In the 30 years since I threw my leg over a friend's new fangled mountain bike, I've logged tens of thousands of miles on roads and trails, re-discovering on a bicycle the freedom I first knew as a pre-teen on my Schwinn StingRay.
I don't know everything there is to know about cycling, but I do know the one thing I must know: No other activity quite combines the thrills, the distances covered in an hour--or ten hours--much less the open air satisfaction, that a bicycle provides.
The dangers inherent in sharing roads with motorized traffic can be minimized if one uses main roads to transition between the back roads. More, act like you belong (federal law says emphatically you do) by following the laws and remaining alert, and, just as when you do that in your car, the dangers will be minimized.
In the Wimberley area, Ranch Roads 12, FM2325 and 3237, are narrow with both blind curves and hills, with little to no shoulders for bikes to find refuge on. 3237's 'shoulder' is often too rough to ride on for any length of time, and 12's new surfacing and wider shoulder permit safer travel than before; and 2325 from town to Fischer Store Road is actually very nice; but I suggest riders use these roads only to move from one back road to another, as in the loops below.
But don't let these words of warning deter you from riding here. Riding a road bike in Wimberley can become the highlight of one's time here. With the higher traffic counts on the main roads, veering onto our back roads is anything but a drag, and can often provide some of the most enjoyable rides in the state combining minor climbing and beautiful scenery.
For that reason, the routes I've laid out use the ranch roads minimally. My starting point, too, is where there's parking and direct access to the routes without needing to use the ranch roads to get there.
For more routes, please feel free to contact me and I'll e-mail you a description.
For mountain biking, you might check out the Austin Ridge Riders web page for area trails. For trail destinations not listed there, here's one to consider, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife biking brochure link to download:
Hill Country State Natural Area: 30 miles of trails for all ages and skill levels, camping and stars out the wazoo at night.
Google Maps shows all routes in good detail.
The Start/Finish of the following rides is the former entrance to Jacob’s Well Natural Area (JWNA) on Woodacre, right across the street from the green townhouses known as Cypress Fairway Village. You can park your car here with no worry of ticketing or towing, and there are two Warm-up Loops you can use to limber up before taking on the real climbs in this ride.
Jacob’s Well Natural Area:
This place has changed in just the past few years. A lot, and all for the better. True, access to Jacob’s Well is more limited than it ever was, and legal access is now from the new entrance on Mt. Sharp (and a good place to park if open, which JWNA is most days from 9-6). In the summer, parking here is a good place to then access a swim in the Well; the rest of the time, it’s just a good place to park. (make sure you have a reservation to swim; popularity demands it and it's worth it)
Take RR12 to Jacob’s Well Road, and trail down to the stop sign. JWR goes left, but you turn right and go up the hill to the JWNA entrance, which also trails down to the parking area. You might check in with staff to let them know you’re leaving the car for a ride, and get any updates on the Well you’ll need.
Currently, the roads on this route vary from ripply to potholed to almost smooth--but mostly the first two. The beauty of this route is that much of it lacks traffic (but for the Prochnow and Creek Roads section), and the views are great. My altimeter says there's more than 2,000 feet of climbing on this route.
Ride west (left from the car) to the stop sign and go left onto Pleasant Valley to JWR. Left on JWR and down across Cypress Creek and on up to the stop sign. Go straight on Mt. Sharp (JWR goes to the right), and climb past the JWNA entrance.
For the next five miles, this route mostly climbs gently—sometimes not-so-gently—to the junction of Mt. Sharp and Ledgerock Roads. At this junction, turn right and climb Bo Hill, at the top of which is a good place for those want less than 15 miles to turn around. More miles? Keep going.
At about the nine mile mark you're at Pursley Road; cross the cattle guard on the left and take this road. At about 12 miles is Prochnow Road intersection; go right if you want about a 28 mile loop; go straight for the 38 mile loop.
Went straight? In about a mile, a sharp descent takes you to a creek crossing. This could be wet and slippery; dismount, take shoes and socks off, and splash across. Just after, the road winds to the left and up a short, steep hill, and dead ends at Creek Road--go right. Ride until the low water crossing at Mt. Gainor Road (formerly Mt. Sharp Rd.), and go right to head home (left goes into Dripping Springs).
Traffic tends to be higher and faster between Creek and Prochow Roads. Ride with caution.
