Luckenbach Loop (30.1 miles/48.4 kilometers)
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This 30 mile route takes you through its eponymous town - Luckenbach, Texas, memorialized in song by Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings. It also visits Cain City, Texas, a former railroad town that now exists as little more than a Fredericksburg suburb - albiet one with a spectacular view and a biting climb.
This route traces a path similar to another CycleTexas.com route, the Tuesday Nighter. Both offer spectacular views, but this one features less climbing. It bypasses the challenging Grapetown Rd. Climb and the Col de San Antonio. Instead, it meanders up a more gingerly slope that then kicks hard at the top - the Cain City Climb. (On the route's graphic, we also show a spur detour, which avoids the sharpest part of this ascent.)
Relative to the Tuesday Nighter, this route presents a different approach returning to Fredericksburg. Here you endure less riding on busy US290, although at the cost of more map reading as one zig-zags through Fredericksburg's suburbs.
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).
From the Marktplatz we describe a route that keeps you off of busy US 290, but at the cost of crossing it twice. Regardless, especially for groups, we recommend this departure. Ride southeast on Austin St. to Elk St. Turn right and climb the rise to US 290. Cross with the light and ride downhill to the left turn at Creek St. Enjoy the small-town scenery then ride through the rightward bend and up the small hill to Franklin St. Turn left and carry forward a block or so to Columbus St. Take this northward to US 290 and cross, this time without the benefit of a signal. Here, find the local bike shop on your right at the intersection of US 290 and Columbus
From the bike shop the ride exits town through a neighborhood of small homes, agricultural equipment, and livestock. Ride north on Columbus St. from the shop, turn right on Schubert and left at the stop sign at RR1631. Be careful, you will be launching from a hill and traffic from either direction may be swift.
On RR1631 wise cyclists ride single file because of a fair amount of traffic, which moves swiftly. RR1631 climbs up the majestically named Landfill Hill past a junkyard and then the town dump. (Yes, the scenery improves from here!) Usually the locals take it easy here in order to warm up. And they do not look kindly upon those that do not respect this otherwise unwritten tradition. The long rise plateaus and then yields to a long steady descent, with great scenery on both sides. After crossing Palo Alto Creek, the road flattens for awhile, passing Knopp School Rd. on the left. Do not turn, go straight. The road winds, flattens out, and soon one sees the first hill of consequence on the horizon. The Climb to Jung Lane encompasses a little over 100 feet of climbing, with a plateau and a second rise before reaching the very top. The Tuesday night group always breaks apart here.
After reaching the top, stay to the right on RR2721 then a quick right on Jung Ln. This road presents a hump or two at first, and then a long downhill into the Pedernales river valley. Cyclists often battle a prevailing headwind here, so riders dropped on the climb frequently work with others to reintegrate with the leaders. Eventually Jung Lane bends to the left, rolls along, bends to the right, goes down, over the Pedernales river, then up, and arrives at US290.
Cross US290 with great caution and turn left. Be sure to use the wide shoulder because motorized traffic moves rapidly here. Turn right on Luckenbach Rd. (Watch for bumps and gravel in this turn!) This road rolls up and down and, especially in the spring and summer, usually leads into the wind. In time it bends to the right with South Grape Creek on the left. This road terminates at RR1376. Although the Tuesday-Nighters turn right, Luckenbach Loopers turn left and then, just before the bridge, turn right.
Anyone wishing to explore the scope of Luckenbach, do it now. The town is a terrific curiousity and depending on your timing you may find food, drink and restrooms available.
Leaving the post office in Luckenbach cyclists may travel left or right, the Luckenbach Town Loop intersects RR1376 either way. Turn left on RR1376, toward Cain City, for a short ride on a fast-traffic road with little shoulder. Best to keep it single file here. Stay on this road for about three miles, until you see the sign for Luckenbach Cain City Rd. Watch carefully for traffic from the front and the rear (it will be moving swiftly) and turn left.
Gentle climbing to this point, and from here into Cain City you ride a saw-tooth profile. You will enter "town" just after a large dip. Reportedly Cain City was a thriving railroad town circa 1920 (see Hill Country, by Richard Zelade, Lone Star Books, for a more comprehensive description). Today you find little more than a rural subdivision.
This was a railroad town on the old Fredericksburg and Northern Railroad (F&N), which ran between San Antonio and Fredericksburg. (Another CycleTexas.com route, Guadernales", traces much of the former railroad right-of-way. That route summits what was the largest obstacle to building the railroad, the Bat Cave Summit. The railroad tunneled under the summit, and now the tunnel exists as the "bat cave".)
In his book Zelade writes: "All traces of the railroad's path have been totally obliterated. The dance hall, the stores, the lumberyard, the gin, even the old water tower have disappeared..."
Although a thriving town may not be on view here, a terrific vista is, and potentially it gets better. We say potentially because those sticking to our explicit route have a little more climbing to do, and thus more to see, before descending into the valley. Those not inclined to climb further will continue straight on Luckenbach Cain City Road (instead of turning left on Broadway) and will find themselves back on route when they turn right on Old San Antonio Road, about 1.5 miles beyond the Broadway intersection. The explicit route turns left on Broadway and climbs another 150 feet over a span of about 2 miles, before the righthand turn on Old San Antonio Road toward Fredericksburg. From here the route reveals a spectacular view made even more enjoyable by the fun descent.
The final, mostly flat miles to Fredericksburg lead to US 290. Be careful turning left on this highway because traffic moves rapidly in both directions. Once across, the wide road has two lanes, but responsible riders would remain single file here because of fast traffic. One might consider riding US 290 all the way back to the Marktplatz, but in order to minimize exposure to traffic, our explicit route turns left at the Friendship Lane traffic light. Turn left and continue forward (west) to Creek St. Turn right and shortly find yourself "where you came in", but traveling in reverse. Creek St. bends to the left and terminates at Elk St. Turn right on Elk St. and intersect US 290. Cross carefully, ride down the hill and turn left on Austin St. Now peddle just a few short blocks back to the Marktplatz.