries are the signature dish, complete with your choice of a protein topping, from rib-eye steak to fried tofu.
#2) The Trails
If your idea of mountain bike fun is the stuff I like to call “flow-gnar,” then you’ll be in heaven on the trails. While there are some smooth routes, most of the riding in the area consists of pedaling up and down a sea of limestone. And while it may not look like there’s much in the way of mileage, you’ll be surprised at how long a 5-mile ride might take. Trail opportunities abound throughout the metro area. The Barton Creek Greenbelt has easy access from downtown while City Park (also known as Emma Long) is just a bit northwest. If you’re on the south side, check out Slaughter Creek Trail. Farther afield you’ll find plenty of great riding at Cedar Park, Walnut Creek and all the way out to Lake Georgetown.
Don’t Miss: The Barton Creek Greenbelt is the heart of Austin’s mountain biking. Accessible directly from downtown via the Lady Bird Lake Trail and Zilker Park, the Greenbelt is also the mainstay of the city’s outdoor scene. You’ll find it just as easy to hike, climb and swim as it is to ride.
#3) The Bike Culture
Austin is known as a bike town for reasons beyond mountain biking. Along with a bike- share program and plenty of paved paths and bike lanes, the city has serious chops when it comes to the BMX, street and dirt jumps realm. You could literally see and do everything by bicycle or anything that involves a bicycle within the city limits.
Don’t Miss: The iconic Ninth Street BMX dirt jumps and trails on the south side of Duncan Park are known globally and attract riders from around the world. Built and maintained purely by local riders and volunteers, the park has been around for 25 years.
#4) The Vibe
Unique, funky, energetic, local and innovative are just a few words to describe what makes Austin special. Each neighborhood has its own distinct character. While the South Congress area is still a magnet for tourists, other locales like East Austin are up and coming with their own diverse mix of art, food, history and public spaces with strong heritage. The city and its burgeoning residents do their part to “Keep Austin Weird.”
Don’t Miss: The Hope Outdoor Gallery (aka the Graffiti Park). Bring your own spray cans and make your (temporary) contribution to Austin’s art scene.
#5) The Weather
Austin can be a great winter destination. Aside from some rainy days and occasional freezing temps, the capital city region has mostly mild weather from November to March.
Don’t Miss: Bluebonnet season. The state flower of Texas blooms anytime between late February and April and is a superb spectacle for anyone who loves wildflowers.