I miss the old days, eight or nine months ago, when I could climb into the truck at the spur of a moment and head to a park for a day of biking, hiking or snoozing in a hammock.
Today, most Texas state parks and regional parks require advance reservations. And if you didn’t think ahead and book a spot two weeks ago, you might be out of luck.
That’s why I’ve taken to exploring some lesser known parks in Central Texas. This weekend, I loaded my mountain bike into the pickup truck and aimed for Milton Reimers Ranch Park, west of Austin, where nobody needs a reservation.
I’d visited the park before – once, when writing about a local climbing prodigy who could scale its limestone walls like a gecko, another time to take a climbing class myself, and a couple of times to swim (naked, don’t tell!) in the Pedernales River.
This time, though, I struck out to explore some of the park’s 18 miles of mountain bike trails, which are marked green (beginner), blue (intermediate) and black (expert), just like a Colorado ski resort.
We arrived at 9 a.m., just as the parking lot was starting to fill. We warmed up with a loop on the green trail, which twists through fields of golden grass and winds through a few thickets of brush and trees. In a couple of spots, the trail narrows and you have to pedal right through the base of a forked tree trunk. (Be careful not to catch a handlebar!).
The green trail is easy but fun. You can crank up the speed, practice negotiating tight turns, and get in a great cardio workout. Near the end, you can stop at the pump track, where you can steer your bike on a wood-planked boardwalk that unfurls like an undulating ribbon. I made it through one time cleanly, but on the second try I accidentally mashed my brakes, flipped myself off the bike and ripped open my calf on one of the sharp pegs of my platform pedal.
We stopped by the truck to apply hydrogen peroxide and a bandage to staunch the blood, then headed out to try the intermediate loop. This loop reminds me of the terrain you’ll find at Slaughter Creek Trail in South Austin – steep ledgey drops, some uphill grinds, a few rock gardens and tire-grabbing roots the thickness of a boa constrictor, plus more undulating singletrack. I had to get off or dab a foot down several times, but most of it’s not extremely technical for those with good mountain biking skills.
I had to stop a few times just to catch my breath.
We skipped the black trails. I’m just not skilled enough for them.
Milton Reimers Ranch Park covers 2,417 acres and is located at 23610 Hamilton Pool Road. It’s open from 7 a.m. until dusk daily, but closes when it gets overcrowded.
Admission is $5 per person, no reservations needed.
Besides mountain bike trails and climbing, the park offers equestrian trails, monthly bird walks, night sky programs and weekly guided hikes. (All programming has been cancelled for now due to the pandemic.) Three miles front the Pedernales River; the facility is the largest parkland acquisition in the history of Travis County. Pedernales River.
I’m heading back soon to try something else – a new 2.6–mile flow trail, which opened at the park in May. The trail was built by the same folks who built trails on Spider Mountain, the only lift-served, downhill mountain bike park in Texas. It’s a 1-mile climb to get to the start gate of the flow trail at Reimers, but on the way down you’ll encounter berms, gaps, jumps and pump rollers. Read more about it at https://www.mtbproject.com/trail/7054784/reimers-flow-trail.
For more information about the park, go to https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/parks/reimers-ranch.