Carrie Arnold rides the Great Escape Trail at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area. Pam LeBlanc photo

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area just moved up a notch on my list of favorite places to ride a mountain bike in Central Texas.

I spent Saturday morning zipping along the Great Escape Trail, which served up tight turns, a few ledgy drops, some fast zoomy stretches and plenty of shade, making it a perfect place to grind out miles on a hot summer day. Afterward, I plunged directly into Lake Travis to cool off.

I last visited Muleshoe Bend in May, when I parked Vincent VanGo, my all-wheel drive campervan, in one of the park’s 34 campsites, and explored some of the park’s trails during a guided night hike.

This time, though, I could see where I was going, and I covered a lot more of the park’s network of trails.

Cyclists walk their bikes down a tricky stretch of trail at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area. Pam LeBlanc photo

Mountain biking feels a lot more natural than road riding. You hear the gravel crunch under your tires, you get slapped in the face by the occasional tree branch, and you don’t have to worry about getting hit by a car.

The Lower Colorado River Authority acquired this property as six separate tracts beginning in 1939 for the creation of Lake Travis. In the 1990s it began managing the 615-acre parcel as a park for recreation. The Austin Ridge Riders built Muleshoe’s network of biking trails, which includes the 6.5-mile main Great Escape Trail plus six short add-on loops and helps maintain them today.

It’s known for bluebonnet viewing in the spring as much as biking trails and added a boat ramp in 2015. Equestrians and hikers are welcome on designated multi-use trails, but cyclists who encounter horses should dismount and let the animals pass to avoid spooking them.

Chris LeBlanc rides the Great Escape Trail at Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area. Pam LeBlanc photo

Here are half a dozen things to love about Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area:

  1. Almost 10 miles of single-track to explore. I love to ride my bike, but I’m not an aggressive or particularly skilled mountain biker. The Great Escape Trail fit the bill, with some exposed roots and rocks, a few short and steep inclines and drops, and lots of fast twisty stretches.
  2. Clean facilities. The restroom building next to the park entrance has flushing toilets – “not prison toilets without a seat,” as my friend puts it – and an outdoor shower.
  3. Campsites with a view. The campsites are nicely spaced along the lakefront, the grass is lush and everyone’s within walking distance of the water.
  4. Kayak and standup paddleboard rentals. You can borrow a boat or board for $10 per hour (minimum two hours) on Thursday through Sunday during the summer.
  5. No crowds. Arrive before 10 a.m. and you’ll have no trouble getting a parking spot and you won’t encounter much traffic on the bike trails.
  6. The park host. She’s one of the friendliest, most helpful park employees I’ve ever encountered. Meet her once and you won’t forget her – and she’ll probably remember you the next time you visit.

Pam LeBlanc relaxes next to her campervan, Vincent VanGo. Chris LeBlanc photo

Muleshoe Bend Recreation Area is located at 2820 County Road 414 in Spicewood. Entry fee is $5 adults; free 12 and younger. Standard campsites cost $25 per night.


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