The Capital of Texas Highway sweeps the edge of beautiful Texas Hill Country right on the western edge of Austin, featuring views of the state Capitol, the University of Texas, and an iconic crossing over the Pennybacker Bridge.
On the western edge of Austin is the Capital of Texas Highway, also known as the Loop 360 (or, by some, the 360 Loop), boasting some of the most beautiful and iconic urban views for cyclists within the city limits.
One of the main north-south roads in the city, the highway has high speed limits - but it’s broad, smooth and divided, with wide shoulders and plenty of fellow cyclists cruising its hilly terrain at all times of the day.
Rush hour tends to clog up 360 like most of the major thoroughfares, and inattentive drivers have led to a few fatal crashes with cyclists during peak traffic times.
Bonus: Ride it around Christmas time and see all the pine trees lining the highway covered in decorations - an annual tradition.
What Makes It Great
Connecting North Mopac to North 183 and curving slightly westward, the Loop 360 is largely centered in and near Westlake, one of the most affluent parts of the area.
With rolling hills, well-maintained roadways and plenty of green space, the route also has some stunning views of downtown Austin - including the Capitol building and the University of Texas - and a bike path across one of the most photographed features of Austin, the Pennybacker Bridge.
This iconic crossing over the Colorado River is one of the highlights of the ride, but certainly not the only one. The route crosses Barton Creek and runs alongside both the Barton Creek Greenbelt and the gorgeous Wild Basin Wilderness Reserve.
It also passes through environmentally sensitive areas, like the Bull Creek Watershed, the preservation of which has helped maintain the route’s natural beauty.
Traffic lights dot the roadway but only intermittently. Most of the ride will be smooth, hilly, and fairly secure if you can handle the traffic whizzing by a several feet away.
Locals like to take FM 2222 back toward the city for a nice downhill end to the ride - but watch out for traffic and small shoulders on the way back home.
Who is Going to Love It
More experienced riders will get the most enjoyment out of it, but the shoulders are wide enough for slow slogs up the hills without fear of blocking traffic. The ideal Loop 360 cyclist is training for some distance and power, comfortable with riding on major thoroughfares, and a huge nature lover.
The road has grades up to 7 percent, rock cut-throughs and scenic turnouts where you can stop and take a breather - or a photograph.
Early risers will get a charge out of the multiple sunset scenes you can catch as you cruise the loop at dawn. Make sure and take a peek from halfway across the Pennybacker Bridge. It’s a photo moment.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Free parking is available at the Arboretum on 183 and Capital of Texas Highway on the north end of the loop, and along various points - including near the Greenbelt and Pennybacker Bridge - to the south.