Knuckle down for some fast, uninterrupted training miles with a few sharp climbs - or pack a picnic and amble out for a relaxing day on the bikes.
Either approach is a winner on this stunning 20- to 40-mile ride from Oak Hill in Southwest Austin out west to Dripping Springs - a ride that manages to be both challenging and relaxing at the same time.
Well off the freeway and mostly on rural, tree-lined roads - some with shoulders, some without - the route takes cyclists on a safe journey through the pastoral Texas Hill Country and offers a great workout at the same time.
What Makes It Great
There is almost nothing bad to say about the ride from Austin to Dripping Springs and back - and that’s a high compliment for a 40-mile ride.
The route starts at around U.S. 290 and Texas 71, where Old Bee Caves Roads heads north and west from where the two freeways intersect in Southwest Austin.
Old Bee Caves is residential and rural, lined with trees and homes with big front yards and curbs - and not much traffic.
Take that road straight across Texas 71, where it turns into Thomas Springs Rd until a right turn at Circle Drive. A few miles up, Circle Drive meets U.S. 290. Take 290 west just for 100 yards, then turn left at Fitzhugh Road (almost immediately).
Take that all the way in to Dripping Springs, a quaint town with a population about 1200, wonderful little restaurants and farmers markers and swimming holes - a charming place to either meet your SAG vehicle for a ride back or take a nice breather before the ride home.
If you are OK to add about 10 extra miles, take a spin up north of Fitzhugh Road and take a dip in the cool waters at Hamilton Pool Preserve, a protected habitat and stunning canyon with a 50-foot waterfall flowing into a natural swimming hole surrounded by limestone and formed by the collapse of a huge grotto into Hamilton Creek.
What a way to cool off after a long ride - and energize before the ride home.
Who is Going to Love It
Riders with endurance and strength will do best on this route. A 20-mile ride is not a deal breaker for many social riders, but the long uphill to Dripping Springs is taxing even for the strongest cyclists.
Dripping Springs is about 500 feet above Austin, so in spite of the rolling hills, the rider going west is mostly climbing.
The good news is that means an overall descent on the way back - including several miles of long downhills heading to Austin.
It’s an ideal situation, except for that pesky two-percent grade climb halfway home to Austin - a 5-rated climb that could be worse, but that will definitely wake you up before you get too comfortable.
The Dripping Springs trip is also an excellent way to involve the family if they don’t ride bikes but enjoy the outdoors. Pack a picnic and meet them at Hamilton Pool Preserve for a swim - and then, bonus, catch a ride back to city.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is available all along the route.
Not dog friendly.
Roadway open all night; parks subject to park hours