I’m so stressed out with election anxiety that I can’t sit still. (OK, so that’s me pretty much every day.)
This Halloween morning, to burn off some of the heebie jeebies, my husband and I loaded up our bikes and headed to our favorite Austin area mountain biking destination – the Slaughter Creek Preserve in South Austin, where a 5-mile single-track loop serves up stair-steppy drops, rock gardens and flowy, rolling inclines.
It’s moderate terrain that challenges my intermediate skills but (with a little luck) won’t leave me with a snapped collarbone or one less tooth. It’s not as technical as the twisty, ledgy terrain you’ll find on parts of the Barton Creek Greenbelt or Emma Long Metropolitan Park, and it doesn’t attract the big crowds of Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park.
Plus, you don’t need reservations to ride here, as you do at state parks these pandemic-stricken days. And it’s free.
We made two loops of the circuit this morning. The multi-use trail cuts through a 100-acre swath of land owned by the city of Austin and set aside to protect water quality. (Cyclists ride clockwise; hikers and equestrians head counter-clockwise. Cyclists should dismount and pull off to avoid startling horses.)
Confession: About five years ago, I busted my ass on a rocky incline near the start of the trail. I wound up at the minor emergency center with a thoroughly bashed shin and elbow, but it didn’t kill my will to ride Slaughter. And today – for the first time ever – I made it through the tricky section where I crashed without so much as dabbing a foot on the ground. Progress!
The trail is doable for beginner and intermediate-level cyclists. I’ve made it through every obstacle on the loop, but I’ve never made an entire loop without at least putting a foot down to catch my balance at least once.
Not up for the entire loop? You can take a cut-off trial that trims about 2 miles off the circuit and still includes the highlights.
The trail is open from dawn to dusk daily, but closes after rain to prevent erosion.(Check here for closure information.) You have to drive through an automatic gate to get to the parking lot and trailhead, which is next to the old Trautwein homestead at 9901 Farm-to-Market 1826.