No. 15 Ice Cream Hill
Hill Country State Natural Area
“Maybe you want something a little less steep.” The ranger spoke in a neutral tone, but her words sounded like a challenge. As I contemplated the more than forty miles of multiple-use trails that crisscross the limestone-pocked Hill Country SNA, I was not about to admit defeat—at least not before trying my luck on a few of the more measly slopes. (I say “measly,” but that’s relative when the rise from canyon to cliff top can span two thousand feet.) These rocky canyon lands are great for hiking and horseback riding—if you don’t have a pony, local outfitters can arrange one—but I had come to mountain bike, and I quickly set off on the gnarly terrain. Though there are deer and bobcat in these parts (it’s one of the few areas where I’ve encountered a live armadillo), that day I had the trail to myself, and soon I was huffing and puffing up the backside of Ice Cream Hill. I decided whoever had come up with that name must have been hallucinating, but then, after an unplanned detour into a cedar thicket, I rolled onto a nice bobbing stretch of single track along Bandera Creek. Not too steep, it was very sweet.
Getting There: From Bandera, travel south on Texas Highway 173, then take a right onto Ranch Road 1077. Travel 10 miles to the end of the blacktop, then continue on the caliche road, following signs to Hill Country SNA headquarters. (Open 8–5 daily, $6 day use. 830-796-4413.)