Good Water Trail (Lake Georgetown)
The Good Water Trail is a 28-mile trail that winds around the shores of Lake Georgetown in Georgetown, TX. The 13-mile section from the Overlook Trailhead (Mile 24) to Tejas Camp (Mile 11) on the north side of the lake has been open to mountain biking for years, but only recently have bikers been able to ride the south section starting at Cedar Breaks Park (Mile 0.) For a while, the south side trail was only open as far as Cedar Hollow Campground (Mile 4.5), but in 2009 and 2010, the Austin Ridge Riders worked to improve the trail between Cedar Hollow Campground and Tejas Camp. Due to their efforts, the entire loop around the lake is now rideable.
Because it's a lakeshore trail, Good Water has very little elevation change. Thus, riders who are in good shape should be able to maintain an aerobic heart rate for most of the ride. For an experienced rider, most -- if not all -- of the ride should be doable with only the middle chainring.
In general, this trail takes a long time to dry out. We rode it a week after a heavy rain, and it was still too muddy and probably should have been closed to biking, truth be known. We rode it again a week after a light rain, and it was barely tolerable. The mud is particularly bad on the 2-mile section between Cedar Breaks Park and Crockett Garden, which is mostly under tree cover.
If you are attempting to ride the full loop, allow at least 6-7 hours for it (more if you are out of shape or not technically proficient.) Even experienced riders will not be able to go more than 3-4 MPH on the technical sections, because they are so unrelenting. Bailing out is not really an option, as there are no direct road routes around the lake, and the road routes are all on busy highways, some with no shoulder. However, you can drop a shuttle vehicle at Tejas Camp (Mile 11), Russell Park (Mile 16.8), Jim Hogg Park (Mile 21), or the Overlook Trailhead (Mile 24.)
The Good Water Trail is lightly-traveled, in general, and on most days, it's rare to see other bikers out there (particularly on the south side of the lake.)
Section 1: Cedar Breaks Park (Mile 0) to Cedar Hollow Campground (Mile 4.5)
Most intermediate trails deserve their blue rating because they have a few scattered intermediate-level obstacles. Section 1 is not like that. Although there are few obstacles that, taken in isolation, could be considered advanced, the trail simply never lets up on the intermediate stuff. It is solid blue the entire way to Cedar Hollow Camp and back and almost deserves an advanced rating simply because there isn't more than 50 feet of smooth trail the whole way. The terrain mostly consists of broken limestone, kaliche, and clay and is, in general, more like BLORA or Muleshoe Bend than it is like Barton Creek, but in some ways, it is more challenging than all of the above. There are a few 1-foot-tall ledges, but most of the technical aspect comes from rock gardens, and plenty of them. Many of these gardens still have patches of cheese grater rock which hasn't been ridden enough to wear down the sharp edges, so Section 1 is Pinch Flat City (or, if you ride tubeless, Burp City.) The trail rarely provides any smooth sections to allow you to get up to speed or recover. Thus, on many of the rock gardens, unless you have really strong legs, you'll end up riding more slowly than you'd really prefer and using trials-type maneuvers to avoid stopping. It is a good place to work on bike handling skills.
Starting from the "star" parking lot in Cedar Breaks Park, which is a circular drive located (as you are entering the park) on the left just past the entry plaza, the trail goes up a gentle but rocky incline and then puts you onto a brief gravel hike-and-bike-style section before dropping precipitously down a steep, ledgy, loose incline into a creek bottom. The old hiking trail went straight up the other side, but the new trail turns right and makes two long switchbacks to get back up to the bluff again. Near Mile 1, the trail opens up with some great views of the lake before descending down an incline toward the shore, following an overgrown singletrack for a bit, and ascending back up (both the ascent and descent are a bit tricky.)
At mile 2.5 is Crockett Garden, where bikers are asked to hike their bikes for about 100 feet to avoid disturbing the delicate features of the waterfall and the historic relics. Once you're at the top of the log stairs, you can start riding again. Right past Mile 3 comes a creek drop that is borderline advanced. You drop down a steep and rocky incline onto a footbridge, then have to immediately climb up the other side. I found the obstacle easier when riding west to east than east to west, although it is trickier to get onto the footbridge from the west-to-east direction because some of the rock has eroded away.
Near Mile 4, the trail crosses an outcropping of limestone with an active spring, and the algae around the spring makes it incredibly slick. You are pretty much guaranteed to slide out here. Your only choice is whether to do so in a controlled and recoverable fashion. Between Mile 4 and Cedar Hollow Campground are a couple of creek drops, the second of which barely has enough room to transition from down to up at the bottom. After this second creek drop, start looking for a fork in the trail. Take the left fork onto the lollypop loop, which goes up a loose, moderately steep hill before reaching a second fork. Going right at this second fork will take you toward Tejas Camp.
If you choose to ride back to Cedar Breaks Park from here, take a left at the fork, and you will pass a parking area before being treated to the only fast downhill on the south side of the lake. The lollypop loop rejoins the main trail at another fork. Go right here to head back toward Cedar Breaks Park.
