Destinations: Spider Mountain Bike Park, Texas

This all-season bike park in the Lone Star State is a great winter getaway

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Local racer and Team Trail Party’s graphic designer, Steven Mullins, hits the Texas flag wall ride on Viper’s Den.

Local racer and Team Trail Party’s graphic designer, Steven Mullins, hits the Texas flag wall ride on Viper’s Den.

Quickly approaching its first anniversary this April, Spider Mountain Bike Park is the first year-round, lift-accessed bike park in North America. Located about an hour’s drive northwest of Austin, Texas, the humble little hill only has a claimed 350-vert of elevation, and currently just offers a handful of trails to choose from. That said, they’ve done an excellent job with what the Texas Hill Country has given them to work with, as most top-to-bottom trail options traverse enough between steep little technical sections, stunts, and jumps to take at least a couple of minutes.

Lift ticket window in the Texas Hillcountry. Let that sink in for a minute.

Lift ticket window in the Texas Hillcountry. Let that sink in for a minute.

The trail builds at Spider Mountain have done a good job of maximizing the terrain and including trails for riders of all ability levels.

The trail builders at Spider Mountain have done a good job of maximizing the terrain and including trails for riders of all ability levels.

It’s not going to be for the rider looking to explore new trails all day by any means, but is a fantastic option for those looking to dial in their skills by way of getting laps in on familiar trails. For product reviewers like myself that are snowed in back home, the park offered a perfect opportunity to put a lot more descending miles in on a few bits that had been collecting dust on the bench as the local trails collected the white stuff.

Morning mist and low-hanging clouds are a common occurrence on Hillcountry, unlike mountain bikes hanging from chairlifts.

Morning mist and low-hanging clouds are a common occurrence on Hillcountry, unlike mountain bikes hanging from chairlifts.

Spider Mountain is owned by Mountain Capital Partners, who is a relatively new company that has acquired a handful of ski resorts scattered throughout the west. About a year ago, the company bought the property the park is on, including Thunderbird Lodge. As that name may suggest, the lodge has been around since the 1930s, catering to mostly Texas folk looking to escape the summer heat for a few days on Lake Buchanon. It’s a funky little mix of cabins, prefab homes, and even a strip of motel-style rooms—all of which can be booked through Spider Mountain’s website. Some are admittedly a bit basic, but offer scenic views of the lake, are about a minute’s pedal from the lift, and, as a current special states, can sometimes be included for free with the purchase of a lift ticket. If free doesn’t float you, or that special is short-lived, there’s free, primitive camping in a dirt lot at the base of the lift.

The Best Trail to Ride at Spider Mountain

Sticky Icky is appropriately designated a black trail with tricky little off-camber tech sections like this one.

Sticky Icky is appropriately designated as a black trail with tricky little off-camber tech sections like this one.

Sticky Icky turned into the go-to trail when choice was left to me. A single black, it’s reduced rating from the double-black Stinger was questionable at times, yet offered about twice the amount of trail time. Each technical section offers at least a couple of line choices, and while there’s no mandatory gaps or drops, there are options that’ll pucker up just about any rider.

Emma Dunn, boosting one of the many jumps on Venom trail. She saw her first armadillo shortly after this, which was a bit too squished by a truck to make the photo gallery.

Emma Dunn, boosting one of the many jumps on Venom trail. She saw her first armadillo shortly after this, which was a bit too squished by a truck to make the photo gallery.

For more time spent on trail between lift rides, some version of Viper’s Den or Antidote to Venom offered the longest runs while still keeping things fast, flowy and fun. Overall, every run on the hill was fun enough to do at least a few times.

Best Time to Visit Spider Mountain

Central Texas winter weather is finicky, with temps dipping below freezing, and even occasional sleet and snow. Our December visit provided some frigid mornings, a bit of misty, cloudy weather, and a few days of comfortably riding in short-sleeves.

Steven Mullins picks a dry-conditions-only line atop a limestone spine on Sticky Icky.

Steven Mullins picks a dry-conditions-only line atop a limestone spine on Sticky Icky.

The park plans to remain open all year with their Friday-Sunday schedule, if not add an extra day during busy weeks, but if you’re planning a trip down with the primary intention to ride the lift, fall and spring would be your best bets for more ideal weather. At the very least, it’d offer a better chance of jumping in the lake by choice, verses by dare. Just be warned, regardless of temperatures, if it rains – or is just dewey – the local limestone rock turns into some of the slickest surface imaginable.

Laid Back Texas Trail Vibes

Texas BMX legend and pit bike master, Donovan Miller, sums up the vibe of Spider Mountain’s apres scene.

Texas BMX legend and pit bike master, Donovan Miller, sums up the vibe of Spider Mountain’s apres scene.

The local scene brings approximately 300-350 riders to the park on weekends, with roughly half of that on Fridays. Spider Mountain’s atmosphere is about as laid back as it gets, right down to seeing more than a few riders with beer in hand on the lift. While neither Spider Mountain nor I would recommend that mix, there’s no issue bringing your own beverages to go with a couple of Gravity Taco plates to enjoy on their picnic tables under the oak trees.

Gravity Taco may be the only food option, but luckily it’s on par with the Texas food truck taco scene. Look for original taco specials like the Chow Mein Chicken tacos we had, which were good enough to opt for the following day, too.

Gravity Taco may be the only food option, but luckily it’s on par with the Texas food truck taco scene. Look for original taco specials like the Chow Mein Chicken tacos we had, which were good enough to opt for the following day, too.

Other than the food truck and a couple of Port-a-Johns, there’s a container building that doubles as both ticket office and tiny bike shop, and another container building that doubles as the clinic and operations office. Keep an eye out for events like Team Trail Party’s Enduro if you have any interest in racing, or in order to avoid closures at the park.

Local pro rider and Salsa R&D mule, Javier “Javie” Zuniga, dropping his way into 3rd place overall on Stinger trail. When not out ripping laps, he can often be found working in the little bike shop, or helping his mom sell some amazing tamales at events.

Local pro rider and Salsa R&D mule, Javier “Javie” Zuniga, dropping his way into 3rd place overall on Stinger trail. When not out ripping laps, he can often be found working in the little bike shop, or helping his mom sell some amazing tamales at events.

I was fortunate enough to catch said enduro, which has an unusual format of letting all racers do as many runs on the courses as they want throughout the day – in no particular order – then take their fastest run on each course to tally results from.

The top of the hill was the place to be after Team Trail Party’s Enduro.

The top of the hill was the place to be after Team Trail Party’s Enduro.

The idea is to offer a more relaxed, laidback day of competitive riding with your buddies, but it was hard not to notice that a lot of riders were leaving in bandages, if not in the back of ambulances. Regardless, I hadn’t seen that much stoke at a race in years, and the party vibe both during and after the actual racing will put Trail Party’s events on this year’s calendar for sure.

As a Colorado resident, Emma brought rather low expectations to Spider Mountain. It didn’t take long until the humble little hill of fun, lift-accessed trails put that smile on her face - which only turned into a frown when we had to leave.

As a Colorado resident, Emma brought rather low expectations to Spider Mountain. It didn’t take long until the humble little hill of fun, lift-accessed trails put that smile on her face – which only turned into a frown when we had to leave.


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