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Hill Country Natural Area

Average Rating:    (4.06 of 5)

No. of Reviews: 17

Very rugged terrain. Horses and hikers have priority here, so watch for them. Pack PLENTY of water since the trails are not shaded and can be very hot and dry. There is a $3.00 day-use fee, payable at the ranger station. The park is closed two days out of the week but I can't recall when - you may want to check ahead. I highly suggest riding with a buddy here since the trails are quite secluded and the fire ants may get to you before anybody else.
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Latitude
29.6880527498568
Longitude
-98.5693359375
Trail Directions
Take 173 south out of Bandera. Go less than one mile out of town and turn right on ranch road 1077 (watch for the sign). Follow this road about 10 miles and it ends up at the Natural Area.
Trail Length
20+ miles
Trail Level
Intermediate
Trail Type
Singletrack
City/County
Bandera
   


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Reviews 1 - 5 (17 Reviews Total) View All | Next 5

Review Date
June 2, 2007

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 3 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 4 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a year

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Reviewed by: boisebomber ,  Cross Country Rider

Summary:
first let me offer kudos to the rhetorical flourishes of the writers below. to a certain degree they are spot on. HOWEVER>>>>

you can ride trail 1 as a7 mile loop connecting to the road....i would call it an easy intermediate. sections of 6 are middle intermediate. various parts of 5 , 5a ,5b , 5c are unrideable. read that as UNRIDEABLE.

what a experienced rider can do is navigate the 20+miles into a long highly doable intermediate ride. steer of of onto "black" trails and you will curse the doctor who delivered you.

trail markers rate the trails like a ski slope. green-easy, blue-inter, black-difficult. pay attention. "difficult" translates to unrideable for 99% of us.


comprehensive map at ranger station (or website) with mileages. unfortunatly the map doesn't identify trail ratings....those you get at trial makers themselves.

the most genera rule of thumb i can give you is that if the trial looks like it has extensive vertical,then it will probably be loose limestone scree, largely unrideable in both ascent and descent.


regards the horse angle..i think the fellows overstate things. sure there are some of landmines..usually near trail head and P/L..but horses are the reason this place exists.

check my follow up comments below as i investigate the other trails.

in summary, so whilst i wouldn't describe HCSNA as one of my favorites, with a little planning you can have a good, long, challenging ride. without fear of perishing.

Recommended Route:
any trails marked green or blue.



Comments
boisebomber (06/06/2007)
trail 9, 9a, 9b, 9c - easy intermediate

trail 8a, 8b, 8c - intermediate with a 1/2 mile section of advanced riding with possible dismount on 1/16 mile sections with climb over short ledges and loose scree.
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Review Date
August 18, 2006

Overall Rating
 2 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 2 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 4 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Once a year

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Reviewed by: FireantDelux ,  Cross Country Rider

Summary:
I'm going to combine Jerry's and Epoeck's reviews. "E's" review was classic and I like the way he articulates what's in store for the "Casual" that drops-in on the Hill Country. This place is madness, if you ask me.

The amount of unrideable limestone and shag-spikes is relentless. The inclines are mostly good angles but the amount of limestone slush makes it precarious. The drops are many and run the gamut. You'll have your share of good dips but the quantity of limestone rocks is almost intolerable.

I dug a small piece of LS out of my knee-cap and that's when I realized that I wasn't as smart as Jerry. This place doesn't require knee protection, elbow, etc. - it demands it!!!!

Recommended Route:
Who knows. I was peg-legging back to my truck 40 minutes into the ride.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
Pedernales Falls. (Johnson City)



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Review Date
December 30, 2005

Overall Rating
 3 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 2 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 4 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Ridden Once

Visitors rate this review
4.00 of 5, 1.00 votes

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Reviewed by: EPoeck ,  Cross Country Rider

Summary:
I'm sorry. I'm a central Texas native, and after living in Colorado for 5 years, I am thoroughly saddened by the fact that I have to say off-road cycling in Texas sucksss. I had my hopes up for Hill Country Natural Area after reading the reviews. But between the equestrians and the unridable limestone formations, I spent enough time OFF my bike to realize I needed to start taking pictures and enjoy the scenery instead of the ride.

