Red-Letter Ride: Dam Loop “Lite”

Location
Area
West of Austin, Texas in the Highland Lakes area
Distance
35 Miles
Major Roadways
FM 2244, FM 620, RR 2222, River Place Road, City Park Road, Loop 360
Route
Click this Cyclemeter link for detailed information on the route.

Description
Many in central Texas widely consider this to be the quintessential Austin bicycle ride.  It has it all: magnificent vistas, breathtaking views, beautiful neighborhoods, the Highland Lake chain, and lots of …… hills.  Two landmarks make this ride a memorable one.  The first is the Mansfield Dam.  Built in 1937 with the active support of a freshman U.S. Congressman named Lyndon Baines Johnson and approved by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the dam rises 278 high and measures over 7,000 feet long and separates Lake Travis from Lake Austin.  The second is the Pennybacker Bridge on Loop 360.  This incredible arch-bridge over the Colorado River is only the second bridge of it’s design in the world.  The bridge is constructed so that no part of the structure touches the water.  The route, which is a loop, starts and ends at the intersection of Loop 360 and FM 2244 in far West Austin.  While a substantial portion of this route is on heavily-traveled roadways, wide shoulders are the norm.  Hills are also the norm.  Don’t be fooled by the relatively short distance of 35 miles; the effort expended on the hills (over 2100 feet of ascents) make up for the low miles, and then some!  There are six hills worth noting.  The first is a long, steady climb after crossing the Mansfield Dam.  Hills 2 through 5 are all in the River Place neighborhood, and while most are short, they are very steep.  The last hill, a long one, is on Loop 360 between the Pennybacker Bridge and FM 2244.  A couple of quick notes about this route.  First, I choose to pass through the River Place neighborhood as opposed to riding on FM 2222.  The neighborhood route is longer and hillier, but it is much safer than the heavily-traveled FM 2222.  Secondly, don’t be fooled by the name of this ride: “Dam Loop Lite“.  It is anything but “Lite“, and I only named it this since there are longer Dam Loops that I’ll detail later.

Ratings
Hills:       4
Traffic:    3
Scenery: 2
Characteristic: 4

Ratings Legend
Hills: (1) – Flat (2) – Some Rolling (3) – Rolling (4) – Hilly (5) – Brutal
Traffic: (1) – Almost None (2) – Very Little (3) – Some (4) – Heavy (5) – Brutal
Scenery: (1) – Spectacular (2) – Beautiful (3) – Nice (4) – OK (5) – So-So
Characteristic: (1) – Remote (2) – Rural (3) – Mixed (4) – Suburban (5) – Urban

Pictures/Video

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