Hello, I know you’ve been anxiously awaiting my next blog entry as I promised to describe the ideal Texas Hill Country cycling weekend. I love this area of Texas. This part of Texas was settled in the 1840’s by Germans and Czechs. It was a tough existence back then. Just imagine no roads, only rough terrain covered in mesquite, cedar, live oak and heavy underbrush. The terrain and underbrush made the region very difficult to travel through, much less carve out a living. It was not until the 1970’s that Texans from Dallas, Houston and San Antonio started flocking to the Hill Country for recreation and retirement. That same attraction brought me here. Cycling, hiking, boating, fishing, wakeboarding, whatever I want. Turns out, it’s mostly cycling. So let’s get to the ideal weekend.
The cycling weekend starts on Friday. You need to find a comfortable place to stay on the south side of Canyon Lake. There are two towns on the south side of the lake, Sattler and Startzville, both with plenty of places to stay. I can recommend two places right on the lake and their location will add to your experience; Canyon Lakeview Resort and The Lodge at Turkey Creek. Another eclectic place on the Guadalupe River is the Tree House Lodge. This is but a few examples, there are plenty more. Use the internet to find your ideal spot. If you avoid holiday weekends you will have plenty of selection. If you want to rough it, there are many camp grounds along the Guadalupe River and on the lake. I have nothing against camping, but when I am riding hard every day I prefer a nice shower and a comfortable bed in a climate controlled room, but to each his own.
Arrive by 6pm on Friday evening so you can get settled with all your cycling buddies, enjoy a meal together, and review the ride plan for the next day. I love rolling out on Saturday morning straight from my house, no commute to a starting point. The Saturday route is 82-miles starting from your location on the south side of the lake. Choose a start time appropriate for the weather and sunrise. We generally don’t push for too early a start unless we are trying to beat the heat. Remember the afternoon and evening will be open for relaxing, water sports, or whatever.
My route takes you all the way around the lake clockwise from Startzville towards Spring Branch then through Fischer Store, Wimberley, and back to Startzville via Canyon City and Sattler. At the start we cycle west on FM 2673/2722 toward Startzville, unless of course you are staying in Startzville, then you head southwest on FM 3159 toward Spring Branch. You will soon face the longest climb of the day just out of Startzville. You will certainly be awake and warmed up by the time you crest this hill. Turn north onto FM 311 shortly after the hill, then take quick right turn continuing north on Rebecca Creek Road. Now you will have a nice meandering shot across the northwest end of the lake until you cross the Guadalupe River. You’ll enjoy panoramic views all the while. The Guadalupe is the magical river which fills the lake, although it is small at this point.
After crossing the river, there are a few turns to navigate until you pop out onto FM 306 (Right on Cypress Cove, Left on Tanglewood Trail, Left on Eagle Rock). You will be pretty happy at this point. It’s a great ride.
[From this point it’s still quite a ways to Wimberley and there‘s only water available at Fischer Store, so if you need more fluids (besides water) or nourishment, take a short detour left (west) on 306 to the intersection with 285 to find a convenience store.]
Continue about a mile east of the Eagle Rock intersection on 306, then turn left onto Mystic Breeze.
[If you need to shorten the ride you can skip the turn and continue south on 306 through Canyon City all the way to the North Park Road. This cuts off Fischer Store, Wimberley, and the Blanco River crossing from the route (about 30 miles) and some of the most beautiful riding. FM 306 is a busy road which I prefer to avoid as much as possible. It generally has a good shoulder, just a lot of traffic.]
Back to the original route, from this turn off 306 until Fischer Store there are some significant rollers to go up and down along with several turns not to miss (Right on Vista Lakes, Right on Sunrise Place, Left on Astral Point, and Left on North Cranes Mill Rd). Cranes Mill will take you to FM 32 and Fischer Store just a few hundred yards beyond.
If you arrive at Fischer Store at the right time you can make a brief visit to this interesting historical building. The caretaker lets me refill my water bottles. This is our first rest stop. Although it’s called Fischer Store there is nothing for sale here, but it’s a nice place to stop. If the store is closed, there is an outside spigot alongside the building. After catching your breath and taking in a little nourishment, you’re ready for the great scenic ride into Wimberley. You have two options; the shorter one along FM 32, Mail Route, John Knox, Wayside Dr, River Rd route or the slightly longer Fischer Store Rd, Sachlleben, Wayside Dr, River Rd route. In either case you will need a map not to get lost. Cycling via the Mail route will also require you to cross the low bridge on the Blanco River above Wimberley. Either way, this stretch is beautiful. It’s a gentle downhill run with flatter hills than before. The last few miles run right alongside the Blanco River. I prefer the Fischer Store road. It’s just a great road and so scenic.