The guy who runs "The Hub" bike shop in New Braunfels said it right. "Bandera is a bit too rocky for my taste." I should have listened to him. I've gotten used to two or three hour rides with only a handful of dismounts in the front range Denver area. Take a look at the picture provided for this trail. The gentle double-track is typical to the route that the park ranger is going to recommend. I saw the other guests' maps, and they had the exact same route hi-lighted in pink... a big figure-8 supposedly 6 miles long that is supposed to take 2.5 hours. Somebody needs to take a dip in the clue bag. You really expect me to travel at an average speed less than 3 miles per hour??? Stray from this route and you will either run into a bunch of cowboys or pull an eyebrow muscle in response to the wicked cobble stone descents. I am going to try to post some other pictures for the curious. Hopefully they will illustrate my point about dissmounting for limestone formations, and as a plus you get to see my wife in her biking outfit.

I don't know why local DH'ers would flock to Hill Country Natural Area as mentioned in the review below. That's kinda silly. Cobble stones and downhill speed. Visualize it.

Another dissapointing trait is the $6 per preson day-use fee that you will pay, despite the $3 heads-up in the trail description. Yes I know this is not a significant sum of money, but paying to ride my bike around is like going to a bar for the same bottle of beer that I can drink at my house. It better be worth it for some reason or another. It never is.

I am annoyed by the park ranger's "one size fits all" route. She automatically crosses out certain parts of the trail that "will be too difficult." Just don't say anything at all.

Recommended Route:
I am also annoyed by the implications of 20+ miles of singletrack. First of all, visit this park enough times to really know 20+ miles of the trail system and you will be out $60 in day-use fees. Second, why would I spend several days exploring these trails when I could ride somewhere else and get a work-out without having to stop for horses. I really thought I was going to get this woman bucked off her horse today. This trail is best suited for Texans carrying a State Parks Pass who visit often enough to make it worth-while. And they still have to watch for horses. My recommeded route is north to Colorado.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
We tried Madrone Trail in Canyon Lake a few days ago. Pretty lame in my spoiled Colorado opinion. I met a guy in the parking lot who claimed to help build the Madrone Trail. I'm sorry to you if you are him and reading this. Met another guy after our ride who exclaimed out loud "Sweet trail, man." I just don't get it. Or maybe these guys just don't get it.

We also tried MacAllister Park in San Antonio. No elevation change, but fun as all get out. That was one of the top 3 trails in my all-time list of trails because it's simply fun. But I'll review it seperately.



Comments
font9a (06/08/2007)
Ok. I'm a Texas Native, and grew up racing redneck BMX. Then I even resurrected the BMX thing in college to ride 24" SS bikes. Then I got a Santa Cruz Chameleon in 1998 and set it up as a SS. I rode for years on Austin limestone singletrack on that bike before having to move abruptly to CA for my wife's schooling. I spent the next 4 years doing 1x9, SS, 2X9, and finally 3X9 on the hardtail -- just to deal with all the mountains in the western states (CA, OR, ID, WY, CO, UT, NM, AZ, etc.) I travelled to ride my bike a lot the last 4 years -- and I've encountered a lot of varied terrrain. Outstanding: Skeggs Point, CA; Downieville, CA; Fruita, CO; **Crested Butte, CO**, Durango, CO; Sun Valley, ID; Jackson, WY, ....

So that brings me to this point. Hill Country Mountain Biking is just another obstacle on the trail of life. I wish we had more public land, more BLM land, more MTBrs out there willing to build trails (Lost Maples SP in gorgeous Hill Country would be interested to let mountain bikers build a BC-type elevated trail system to eliiminate eco impact. Who's game?)

When I ride at Fruita on the 4-inch wide single track I almost cry when I get back to Austin to ride flat 8-foot wide double-track... but that's the deck we get dealt.

More riders = more opportunities. More opportunities means more responsibilities and more trailbuilding weekends.

I've got a 450 acre ranch in Mason Texas that will kick anyone's ass -- it just needs about 15 volunteers and about 1 year of weekends to turn it into a 35 mile loop.

