As I left the house and headed down the road on a chilly fall morning, I was happy to be getting an early start on the day’s ride, and disappointed that I would miss out on one of my favorites. My friend Debra had posted that she would do a Dripping Springs ride, and invited us to come along.
But I had to finish early, and she wasn’t starting until 10 a.m. While my ride was enjoyable, I knew that hers would have been a lot better — both for the camaraderie and for the scenery.
Dripping Springs is a growing small town about 15 miles west of Austin. When I talk about a Dripping Springs ride, I really mean the network of roads south and west of the town. We start at a minimally-developed park that has a convenient place to park cars. Once we head out, we follow familiar roads for several miles.
A highlight of this stretch is when we make a sharp left turn, and follow a few twists and turns, crossing a creek that sometimes runs over the road. Just past the creek, the road takes a decided upturn, and we have our most challenging hill of the day. It’s not impossible, but it’s a good test of your climbing abilities. However, like most hills around here, it might be steep, but it’s relatively short.
We like to continue for a few more miles, then regroup and figure out where we’re going to go. The nice part about this area is that it has a lot of roads that serve the small ranches out here. The roads are in reasonably good shape, sometimes a bit rough, but traffic is quite light. Most of the folks out here are used to cyclists, and are generally courteous.
The map I’ve posted shows one of our favorite variations: Longhorn Trail. From our regroup point at the J.D. Ranch, we Follow Mt. Sharp Road past some spectacular views, then turn onto Longhorn Trail. That road features a longish hill, but it’s downhill — and speeds of 35 mph are easy to reach. At the bottom of the hill, the road snakes through the middle of a ranch, and if we’re lucky, the guinea fowl will be out sounding the alarm for approaching bikers. As we go right past the ranch house, which sits next to the road, we might see other critters. Once, a flock of black sheep were along the road. Other times, we’ll see the ubiquitous horses or goats.
After the ranch, we have another choice to make. Longhorn Trail ends at a T intersection with Mt. Gainor Road. If we turn right (south), we can branch off on Ledgerock Road, or turn left onto Mt. Sharp Road. Mt. Sharp is the longer of the two, and takes us almost into Wimberley, another colorful small town. We usually turn back before we hit the town, because traffic gets heavy quickly, and the road has no shoulder.
Mt. Gainor Road will take us back to our starting point, but has its own highlights. One is a steepish downhill that isn’t very long, but ends with a sharp bend to the right, so if the cyclist throws caution to the wind, there’s a good chance of meeting an oncoming vehicle, and not in a good way.
Depending upon which combination of roads we take, our rides can go anywhere from 19 to 27, 33, or 36 miles. We can even combine several of these routes for longer distances, if we want. But typically, we don’t. After we put the bikes back in or on our cars, we head for a local restaurant for a social meal.
Riding a Dripping Springs route gets us out of Austin, into the country. It’s hilly, scenic, with little traffic and okay roads. What more could cyclists want?