The Pennybacker Bridge (or as it is better known, the 360 bridge) is a beautiful structure. It helps the 360 Loop jump over the Lake Austin section of the Colorado river. On the north side of the bridge is the rockface that was carved into in order to make the 360 possible. The rock rises on both sides of the road, a sheer face on either side acting almost like the walls in a hallway. West side of the road has some unofficial parking on the shoulder of the road. From there, you can hike up all the way to the top of the rock, which gives you a gorgeous view of not only the Pennybacker and Lake Austin, but also a great view of the hilly nature of Austin.
The top of the hill is pretty flat, right a few trees giving some shade and scenery. To the left you can see the other tall rock, which is a virtual mirror image of the one you are one. I didn’t get to hike that one (there’s no parking on that side and there’s a slight chance of “trespassing”), but maybe next time. Looking straight you see the bridge, Lake Austin, the 360, and a lot of green and hills. To the right, you see the west side of Lake Austin, and the hike continues for 50-60 more feet before you encounter a fence. Great views from every part of the rock!
The Mount Bonnell scenic view gives you a much wider (and higher) viewpoint of Austin and in particular Lake Austin. Not entirely sure why they call a part of a RIVER, a lake, but that’s how it is. The peak of the hill is almost 800 feet, although you drive up most of that. The amount you actually go up is closer to 200 ft. After you park on the side of the road there are two entrances: we took the southern one, which is a fairly long set of steep stairs (99 steps? 100?). The northern entrance is right at the level of the parking area; the hill descends from the peak down to that spot.
From the top you get an incredible view of Austin. The river/lake is right under you, as well as many ridiculous houses/mansions. I mean, if you have a lakeside garage for your BOATS, then you are really rich. And it wasn’t just one person with this, almost every house touching the lake had one. Unforutunately that community is gated in so there was no way to explore that aside from above. There are trails to the left and right of the high point; if you go left you will descend a bit and get to a point where you cannot go anymore due to a fence. To the left of that spot is a view of downtown Austin.
Hiking to the right takes you down the 190 ft descent much more gradually through somewhat uneven white rock. This hike gives you a few more views, and also a few vantage points where you can get further out into the hill, right up to a few sheer drops (which I did, of course).
Ah, the Oasis…the latest and greatest in Tourist based shopping and dining! This place is similar to Bayside in Miami and Riverfront in Ft Lauderdale, a large collection of shops and restaurants grouped for the purpose of all-in-one tourist entertainment. This one is actually really beautiful, the design is pretty incredible since it is on the hillside and has many levels. Oh, and the twist that might actually bring locals back more than once is the spectacular sunset views; it’s high on a hill facing the sunset and Lake Travis. We managed to race the sun and get there in time!