Wimberley is a small town full of antique stores and plenty of shoppers on the weekend. Places to eat here include; the Wimberley Pie Company and the Wimberley Café. However, my favorite place is The Leaning Pear (TLP). The last two times I have ridden this route we stopped there for nourishment. TLP has great healthy food and wonderful service. They have several homemade soups and sandwiches and a great half sandwich and cup of soup combo. Don’t go for the bowl of soup option as you will pay for it once back on your bike. There’s still a significant distance to go. Trust me I have gone for the bowl (instead of the cup) twice now and regretted it both times. You’d think I’d learn.
Once back on the bike we backtrack across the low bridge on the Blanco River. The amount of water flowing over the bridge is unpredictable. Unless the bridge is completely dry, do not attempt to ride across. You will invariably end up on your ass with at least hurt pride and wet if nothing else. When wading the river definitely remove your shoes and socks and walk in the tire tracks where it’s least slippery. If it’s really flowing and looks too dangerous to wade across, wait for a friendly passerby in a truck and ask for a lift across the river.
[If the river is impassable even by truck, you’ll have to backtrack to Fischer Store then take North Cranes Mill Rd to FM 306 and head south.]
After crossing the river, follow John Knox to the Mail Route and turn left. The Mail Route drops you off onto FM 32. Cross the highway and follow FM 3424 south to FM 306. From here cycle southeast on FM 306 through Canyon City to the North Park road. Turn right on this road which leads to the top of the Canyon Lake Dam. Navigate the pedestrian gate then enjoy the scenic ride across the dam. From the south end of the dam enjoy the nice downhill. If you still have strong legs you might make the climb back up to the top just for grins. At the base of the dam turn right and follow the river road into Sattler. Depending on where you started you could be finished, otherwise head on into Startzville on FM 2673/2722 to finish your ride.
Enjoy the rest of your day in the lake, on the lake, in the hammock, or whatever. We typically culminate the evening with a huge feast of grilled steaks, smoked ribs, baked potatoes, salad, a huge bowl of guacamole, and plenty of red wine. This meal is great prepared and enjoyed by the group, if you have the facilities. If not there are plenty of places to eat. If you’re up for a little drive, the Grist Mill in Gruene is great. If you are there on Saturday you should show up by 5:00pm to beat the crowd which is sure to show up. As part of the over 50’s crowd my day is done after dinner and early to bed. If you still have the energy for it, the Gruene Dance Hall is just right next door with live music daily. There are also a couple of good places on hwy 46 toward Bulverde that have live music and good food. There are a number of Icehouses in Sattler and Startzville.
We make a shorter ride on Sunday, usually starting early so everyone can be heading back home by early afternoon. My favorite route is a 40-mile loop that includes the Guadalupe River Road (RR) between Canyon Lake and Gruene. Early Sunday morning is the best time to be on this scenic, winding and narrow road. You can do this ride in either direction. Starting in Startzville we cycle southwest on FM 3159 (same as Saturday). If you want more climbing today there are two optional steep climbs less than a mile out of Startzville. These climbs are on opposite sides of FM 3159. On the right is the Heritage Estates (Sheridan Ave) climb and directly across is the Inland Dr/Hillside Circle climb. Add one or both of these to your route for an extra challenge. Whether you make the optional climbs or not you still can enjoy climbing the big hill. Make a left turn onto Cranes Mill Road shortly after cresting the hill. Enjoy the Cranes Mill run all the way to Hwy 46. This is a great stretch of road. Cross 46 onto Herbelin road which takes you past the Dry Comal Creek Winery before looping back to 46. The winery is a beautiful place. I keep meaning to stop and sample the wine one day, but as yet it’s still on my bucket list. Follow 46 south for a few miles to Hueco Springs Rd road. Turn left on to Hueco Springs till the junction with River Road. Make a left turn onto the RR and enjoy. As I said, it’s narrow so be mindful of automobiles and be courteous. If you still have legs there is another optional climb about a mile south of Sattler at The Summit Resort. Watch for the sign for this development, then take Summit Drive to make the long climb to the Summit. The RR takes you all the way into Sattler. From here you should know the way, west on FM 2673/2722 to Startzville or wherever you started your ride.
We usually consume sandwiches and leftovers as we all clean-up and pack-up before the drive home. You will feel terrific after this 120-mile Texas hill country cycling adventure. I always do. I eagerly look forward to repeating this 2-day tour over and over again. Of course, with my extensive experience in the area I have many variations and options which I can use to tweak the adventure to match the time of year, the weather, and the mood and fitness level of the group.
Of course, when you are really up for an adventure please consider one of Velocity Cycling Tours routes to deliver an exceptional cycling experience in the Texas hill Country. It really is the best way to take in the culture and expanse of this unique part of Texas and do it with no worries. VCT’s motto is ‘We Plan, You Pedal.’ If you have twelve or more cyclists, VCT can also design a customized trip (minimum 4-days) for your group. Check out Velocity Cycling Tours website, facebook and video. Once you’ve cycling the Texas Hill Country it’s hard to stay away for long.
Till next time!