There’s really nothing like Texas hill country cycling – cruising peacefully down quiet backroads, with tall grass and wildflowers waving from the sidelines.
If you have road bikes or even plain old commuter bikes, load them up and drive to Fredericksburg, Texas. Just a few blocks from the tourist hubbub on Main Street, the roads are long, lonely, and oh so peaceful.
Hill Country Cycling With a Tour Company
When I was planning a birthday surprise for Brian, I wasn’t sure where to start to find the right routes and make sure we had the right gear. Thankfully I found Deaton and Texas Bike Tours.
I explained to her what kind of routes we wanted, how long we wanted to ride, and how comfortable we were with traffic levels (not very). Deaton took it all in and meticulously planned for us some awesome routes that checked all the boxes.
I can’t overstate how much she listened to what we wanted and the lengths she went to to help me make it a complete surprise to Brian – even going to our house to secretly pick our bikes and gear up and drive them to Fredericksburg(!). The look on Brian’s face when we pulled up to the bike store and OUR bikes were waiting there was priceless.
In hindsight, it’s relatively straightforward to look at google maps and find your own way. But the real treat for us was having Deaton follow along our route in the “SAG wagon” (SAG stands for support and gear) to assist us if we got a flat tire, got lost, got bitten by a rattlesnake, or just fell over and scraped a knee.
It was comforting to know that we had a little biking guardian angel just around the bend. While we didn’t end up needing her under emergency circumstances, we did jump in the car with our bikes for the last several miles to avoid a short ride along highway 290. It’s rural out there but cars still drive highway speeds, even (especially?) in the middle of nowhere.
If you want a really special ride experience, do not hesitate to reach out to Deaton and Texas Bike Tours!
Mapping Your Own Hill Country Cycling Route
Of course, if you’re willing to put in the legwork you can definitely plan your own routes. I recommend riding with a fully charged cell phone, water (duh!) and a flat kit, just in case.
We used an app called Ride Spot by People for Bikes. It’s great for tracking your routes and saving them so you can use them again. You can even share your routes with friends which is how Deaton showed us the routes that she created for us.
As far as cell service goes, Brian has T-Mobile and I have AT&T and AT&T was the hands down winner for service in the Fredericksburg area.
Good Roads to Include in Your Route
- Near Willow City Loop: Eckert and Lower Crabapple Road
- South of Hwy 290, towards Luckenbach: Luckenbach Road, RR 1376, Grapetown Road, Old San Antonio Road
Roads You May Want to Avoid
- I didn’t find 1631/Old Willow Road to be nice. For a two lane road there was still a decent amount of traffic passing at 45+ miles per hour. A narrow shoulder makes the cars passing at that speed feel a bit too close for comfort.
- I felt the same way about Jung lane. While not as scary as 1631 it still wasn’t super relaxing.
- Avoid highway 290 if possible. There is a wide shoulder but it’s a highway and cars are going fast and probably not that cognizant of sharing the road with bikers. One of our routes involved crossing 290 and riding for a couple hundred yards on it before turning. It was doable but I can’t say I liked it.
Willow City Loop
If you want to head straight to the tried and true, check out Willow City Loop. This loop is well known by cyclists and for good reason.
It is long with some rolling hills and steep climbs, but in the springtime is replete with wildflowers and just oozing with Texas country charm. We actually went in the fall and it was the most beautiful cloudy day that lent a romantic watercolor quality to the sweeping views. (Which is the reward you’re in for after struggling up the steep parts.)
I will say, biking this loop made us very happy to be on actual cycling bikes. Some of the hills required a pretty low gear to get up. I consider us to be in decent shape but if we were on our commuter bikes I would definitely have had to walk it at least part of the way. That’s fine too if you have to walk the bike because you’ll still get the views and the downhill joyride!
There is an almost 6 mile stretch in between the start and end of the loop that spans highway 16 which is not ideal biking terrain but it’s not as bad as the traffic on highway 290. (See the map above.)
A Few Other Hill Country Cycling Hints:
- I recommend finding a vacation rental along one of the roads you’ll be biking on or very nearby so you have a convenient launch point.
- If you’re mapping a route online, be careful about some of the smaller road lines on google maps – these might be unpaved or private roads so don’t count on them as a sure thing.
- Looking at a map, it’s easy to think a few miles on highway 290 is doable. However, even though there is some shoulder on that road, it’s really pretty scary to bike on.
- If you are thinking you’ll combo a ride with a little tour of Fredericksburg wineries, think again. They’re spaced very far apart except for a few sprinkled along 290 but you don’t want to do that. See the above bullet!
If you want to add something special to your biking weekend, make time to stop by Bill Varney’s Urban Herbal, a gift shop, herbal apothecary, art gallery, and fabulous private restaurant (if you should be so lucky!). You can check out the post I made about our memorable greenhouse dinner for more details. Truly one of the best dining experiences we’ve ever had!
I’m excited all over again about biking in the hill country. This time we’ll make it in the spring and it’ll be a whole new experience. Can’t wait to share my wildflower photos with you!