Those are the cards. Every dinner plate you inadverdantly skid on on the Texas Hill Country trail is making you stronger and more nimble (anf more appreciative) for the cryptobiotic 4" singletrack at Crested Butte or Fruita.
But we can do better here in Texas with trail building ingenuity. Look at Walnut Creek in Austin. It's nearly perfect save for short distance, and no "hard" sections. Muleshoe has flow that rivals some of the best in Fruit
impdude (04/01/2011)
Stay off my rocks dude. I'll leave the lame buff single track for you. Really not much hike a bike out there.
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Review Date
December 8, 2005

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 4 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 5 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Ridden Once

Visitors rate this review
4.00 of 5, 1.00 votes

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Reviewed by: Joe Quickness ,  Cross Country Rider

Summary:
So I'm tagging along in Bandera for my wife's corporate function when I get the bug to ride during a free afternoon. It's a dry, sunny Friday afternoon and 70-degrees in December, so what could be better. Rented a little hardtail from Tim at Hill Country Bicycle Works in Kerrville. When I ask about aggressive local trails, he says that Hill Country was some of the best in TX. "That's where the local DHer's go." Sounds perfect. Throw the little rig in the back of the rental car and wonder to myself if I'll need a pump and patch kit, neither of which I had the foresight to bring. I'm just going for a little ride, right? Oh, how pleasantly wrong I was. Park ranger provided a map and highlighted a 7-mile route. I knew after about 1/2 mile into the #5 trail that this wee hardtail was far outmatched by the rugged, rocky terrain. Most of the climbs were managable, even though the rental's frame was nearly two sizes smaller than my own. Severe, acute ascents forced me to hike uphill over several sections, then things went completely haywire. I was rewarded at each crest with spectacular vistas and blisteringly mad descents. Opted to walk down a few because of my unfamiliarity with the place and lack of confidence in my kit. Hung way, way off the back end during most of my downward adventures. Great contrasts between loose, brutal rock gardens and smooth rock singletrack. Very technical. I lost track of how many peaks I actually rode but each got better than the last. Only came across one group of equestrians but their droppings were everywhere. Finally blew out the rear tire going very swiftly down a rocky, step-filled descent. I was suprised that it lasted for nearly 6 of the 7 miles. Can't wait to bring my new Dakar XLT here and really cut loose next year. Not looking forward to hiking it up some of those climbs, but anything worth having costs something. All in all, this park changed my perception of TX being flat and featureless. Riding serious rocks and boulders was also a nice change from the mud and roots of my usual PA/NJ stomping grounds.

Recommended Route:
Parked in the Equestrian/Camp trailhead area. Made a left out of the parking lot onto the dirt road, then left onto the #5 trail. Followed that craggy wickedness to the 5b loop, then back onto the #5. Took the #5 to #5c, then connected to the #1, Blazed down the #1 to the #6. Planned on connecting to the #6 and riding back around to it's intersection near the beginning of the #5 and run another loop or two, but my tire tapped out. Walked out down the gentle #1 trail for lack of repair gear. Seems like the trails are marked well and even provide a skill recommendation on the markers. I didn't get lost at all, which is unusual for my first ride in a new place. Consider wearing armor. Also consider adding protection to your frame if you're squeemish about paint nicks and dings. Those rocks bounce around quite a bit. If you're into trials, there's plenty of things to hop on and off of too.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
Couldn't say. I only rode that one day. Can't wait to go back and explore more of it on a proper rig.



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Review Date
May 17, 2005

Overall Rating
 4 of 5

Aerobic Difficulty
 3 of 5

Technical Difficulty
 3 of 5

Ridden Trail:
Ridden Once

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Reviewed by: hoganson ,  Weekend Warrior

Summary:
Fun trail with a good choice of trails. If you ride up rocky horror hill (I believe that is 5b), have fun and pack a lunch because there is so much loose rock it is impossible to get to far up before hiking. Also make sure a storm is not brewing as it would be an extremely difficult ride down the other side on wet rock. Overall a good place to go and you can get into some beautiful scenery there.

Other recommended trails in the same area:
Kerrville State Park, McCallister Park



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Reviews 1 - 5 (17 Reviews Total) View All | Next 5
 


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