Another chilly day in Cheyenne (seriously – sub-freezing temps AND 20 mph winds? Just cruel) is making me miss those Austin “winters” again, so let’s continue our guide to the Barton Creek Greenbelt.
Part 2: Spyglass to the 360 Trailhead, Mile 1.25ish-3.5
Parking at the Spyglass trailhead (1500 Spyglass Dr, Austin, TX 78746) is a double-edged sword. On the one hand, you’ll be parking right by the original Tacodeli, home to some of the best classic breakfast tacos in town (get the black beans with portobello and rajas, trust me). On the other hand, you’ll be parking right by Tacodeli…so everyone in the world parks here. Even with the ample parking space, I usually had to park at least a quarter mile from the trailhead unless I came at a weird time on a weekday.
Despite the lure of Tacodeli, this might be my least favorite trailhead from which to enter the Greenbelt. If you head west, you’ll be running through .25 mi of rocks. Not gravel or anything – big, honkin’ rocks that make finding your footing outright dangerous. This portion of the trail gave me many stubbed toes, and I am legitimately amazed I never twisted my ankle here.
If you can make it past the rocks though, you’ll be rewarded. Just past the rocks are some great climbing walls and swimming holes. This means two things for the eager runner: great views and thinned out crowds. Be warned that at around Mile 1.75, you’ll come to what looks like a creek crossing and a prompt to head left. Don’t do this – you can definitely cross, but you’ll have to recross and the portion of the trail on the left side of the river is less maintained.
As you continue down the trail past the climbing walls and up and over the rock formations (lots of fun, technical footing challenges here), you’ll eventually make it to the sign for the Gus Fruh trailhead. In my opinion, the trail gets a little tricky around here because it sort of splits into three forks. You want to keep going straight ahead and cross the creek – left will take you to Gus Fruh, and right will take you to a dead end. I’ve definitely dead-ended myself more than once here.
If you cross the creek and head up a big, soft dirt hill, you know you’re still on the right path. The trail will shortly break out of the trees and head through a field of tall grass. If those seasonal Texas downpours have been raging, this section of the trail might be flooded out – we saw a lobster here once! I love this portion of the trail, though. In the spring, you can see the wildflowers blooming and it’s absolutely gorgeous. As you continue down the trail, you’ll notice several branching paths, but the main trail is wide and evident enough that you shouldn’t get turned around. You can certainly head down one of those paths, though – it’s your adventure.
At about Mile 3, you’ll come to the first real creek crossing. Depending on the time of year, you’ll either hit a big, dry rock bed or a decently strong river. If the river is high, go slow and carefully find your footing. As long as you continue straight ahead, you’ll hit the trees on the other side and get back onto the main path. Always use caution, and if the current seems too strong, turn around.
And with water. Thanks to Google – I never took pictures here because I was always focused on crossing.
Once you cross the river, keep right to continue on the Greenbelt. Unless they’ve fixed it, you’ll hit what looks like a gap or a downed bridge over the river. To get around having to make a huge drop, take a sharp left and then a sharp right to quickly drop down and back up. Keep right to stay on the trail. If you head left, you’ll head down a ravine that spits out into a parking lot. Continuing down the trail will lead you into the 360 trailhead, which will be on your left at Mile 3.5.
If it weren’t for the terrible rocky section at the beginning and the thick crowds at Spyglass, I would love this section of the trail. The atmosphere in this leg is very serene and wooded, and it has enough fun technical challenge to keep you on your toes. You’ll climb some granite, hit some rolling hills, and get your feet wet, and it’s all spaced out with some nice flat sections to let you cruise for a while. That being said, the best is yet to come beyond 360 – stay tuned.
View Part 1 here!