Gypsum Mine Loop (32 miles)
Featuring just over 30 miles of scenic rural cycling, find the Gypsum Mine Loop especially appealing on a north wind day.
Though a substantial amount of vertical gain marks the first third of the route, the rather steady incline offers a good, sustained burn, as opposed to a short acute sting.
The middle third of this route features Mt. Crabbapple, the most challenging climb on the route. Having vanquished the abrupt climb, take time to recover and enjoy the scenic descent into the final winding and quaint miles of the route.
End the ride by surmounting the smaller Fredericksburg Foothills climb, which signals the final miles meandering back into Fredericksburg.
This route begins at the Marktplatz in downtown Fredericksburg, Texas. Find this main town square located on the North side of Main Street (also HWY 290/HWY 87) at the intersection of S. TX16. (North of this intersection, S. TX16 becomes N. Adams St.)
When groups meet here, generally they form up at the facility's northeast corner, where W. Austin St. intersects N. Adams St., which is not too far from the restrooms and off busy Main St. (Infrequently these restrooms may be closed for festival setup; find alternatives two blocks southeast at Fredericksburg's Visitor's Center).
Depart from the Marktplatz travelling west on Austin St. to avoid the traffic on Main St. Turn left on Theodore Specht Drive and then right on US87 (Main St.).
Although the ride to the outskirts of Fredericksburg entails some fast traffic, cyclists may take advantage of a generous shoulder. This shoulder becomes a climbing lane towards the very edge of town, however, so as you climb stay aware of cars approaching from behind.
The route continues to climb for a good distance. Don't let the occasional gun shot heard after you leave the city alarm you; a nearby shooting range lies nearby. A ways further, turn right on Cherry Mtn. Loop. Although this road is made up of rolling hills, it gains in net elevation. Turn right on Gypsum Mine Road. The Gypsum Mine Summit arrives at about 8.4 miles into the ride.
After the summit, quarrying activity flanks Gypsum Mine Rd. on both sides. On the right look for a sizable structure that offers some visual interest, but otherwise find rather bleak scenery here. Not for long though. A high fence and cattle guard signal the approach of a rolling descent. Toward the bottom of the descent look out for a scenic, quintessential hill country creek.
This road terminates at Keese Road. (Take a quick detour left for a better view of the creek.) Returning to the route, travel east on Keese a very short distance and then turn left on RR965: the road to Enchanted Rock. What little vehiclular traffic you might encounter on this road can move rather quickly. Add to this the absence of a shoulder on this stretch, and you have a clear need to maintain vehicular awareness. Smart cyclists ride single file here.
A right turn on Lower Crabapple Rd., past a dip (usually dry), and a short climb yields the humble but interesting Lower Crabapple community church and other buildings. This makes an excellent spot to stop, soak in the history, and catch your breath or take a drink. For whatever reason, we always feel good vibes here.
The route then continues on the fabulous Lower Crabapple Rd. for the entire trip back to the Fredericksburg city limits. (This road also makes a popular 30-plus mile out-and-back route, the turnaround point for which is the church at the place with the good vibes.) Now heading back toward town, initially enjoy a mostly flat profile and terrific scenery, then a section of rolling bumps gives way to yet another flat section; which as you will see makes for something of a "calm before the storm".
Soon...welcome to Mt. Crabapple; what we call a "convex climb", in that the steepest part is in the middle. Consequently, the sting comes early riding this hill in this direction. After the peak pain period, the slope tapers off but the climb continues for some distance. Beginners will want to dose their efforts on the early steep part. The local racers hit that part hard and keep flogging it all the way to the very top. Others try to survive the early slope and then flail away on the upper, lesser incline that slowly carries them to their zenith and then the descent.
At the top, just before dropping back toward town, enjoy the great view and contemplate all you have acomplished, before considering what lies ahead, including the immediate long, fast descent. Watch for deer as you whistle down the arrow-straight slope.
From here the route meanders left and right, up and down, and offers up more exceptional scenery. Finally, the rural landscape begins to look more suburban, albeit still hilly, and complete with occasional herds of livestock. Nevertheless, these homes signal one's arrival at the hills at the outskirts of town. These Fredericskburg Foothills challenge for sure, but the scenery manages to blunt their harshness. Stay on Lower Crabapple, it will bend right, descend, climb and then turn hard left. Ride down the hill, past the elementary school on the left and on to TX16. Turn right on TX16, and ride back to Austin St. Turn right and ride just one more block to the Marketplatz.