Bluff Creek Ranch
Located on the edge of the "lost pines" area of Central Texas, Bluff Creek Ranch is Texas' oldest mountain bike ranch. The terrain of Bluff Creek Ranch is more reminiscent of Northeast Texas or Southern Arkansas than it is of Central Texas ... tall trees, rolling hills, grassy meadows, fast dirt track, tight turns, and roots. The course has occasional patches of gravel, but you won't find a single big rock on the whole thing.
The front part of the course (1-9) consists of mostly non-technical dirt track that winds through the woods. There are a few modest creek drops along this section, similar to those in the back part of Rocky Hill Ranch or some of the easier parts of Walnut Creek. A couple of these drops contain large roots on the upslope which beginners might have to walk, but mostly the front loops are very beginner-friendly. However, the back part is where the real fun starts. A series of technical trails (13-23) wind up and down the steep bluff that gives Bluff Creek its name. These trails contain some bridges and catwalks reminiscent of trails in the Pacific Northwest, as well as some steep and exposed ledges reminiscent of trails in the Rockies. Intermediate-level riders should be able to ride the whole thing, however, with a little bit of practice. There is nothing on the course that would qualify as advanced or expert.
Those who rode BCR before 2005 will remember about 3 miles of additional singletrack in the area of the map marked 32. These old trails contained a bunch of technical, steep drops and climbs (such as the infamous "Oh S_it!") which dove into and out of a series of creek ravines over huge roots. Unfortunately, however, these trails were lost when the tract of land (which the ranch was leasing) was sold out from under them and cleared.
To make up for the loss of these trails, BCR has been sponsoring trail building efforts in the back portion of the property, focused mainly around the bluff. At 13, the trail drops precipitously off the bluff and then makes two long switchbacks along a narrow, exposed ledge. After circling a hay field (15) and following along the SE side of Pin Oak Creek, the trail then follows a steep tractor road back up to the top of the bluff. The deep tractor tire ruts on this road make it a deceptively challenging climb, especially if the soil is the least bit wet. The trail drops off the bluff again along another steep, exposed ledge at Mule Trace (17).
At the bottom of Mule Trace, turn right onto an optional, non-technical loop which follows along the NW side of Pin Oak Creek and circles a larger hay field (20). As you exit the hay field near 19, get ready for a climb. You start out on a catwalk that takes you across Bluff Creek and then cranks it up a notch. You then climb up an exposed, steep ledge and negotiate some additional catwalks and tight turns before reaching the top of the bluff (23). 24 contains some BMX-style berms and jumps, and 25 is a series of rooty and (at times) technical creek drops. You then ride a non-technical double-track around the pond, through the campground, and through the barn back to your car. Total distance is about 6-7 miles.
Bluff Creek has a tent campground, a bike wash, hot showers, and you can even rent a room in the Big House (or a bunk in the bunkhouse) for the night. At the Big House, you can also purchase bike supplies, snacks, and some of the ranch's famous grass-fed, hormone-free longhorn beef.
Current fee is $8 to ride for the day. See web site for more information.