If the cat was ever in the bag concerning Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt, it has long since been let out, fed a week’s worth of catnip and given unfettered access to all of the neighborhood strays.
Such is the price of being cool.
Like all good things in this city, the 7-mile trail that runs from Zilker Park to Lost Creek has become no stranger to crowds. And who can blame them? Between its hiking, swimming and climbing options, not to mention some of the best mountain biking you’ll find this close to the city center, this is literally ground zero for urban adventurers in the Lone Star capital. All you’ve got to do is grab a bike and show up.
Thankfully (or not, depending on whom you ask), accomplishing that last part is easy. Austin’s famed Ann and Roy Butler Trail leads directly to Barton Springs Rd in Zilker Park, which in turn connects to the Barton Creek trailhead. There are other entrances as well, including Spyglass, Gus Fruh, and Loop 360 (see map), but their relative obscurity makes them less practical for newcomers. Pick your poison.
From here, the possibilities are almost endless depending on a few factors: your skill level, your knowledge of the area, and the amount of time you’ve got to explore.
Find the Perfect Ride for Cycling the Barton Creek Greenbelt:
First-time riders can’t go wrong with a simple out-and-back along the main trail that runs parallel to the river. Yes there will be plenty of dog walkers and climbers to contend with, but the path is scenic and impossible to miss. Also, just because it’s the main trail doesn’t necessarily make it easy. There are more than enough rocks, roots, and technical stretches here to keep you honest.
Should you be looking for something a little more secluded, the Barton Creek Greenbelt has miles of intense single track running through it – provided you know where to look.
Most of these off chutes connect directly to the main trail, so as long as you keep your eyes open you’ll be able to locate the bulk of them. Just make sure you know what you’re getting into. A quick visit to YouTube and blogs like Austin Voodoo can be invaluable in moments like these.
Just a few things to be aware of: 200 vertical ft separate the highest and lowest points along the trail, so while the greenbelt is not particularly hill-heavy it’s certainly not flat. Also, there are no water fountains, restrooms, or garbage cans along the way. Be sure to carry in, and carry out, whatever provisions you’d like to have with you.
Finally, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of the area’s most revered swimming destinations, so consider setting aside some time to soak in the natural refreshment. You might have to share the moment with a dozen other frolicking adventurers, but hey, that just comes with the territory.
Welcome to the weird world of Austin.