Less than a mile from Creek Road: Sharp hill! Climb, wipe sweat from brow, and keep going. Two low water crossings with great descents leading to them are coming up after you pass Prochow Road--watch for oncoming traffic. Pass Pursley Road, climb back over Bo Hill, descend and pedal to Ledgerock and go left on Mt. Sharp again.
Watch for overtaking traffic leading to sharp descent down to Jacobs Well Road junction, where you will go right and climb back to your car. There are now 3-way stop signs at the bottom of this hill, so be aware of your need to stop at the bottom.
Burnet Ranch Loop
From the car, follow the route for the Dripping Loop to Ledgerock Road and over Bo Hill. The 3-way stop past Bo Hill is where Mt. Sharp splits to the left and Mt. Gainor begins to the right.
Go left onto Mt. Sharp and ride the recently paved section of road for about a mile to where you pass through an intersection and Mt. Sharp becomes Pump Station road.
Take Pump Station all the way to FM2325, about 4 miles, and go right on 2325, and take a left on Burnet Ranch Road.
About 1.5 miles up, take a right on Valley View Road. A couple hundred yards up, note the incredible views to distant hills, then bend into a very fast descent winding down to the Blanco River (watch for ascending traffic). Climb out again and go to Days End (it's a 'T') and go left. This road winds along with few climbs for the next four or so miles (although one is a 14% doozy), and dead ends on Fischer Store Road.
For a 30-mile loop, go left on FSR and follow back to 2325 (about six miles), which has a couple good climbs along the way coming off the Blanco River.
For about 10 more miles at FSR go right and ride to the Loop (another 'T') past Fischer Hall, then left to RR 32. Take a left on 32--watch for traffic, which moves fast on this road--and ride 8/10s of a mile and veer left on Old Mail Route Road. Enjoy the downhill, and this little by-pass that's almost always quiet, for about 2 miles, and go left on John Knox Road.
Wind down and then back up again, then, as the roads curves sharply to the left at John Knox Camp, enjoy the sudden downhill…but beware the hard right at the bottom.
Take shoes and socks off and wade across the Blanco at what is known as the Slime Crossing--walk carefully as the name is apt. I’ve seen motorcycles go down at this crossing, and cars pushed to the concrete stops when the water was flowing well.
Ride up the other side and head to Sachtleben Road and go left, crossing the cattle guards (Caution! Some of these can break your wheels if you hit over 10 mph) and taking a right on Fischer Store Road down to 2325, and right on back to your car for about 40 miles.
North Wind Loop
Okay, so you’re not queasy about riding RR12, now that there’s a shoulder and it’s smooooooth as it can be?
If the winds are northerly, head east on Jacob’s Well Road, take a left on Mt. Sharp, and ride on up and over Bo Hill, past Pursley Road, and take a right on Gatlin Creek Road, at the few remains of the old community of Mt. Gainor. Follow Gatlin Creek Road about 1.5 miles to where it turns left and heads to RR12. Take a right on RR12 and head along the shoulder back to JWR, with both the wind at your back and a mostly downhill road.
Caution! There are a few places where the shoulder disappears along guardrails: be aware of overtaking traffic, and time your crossing of these sections accordingly.
At Jacob’s Well Road, go right and glide down to the stop sign and take a left to go back to your car for about a 20-mile ride. When the winds are southerly, reverse this loop to have the tailwind to push you up the hills, and to hide from the headwinds on the back roads.
Ranch Road Loop
I recommend this only for early morning starts, to minimize traffic encounters on Ranch Road 2325 and 165. From the car, go right on JWR to FM2325. Go right on 2325 and ride to the junction of 165, about 9 miles, and go right on 165 another 8 or so miles, and turn right on CR190/Creek Rd. Go right on Pursley Road and follow this back to Mt. Gainor Rd. and go right, climb Bo Hill, descend to and veer right on Ledgerock, and follow that 4 miles to 2325. Take a left and ride about 3 miles to Valley Spring and take a left to your car.
Variations on the loops going north, especially those on the back roads, can add many miles, and many feet of climbing.
For example, taking Creek Road to 165, then crossing to Hiway 290 and going left/west for less than a mile, one can turn right on FM3232, which dead ends across from Pedernales Falls SP. Take a right on this road—201—and head through the rolling hills around where Lance’s place is; climb the short and brutal hill coming off the creek; and take a right at the McGregor stop sign and head back to 290. At 290, go left for a couple miles to the Whit Hanks entrance, and turn right; this road will lead you back to 190/Creek Road, out of Dripping Springs, and back to Wimberley. Figure that extra route adds another 18 miles onto your total.
Ride careful, but ride!
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