Outdoor adventures

First year-round ski-lift bike park in U.S. takes mountain bikers to new heights in Texas

Ski-lift bike park takes mountain bikers sky high in TX Hill Country

Spider Mountain Bike Park
Bikers and their bikes ride to the top of mountains via a ski lift. Photo courtesy of Spider Mountain Bike Park
Spider Mountain Bike Park
Spider Mountain Bike Park is the only ski-lift bike park in the U.S. Photo courtesy of Spider Mountain Bike Park
Spider Mountain Bike Park
The park opened just before the pandemic, in 2019. Photo courtesy of Spider Mountain Bike Park
Container City
Visitors can stay in a shipping container-lodge called Container City. Photo courtesy of Container City
Spider Mountain Bike Park
Spider Mountain Bike Park
Spider Mountain Bike Park
Container City

At Spider Mountain Bike Park in Burnet, what goes up must come down.

Located on Lake Buchanan about three hours and 45 minutes from Houston in the Hill Country, the attraction is the only year-round ski-lift bike park in the U.S. (In fact, it’s the only place in Texas with a ski-lift, period.)

Opened just before the pandemic, in 2019, the park draws mountain bikers from across the country for its year-round access to downhill, gravity-fueled biking terrain.

Here bikers (and their bikes) ride a chairlift called the Texas Eagle up 350 feet to the mountain’s peak, where they can choose from one of 10 different bike trails — from beginner to expert — to cruise back down.

“To have a chairlift in the middle of the Hill Country is really exciting whether you’re a mountain biker or not,” says Suzy Bauer, Spider Mountain Bike Park general manager. “Because you can enjoy a 360-degree view across the Hill Country and Lake Buchanan.”

Trails average about a mile or two in length and are categorized just like ski slopes, with green for beginners, blue for intermediate, and black for experts. The trails also have fun (and slightly frightening) spider-themed names, like “Itsy Bitsy,” “Venom,” and “Viper’s Den.” All trails are hand-carved or machine-cut, and some contain man-made features like colorful ramps. Some bikers can descent trails as fast as three minutes, while others may take as long as 15 minutes or so.

“In June you might be able to ride a bike park in Crested Butte, Colorado or in Angel Fire, New Mexico, but they close for ski season. We don’t,” says Bauer. “You can hone your skills in a downhill environment, which is pretty different than riding cross-country trails. You’re getting that elevation game and the technicality of a true downhill mountain bike park.”

Bauer says while there’s definitely opportunity for adrenaline junkies to showcase their jumps, speed, and switchback skills on the mountain, the park is also very popular for novice bikers and families. Many guests simply wish to ride the chairlift and walk back down, and there’s a dedicated hiking trail for doing just that. Some even opt to ride the Texas Eagle back down for the most leisurely of Spider Mountain experiences.

There’s also a practice trail on flat ground at the bottom of the mountain. Called “Creepy Crawly,” it’s where mountain biking newbies and even kids can gain confidence in biking on dirt. No lift ticket required.

Hidden from major thoroughfares and busy highways, Spider Mountain Bike Park is a destination for those in the know — and word is spreading. The park has plans to add more trails in the coming months, including a new black trail to keep pushing the envelope.

The park is also affiliated with nearby Thunderbird Lodge, which offers 23 lodging options as well as pontoon boats, kayaking, paddleboarding, and swimming. Bauer says several rooms will undergo renovations in the coming weeks to accommodate a growing clientele.

Spider Mountain Bike Park is open Friday through Sunday year-round, with extended hours during busier weeks. Lift tickets are $59 for adults for all-day access to the Texas Eagle chairlift. Tickets for young adults age 11-18 and seniors 60-plus are $55, and kids 10 and under may ride free.

No mountain bike? No problem. Spider Mountain offers bike rentals, too. Folks who wish to stay on foot and hike back down can pay $10 for all-day access to the chairlift.

Other spots to visit while in Burnet County

Where to stay:

Container City
Home to six cabins constructed from the trendy shipping container, Container City opened in November 2019 and sits at the southern foot of Spider Mountain. Each ultra-modern, custom-built cabin is equipped with a full kitchen, comfy beds, shower, TV, internet access, front patio, picnic area, and a dazzling rooftop patio for catching a Hill County sunset with a glass of wine. The property also has RV slips along with an on-site full-service bar, stage for weekend live music, and outdoor pizza kitchen. Rates start at $200 per night for weekend stays ($50 off for a weeknight), and $50 per night for RV slips.

Canyon of the Eagles
This nature-based overnight destination sits on 940 acres on Lake Buchanan in Burnet County and offers 61 rooms with sprawling views of Lake Buchanan’s northern bank. Don’t look for a TV or great internet access here — the resort’s intent for guests is to let go of technology and fast-paced living. Named for the American Bald Eagle who nest here annually, the resort offers many excursions including guided walks, boat cruises, and an amazing observatory staffed by a qualified astronomer who leads evening programs amid abundantly starry skies. Dine at the chef-driven Overlook Restaurant, which serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner, and catch live music with a cocktail on Saturday nights at the Eagles Nest Lounge. Rates start at $169 per night and vary by season and holidays.

Nature-seekers should keep in mind that Burnet is known as the "Bluebonnet Capital of Texas" and the surrounding areas come alive with color each spring.

Where to eat & drink:

Templeton’s Tavern
Located at Container City, this entirely outdoor venue serves local beer and spirits from, fittingly, a shipping container-made bar. There are picnic tables and lots open spaces for seating, along with a small stage for weekend live music and a trailer that serves pizzas made to order from a wood-fired oven. Open Thursday-Sunday.

Blue Bonnet Café
An iconic Marble Falls pit stop since 1929, this classic roadside diner is known statewide (and beyond) for its comfort food favorites, all-day breakfast served, and mile-high pies. Speaking of those pies — which include classics like coconut cream, chocolate cream, and lemon meringue — they’re on “pie happy hour” Monday-Friday from 3-5 pm. Or have a slice for breakfast, as an appetizer, or simply for dessert.

Save the World Brewing Co.
Physicians-turned-beer brewers Dave and Quynh Rathkamp operate this inspiring Marble Falls brewery and taproom, touted as America’s first 100 percent philanthropic production craft brewery. Not only are the mostly Belgian-style brews (it’s what Quynh prefers) delightful on the palate, sales from every pour or bottle purchased go to area charities. Dave had been an avid home brewer and retired from his practice 2012 to “save the world” one beer at a time.  A few organizations the couple love include Food for the Hungry, Meals on Wheels, Feed My Starving Children, and Habitat for Humanity. The tap room is open Monday-Saturday, and there’s a kid-friendly lawn with yard games that is popular for families on the weekend.