DESTINATION: SPIDER MOUNTAIN TEXAS – COME FOR THE BBQ, STAY FOR THE RIDING!

North America’s only year-round, lift-accessed bike park

SPIDER MOUNTAIN TEXAS – COME FOR THE BBQ, STAY FOR THE RIDING!

Story and photos by Zach White

Contrary to the popular boast, not everything is bigger in Texas. Take Spider Mountain for example, the first and only bike park in North America with year-round lift-accessed trails. While that is a noteworthy bragging right, its mere 350 vertical feet from top to bottom may put it in the smallest bike park running. That said, if you find yourself in central Texas with enough time for a park day, it’s definitely worth a visit.

About an hour’s drive through the hill country northwest of Austin, Spider Mountain sits on the banks of Lake Buchanan. The property has been a vacation destination since the 1930s, and when Mountain Capital Partners bought the land in 2018, they kept its historic Thunderbird Lodge. A funky mix of motel rooms, cabins and prefabs, it’s a very laid-back campus that works well as a base camp for a couple of days of riding at both the bike park and Reveille Peak Ranch, which is just three miles down the road. The two riding areas are owned by different entities and separately managed, but are close enough to make them almost synonymous.

 

Most trail features are rollable, with the exception of Sleep Tight, which has a nice 5ish-foot drop at the bottom.

 

Spider Mountain currently consists of the Texas Eagle chairlift, 12 lift-accessed bike trails and one hiking trail. The longest trail, Creepy Crawly Skills Park, meanders its way down the hill to tally up an impressive two miles. At 1.36 miles, the green-designated Itsy Bitsy is the next longest option. From there, most of the blues and blacks are less than a mile, with the 0.2-mile double-black Sleep Tight taking the shortest-trail award.

When we first heard about this year-round bike park in Texas, we had no idea how rocky and challenging some of the trails could be.

With the exception of several busy times per year where the lift runs all week, Texas Eagle runs all year from Friday through Monday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. for $59. The park is open midweek to self-propelled riding, including pedal-assisted ebikes, for $15. Uphill traffic is specific to a steep dirt road that accesses the top of the bike park.

The best times to visit are spring and fall, and we’ve had mostly good luck with December trips to central Texas. Winter weather in the area can be frigid and sleeting sideways, or sunny and 75, so plan accordingly. The only time we’d suggest avoiding the bike park is during the summer months. No matter what kind of heat you think you can handle, sitting on a black vinyl chairlift bench that slowly churns through 100-degree temperatures and thick, muggy Texas air feels like being stuck on a convenience-store hot-dog roaster.

Riders who want to practice their jumping skills at a lift-serviced bike park when Whistler’s trails are closed for the winter will likely appreciate Spider Mountain.

The little park is well built and a blast to ride. It’s more about getting lap after lap in on the relatively short runs versus exploring new terrain all day. Jump trails like Venom, a blue-black, provide a great set of large tabletops to work on your whips at the bottom.

Most runs average a couple of minutes at speed, and the lift ride is approximately eight minutes, so expect to get a lot of laps in. A particular favorite was Sticky Icky. Designated a black trail, sections of it sometimes brought questions as to why it wasn’t branded a double-black like Stinger Trail. Riddled with technical sections that all offer at least a couple of line choices, it’s a fun trail to try to find the fastest lines down. In general, most trail features are rollable, with the exception of Sleep Tight, which has a nice 5ish-foot drop at the bottom.

First-time visitors to the park tend to be very impressed with the technical descents that are available for expert-level riders.

Offering a charming contrast to most ski-area bike parks, Spider Mountain’s base area consists of a shipping container that’s been converted to the ticket office, as well as a small retail shop. Another shipping container houses a bike repair shop and a rental fleet of Trek Slashes. There’s plenty of primitive parking and a few outhouses, but no running water at the base. It’s a laid-back vibe, one that almost guarantees seeing riders sipping beer on the lift ride up, though that’s neither allowed or encouraged by the park, or us here at MBA.

Whatever one’s choice of food and beverage, it’s generally best to BYO (bring your own), though there has occasionally been a food truck posted up at the base area. For the best bet, however, Templeton’s Tavern is a mile down the road and offers a full menu, as well as a full bar. It’s also a small music venue, and the beer garden is complete with cornhole.

Camping at the base used to be allowed, but is currently on pause, as some environmental concerns are being hashed out. The more scenic spot to camp is at Reveille Peak Ranch down the road and is worth riding there for at least a day, too. Check RPRTexas.com for pricing, as well as if there’s an event on the calendar. Depending on preferences, catching a music festival during a mountain bike trip could make or break one’s experience.

With the exception of the busiest times of year, when the lift runs every day, Spider Mountain’s lift normally runs from Friday through Monday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., for $59.

Reveille Peak Ranch’s trails are generally much more organic and XC than the little bike park down the road, but don’t expect the options to be easy or boring. There are several jump trails, including at least one proper pro-level jump line, and a dual-slalom course that makes the Sea Otter course look like child’s play.

Team Trail Party is almost solely responsible for trail and feature building at Reveille Peak Ranch, and, well, they’re not afraid to party. Expect fun, challenging features—be it rough and rowdy tech sections or giant doubles over old vehicles. Just come prepared and self-sufficient, as there’s no support out on the trail or at the trailhead.

The locals love eating barbecued meat in Texas, and it tends to be delicious.

For BBQ fans, make the half-hour drive to the original Cooper’s in Llano for about as authentic a Texas experience as one can get. It’s hard to go wrong with any of the meat options from the giant BBQ pits out front, but make sure you try both the pecan pie and the banana pudding. Just remember, a “pee-can” is something you keep in the truck on long trips. A “pecan” comes from Texas trees and makes for one heck of a pie ingredient.

Depending on where Texas is in its drought cycle, Lake Buchanan is a great spot to take a swim. The Thunderbird Lodge has an eclectic and ever-changing collection of paddleboards, boats and floats to rent as well. And, if the water level is too low at the Lodge, they do have a nice little swimming pool.

With jumps like this one, it’s obvious that some serious mountain bikers were involved in designing the trails at the park.

For riders thinking of visiting Spider Mountain and Reveille Peak Ranch who don’t live in Texas, it’s admittedly a stretch for general expectations. The entire bike park can be ridden within a couple of hours, and Reveille Peak Ranch’s trails are likely only good for a couple of days before repeating or reversing becomes the plan. That said, when those cold, snowy spring days linger for a little too long up north, or if you have a primary reason beyond riding to visit central Texas, both areas offer a great riding—if not cultural—experience for a day or three.

You might also like
edit