The way back to Cedar Breaks is mostly like the way up, although the creek drop at Mile 0.5 is much more challenging on the way back, since you drop down the gentle switchbacks and then climb up the ledgy, loose, steep incline. The worst part of this climb is the part right near the creek. This part is at least a challenging blue, if not a full-on black diamond. After the hardest section, the trail continues to go steadily up and over small ledges and talus for a couple of hundred more yards. Once you're at the gravel, you're home free.
Section 2: Cedar Hollow Campground (Mile 4.5) to Tejas Camp (Mile 11)
This is by far the best section of the south side trail and would make for a good out & back ride starting at Tejas Camp. As it was built by mountain bikers, Section 2 at least tries to have some flow. There are fewer rock gardens on this stretch, and the ones that do exist are less arduous and more spaced out than the ones on Section 1. Section 2 introduces some root obstacles, intermediate-level creek drops, some advanced ledge drops and climbs, and some off-camber stuff. It bears the most resemblance to parts of Muleshoe Bend.
Between Mile 8 and 9, look for two sets of steps made of buried wooden posts, which climb and then descend a bluff next to the river. The steps are spaced out well enough that they can be descended by riders with intermediate skill, but advanced skill may be required to ascend them. The section between Mile 9 and 11 (the last two miles to Tejas Camp, if you are riding east to west) is a non-technical doubletrack that cuts through the grassy floodplain.
At Tejas Camp, the trail ends at a guard rail. Cross the guard rail and enter the parking area. A water spigot is located in the grass near the park host's RV.
Section 3: Tejas Camp (Mile 11) to Russell Park (Mile 16.8)
Between Mile 11 and Mile 16, this section is similar to the section between Mile 9 and 11: a flat, non-technical ride through the grassy floodplain.
From Tejas Camp, take a right out of the parking lot and cross the low-water crossing over the North Fork of the San Gabriel River. The trail continues up a short bank to the right after the low-water crossing. Less than 1/4 mile in, the trail veers away from the river, crosses a flowing creek, and climbs a set of stairs on the opposite side of the creek. 150 feet past the creek, the trail dead ends into a T intersection. Take a right here onto the doubletrack.
Follow the doubletrack until Mile 15, where it dead ends into the water. Another doubletrack cuts off to the left to divert around the cove, and a singletrack cuts back to the lake to rejoin the doubletrack. At Mile 16, the doubletrack again goes into the water. Here, look for a rocky singletrack that climbs up into the woods to the left (away from the lake.)
The last 0.8 miles to Russell Park is a technical ride through the woods and is reportedly similar to the technical sections along the south side of the lake (more detailed beta needed.)
Section 4: Russell Park (Mile 16.8) to Jim Hogg Park (Mile 21)
The trailhead at Russell Park is in a similar circular drive to the one at Cedar Breaks Park, located (as you are entering the park) on the right just before the entry plaza. As you are entering the circular drive, both the trail toward Tejas Camp and the trail toward Jim Hogg Park are at the far (southern) end of the drive, near the kiosk. The trail toward Tejas Camp is the one nearest the kiosk (on the right as you are entering the drive), and the trail toward Jim Hogg is the one farther from the kiosk (on the left as you are entering the drive.)
As you ride toward Jim Hogg Park, the trail goes for about 150 yards before crossing County Road 262 (the main road into the park.) 0.2 miles after this, it crosses Park Road 8, near the park host's RV. Russell Park is a good place to stop for a restroom break or water fill-up if you are riding the whole loop around the lake.
The section of trail between Russell Park and Jim Hogg Park is reported to be similar in composition and technicality to Section 1 (more detailed beta needed.) Near Jim Hogg Park, watch for the trail to fork off to the right. You want to take this right fork rather than going straight.
Section 5: Jim Hogg Park (Mile 21) to Cedar Breaks Park (Mile 0)
The trailhead at Jim Hogg Park is on a horseshoe loop, located (as you are entering the park) on the right just past the entry plaza. This is the trail toward Russell Park. To get to the trail toward Cedar Breaks, ride out of the horseshoe loop and cross over the wide entry and exit plaza to pick up the trail on the other side.
The section of trail between Jim Hogg Park and the Overlook Trailhead is reportedly less technical than Section 1 or Section 4 (more detailed beta needed.)
As you approach the Overlook Trailhead, the trail crosses a doubletrack and merges into a wide granite hike & bike trail. After 100 yards, the hike & bike trail intersects a gravel road. Turn right (toward the lake) on this gravel road, follow it for about 200 feet, then turn left again onto the continuation of the crushed granite hike & bike trail. The trail continues for another 100 yards before hitting a 4-way intersection with paved trails next to the bathroom. Turning left here will take you up to the Overlook Trailhead parking lot, and right will take you down to the lake. Continue straight onto the paved trail, then straight again at the intersection 100 feet past the bathrooms.
After 1/4 mile on the paved trail, you will come to another intersection. Go right here and ride the remaining 75 feet to the old dam road. The paved trail continues across the road to become the San Gabriel River Trail, but you want to turn right on the road and ride across the dam. Once off of the dam, ride around the closed gate and continue on the road for 0.2 miles until you get to the Cedar Breaks Park entrance.