Little Switzerland (42 miles)
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This 42 mile loop visits a popular area that local cyclists refer to as "Little Switzerland". Northwest of Fredericksburg, this area features several challenging climbs, as well as quiet roads and terrific Hill Country scenery.
Traveling there, ride via one of Gillespie County's favorite cycling arteries: Crabapple Road. Cyclists appreciate its tranquility and scenic landscapes. It's not all pleasure, however, because along this stretch find the Fredericksburg Foothills and Mt. Crabapple, both substantial climbing challenges in their own right.
The region known as Little Switzerland features gently rolling hills and two stinging climbs -- Welgehausen and Swiss Miss. This remote section provides abundant rural tranquility, often appreciated especially by city-based visitors.
Heading back to Fredericksburg, surmount the last major climb, Grinder, and then enjoy the mostly downhill run back to town on Old Mason Rd.
Although this route would most favor a north wind, particularly northwest, the downhill run back into town makes it attractive even on a day with a prevailing southeast wind.
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).
To begin, depart the Marktplatz heading east on Austin St. to TX16. Turn left and roll through town on the wide shoulder. (You can also head straight up N. Adams St., but prepare yourself for a rash of stop signs all the way to Lower Crabapple). Be mindful of the rapidly-moving traffic while preparing to turn left off of TX16 and on to Lower Crabapple.
The early stages of Lower Crabapple may be somewhat convoluted for the uninitiated. Though the road isn't always well marked, staying on course should not present too much of a challenge. Just stay on the same road, whether it bends right or left. Roadsigns confirming that you are on course should not be far in coming; at least until you leave town, when navigation becomes much more straightforward.
Soon after leaving the Fredericksburg suburbs, cyclists face the Fredericksburg Foothills. The road here presents an abrupt climb to accellerate your warm-up. The summit yields to a pleasant descent, but stay near the brakes on the way down because traffic entering the road may appear quickly, and a few pesky dogs sometimes cause trouble here too. After the descent enjoy the scenery and a few minor undulations before facing Mt. Crabapple. Challenging due to its steep grade; you may or may not be comforted to know the grade slackens long before you reach the top. At the very top, be sure to look back at the picturesque view to the south.
Completing the climb places one on a sustained plateau that slowly falls away and then becomes a steep descent. Be alert here for wandering livestock, especially if you enjoy high-speed descents. Now look forward to more peaceful winding road for a few miles. Eventually the road bends to the west, zigs and zags, and deposits you at the Crabapple Community. Although you will find no commercial resources available here, this makes a good place to pause, have a drink and a snack, and otherwise regroup.
Leaving the Crabapple Community turn right at the Y in the road and head north on RR965. In just under one mile, turn left on to Welgehausen Rd. The climb up Welgehausen begins almost immediately. This one features an almost constantly changing grade, so finding your rhythm may be a challenge. Over the top the road bends to the right for a dramatic, twisting downhill section. Be careful here, but if you dare, look up for an expansive view from on high of Enchanted Rock. Enjoy this special and unique perspective, while also concentrating on your gnarly, rapid descent!
Once down the hill, meander along several miles of rolling, scenic roads. Turn right at Keese Rd. and then left at Keese-Sagebiel Rd. Soon you meet another dramatic climb: Swiss Miss. This one climbs dramatically. Virtually straight at first, a cattle guard signals a mellowing of the grade but this climb goes on seemingly forevor, with the grade fading away as you ascend. A final sharp abutment punctuates the very top. By now expect some disparity in the progress of your pack.
Having flirted with and then disgarded Swiss Miss, the rest of your course through Little Switzerland presents few challenges. No abatement of great scenery, however. This road terminates at RR2323, which comes up quickly so be ready to stop.
Turn left on to RR2323, being mindful of traffic, and enjoy a few miles of gentle gradient as you leave Little Switzerland behind and prepare to face your final climbing challenge. At first, the concave profile of Grinder causes mild burning and modest pulse elevation, which then leads to much pain and discomfort for those aggressively challenging it. Some riders may be able to fake climbing prowess on the early slopes, but no doubt the posers will be shelled away as the grade steepens toward the top.
With the three major inclines of the Route now behind you, the balance of RR2323 presents a rolling profile into a prevailing southeast breeze. It terminates at US87.
Turn left on US87, minding the fast traffic from both directions, and make use of the wide shoulder for the very short distance to Old Mason Rd. Turn right.
This great road sees bountiful bicycling traffic. (Not only does it act as a bypass off of US87, it also functions as an artery delivering cyclists to several networks of scenic and quiet cycling "capillaries" on the west side of the county.) Heading into town, from its western-most tip, this road descends for virtually its entire distance, which takes you most of the way back to Fredericksburg. To be sure, a few small humps lie in wait, and a prevailing southeast wind will slow you somewhat, but on the whole this section represents something to look forward to. Pay especially close attention as you cross the tree-lined creek that lies near two very pretty farmsteads; a fine Hill Country setting here.
At its tail end Old Mason Rd. crosses a cattle guard and terminates back at US87. Turn right here and backtrack along the highway, utilizing the generous shoulder as you re-enter suburban Fredericksburg.
Carefully minding traffic from ahead and behind, turn left at the Post Office. Then turn right on Austin St. and enjoy the mostly downhill grade back to the Marktplatz.