The Southwest Parkway runs for about 6 miles just outside the city - south of downtown and west of Mopac - and marks the edge of the stunning Texas Hill Country and a wide stretch of smooth, rolling terrain.
Starting in Oak Hill and ending in Bee Cave, the split highway has a high speed limit but features miles of good, wide shoulder space the further you get from the city.
It can get somewhat dangerous in spots near Mopac, particularly the stretch from Mopac to Mission Oaks Boulevard, where the shoulder is small and has lots of debris in some spots. But beyond that, it’s a welcoming route for experienced riders.
What Makes It Great
The charm of the Southwest Parkway comes from its roller-coaster profile, a great mix of long, grinding uphills, challenging climbs and exhilarating downslopes.
Leaving the city behind on what is (mostly) a nice, wide shoulder, cyclists can admire the first signs of the Texas Hill Country with its hills and greenery - right around the time they get to the route’s major climb.
The middle section of the ride, going west, features a three-mile climb of more than 300 feet up. You’re then rewarded twice - once in the 200-foot downhill right around Travis Cook Road, and the glorious 3-mile downhill coming back to town heading east.
Watch for the short, rigorous climbs in the middle. They sneak up on you. The ride back to the city is no picnic, for what that’s worth.
To add about three more miles, start at the Gaines Creek Park in East Oak Hill and head clockwise (west) on the Republic of Texas Boulevard, which loops around Blue Valley Park right next to the Barton Creek Greenbelt and turns into Travis County Circle.
This little loop will bring you right back to Gaines Creek and the Southwest Parkway, offering a mild, quick warmup before the hills heading out west.
Another aside: The Barton Creek Greenbelt is just across Mopac, delivering both a great place to park and an even better place to cool off (provided there's water in the creek) after an exhausting workout.
Who is Going to Love It
Cyclists with higher experience levels and those training for longer, century-length rides will love this route and the opportunity it presents for great distance conditioning.
In particular, the three-mile climb in the middle of the route is an excellent example of the challenges faced by riders in some of the longer Hill Country rides so popular here in the spring and summer.
Who won’t be happy with it are those with less experience. The high speed limits make for a harrowing ride if you don’t regularly ride beside traffic. But for those looking to better their endurance and whiz up and down some roadway roller coasts, it’s an enormously popular route.
Directions, Parking, & Regulations
Parking is available all along the route, around the Greenbelt and in parks along the way.
Dogs allowed, technically, but not encouraged due to speed limits and traffic.