8 miles (one way)*
singletrack; crushed granite
out and back
$3 per car to park at the Barton Springs Lot (April - September)
(512) 472-1267 (24 hour hotline)
Click here to send an email
The Barton Creek Greenbelt
is one of the most popular trails in Texas. Many Austinites use it as
a hiking, running, biking and pet walking trail. It travels the banks
of Barton Creek (hence the name). The creek is usually wet during the
fall and spring, but dries up by mid-summer. The trail offers a good
mix of singletrack, doubletrack, technical climbs and descents, rock
gardens, hucks and long chances to spin. You'll also have a chance to
see plenty of Central Texas wildlife along the trail. Squirrel, skunk,
skinks, coral snakes, rabbits and whitetail deer are often seen along
the trail. Plus, plenty of natural rock outcroppings which lend themselves
to rock climbing or just hanging out and enjoying the sites of the Greenbelt.
Almost to the end of the trail on the point to point route is Sculptured Falls, a naturally occurring lime stone waterfall that drains upper Barton Creek into a pool that is about a football field long and 20-30 yards across. This is a great place to go for a swim while riding on the Greenbelt. It is a worthwhile reward after making it across the 6.25 miles it takes to get there from the Barton Springs Pool parking lot. After a swim at Sculptured Falls, there is a little more than a mile to finish the point to point at the base of the Hill of Life before turning around and heading back to the parking lot. The trail is a 7.5 mile single track that works its way from the Zilker Park/Barton Creek Pool parking lot to just southwest of the Loop 360/MoPac (Loop 1) intersection and ends just below the "Hill of Life".
The Hill of Life is a long, slow climb up exposed limestone ledges that will challenge any mountain biker's ability to spin, climb and maneuver. Plenty of rocks, steps, ledges and scree to keep you busy. However, once at the plateau, you have three choices: continue up the left towards the top of the Hill of Life and the neighborhood beyond it; take a right and follow the Lolly-Pop Loop out and back to this same starting point; or go left and slightly downhill to enter the first part of the singletrack to Ed's Bowl. Both the Lolly-Pop Loop and Ed's Bowl are semi-technical trails with plenty of off-camber rides, some nice rollers and plenty of chances to polish your technical skills. However, since they run through the trees and are soft pack trails, it is recommended that you stay on the established trail to ensure they stay rideable. Lolly-Pop look offers amazing scenery and an overlook to the Barton Creek Green Belt that spans Travis Country, Lost Creek, and the trail back towards MoPac.
At the base of the Hill of Life is a dam that separates the Barton Creek Greenbelt from Travis Country and on to Lost Creek. The trails in this area are not as well marked, nor as populated. They offer some serious uphill grinds and some technical downhill runs. Often you'll see big travel bikes on this section and people with body armor. While many view this as overkill, the ones who have taken some tumbles on the limestone 'cheese grater runs' really appreciate the extra safety.
This is a trail recommended for intermediate to experienced riders and is one that is readily accessible from downtown Austin. Although, beginning bikers can go out and cut their teeth on the trail and get immediately hooked on the sport from one ride. One comment heard from a Colorado mountain biker was that the trail (from Barton Springs Pool out, within the first 3 miles) was that this trail was more technical than anything he had ridden in Colorado. It can be discouraging with all the technical sections and rock gardens close to the pool lot, but once you clear these the trail really opens up. Bikes can range from Rigid Single Speed to All-Mountain, or big travel bikes. However, the best bike is one that can handle the changes in terrain, the nimble singletrack and the climbs and bombs equally well. Bring plenty of water in the warmer months. A 70 oz CamelBak® will get you through a ride in the heat, but might best be supplemented with an extra water bottle.
If you start and finish at Barton Springs Pool, the year round 68˚ water is a blessing post ride. Campbell's Hole, Twin Falls, Sculptured Falls and the pool below the dam at the base of the Hill of Life all offer mid ride chances to cool off.