With its rolling hills and multitude of paths, Austin is a great place to be a bike enthusiast. It’s also the home of Lance Armstrong
, the seven-time winner of the Tour de France. Whether you’re training for the big ride or simply ready to enjoy the scenery, there’s a place for you.
VelowayThis non-motorized, 23-foot-wide path is a great place for all experience levels. Whether you’re training for the popular MS 150 bike ride or simply going for a casual jaunt with the family, give it a shot. Helmets are strongly recommended for kids. Admission is free. And since most of Austin’s cycling loops are tailored to mountain bikers, so when the Veloway, a 3.1-mile paved trail developed specifically for cyclists and roller bladers, opened in the 1990s, the cycling community was excited.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
This popular biking area with lead-ins from the popular Zilker Park
includes a 7-mile main trail and other, shorter, back trails intended for a variety of ability levels. You’ll want a mountain bike and a helmet if you’re going to try it out, however, as the terrain can be rocky and challenging. Also be sure to check in advance if the trails have been closed due to weather – a hotline at (512) 472-1267 is frequently updated. Admission is always free.
McKinney Falls State ParkThis park, which spans nearly 750 acres and is just 20 minutes from Downtown, is another favorite. Popular trails include the 2.8-mile Onion Creek Hike and Bike Trail, which has an elevation change of 139 feet, and the 2.75-mile Homestead Trail, which has an elevation change of 117 feet. As you bike, keep an eye out for highlights such as Lower Falls (a small waterfall that leads into a fantastic swimming hole), a homestead built by horse breeder Thomas McKinney and a small beach area. There are also more than 225 species of birds and other wild animals that call the park home. Day-use admission is $5 per person 13 and up.
Emma Long Metropolitan ParkWith its steep, rocky trails, this park is perfect for those wishing to test out their technical skills. Expect dozens of limestone ledges and steep drops along the 6-mile trail. If you’re a beginner, go with an experienced rider and be ready to get on and off your bike – a lot. Still, it’s a great challenge. When you go, look for the signs marked Motorcycle Trails – that’s where the main trail begins. Admission is $5 per vehicle Monday-Thursday; $8 Friday-Sunday.
Pace Bend ParkGetting there requires a little bit of a drive – the park is about 30 minutes from Austin – but it’s worth the effort. With 9 miles of shoreline along Lake Travis, this is a beautiful place to test your skills. There’s a paved, 7-mile loop that circles the park and a variety of multiuse, primitive trails that are available to bikers and pedestrians only. Because the trail is relatively new, expect elevation changes, quick downhills and a variety of terrain. Day-use admission is $10 per vehicle.
Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail
With more than 1.5 million visitors each year, the Town Lake Hike and Bike Trail
the most popular biking spot in the city, and the 10-mile loop here is perfect for all speeds. In addition to being a great spot for a workout, it’s also a lovely place to take in Austin’s natural beauty. As you cruise through Zilker Park, keep an eye out for special attractions such as Barton Springs, the miniature train and people canoeing and kayaking on the lake. Access is always free.