Pennybacker Bridge Overlook, Austin, Travis County Texas

One of the best known and iconic landmarks in Austin is the Pennybacker Bridge over Lake Austin. On each side of the road which is the Capital of Texas Highway, are cliffs overlooking the bridge and Lake Austin. I finished up at Wild Basin and since I had never done this extremely short but extremely steep hike I figured to stop since it was on the way home.

Pennybacker Bridge from the west cliff featuring graffiti

The Percy V Pennybacker Bridge opened in 1982. The steel arch bridge was purposely made of weathering rusted steel to better fit into its surroundings along the Capital of Texas Highway. The Bridge spans Lake Austin which is the Colorado River. The lake is formed by the Tom Miller Dam. It is the second to the last of the Highland Lakes. It starts below Mansfield Dam which forms Lake Travis.

Now who are these guys? Percy V Pennybacker was an engineer for the Texas Department of Transportation who successfully pioneered the use of welded joints on steel bridge structures as opposed to using rivets. This saved the state millions of dollars.

The Tom Miller Dam was constructed in 1940 to provide flood relief and to generate hydroelectric power. It is named for Robert Thomas Miller a former mayor of Austin.

The Pennybacker Bridge lies along The Capital of Texas Highway or Loop 360. This road is considered one the most scenic urban drives in America. I will admit I drive it quite often coming home from hikes south of Austin because of its scenic beauty.

Lake Austin from the west cliff downtown skyline is in the distance

Ugh! The west cliff was dirty, lots of trash and beverage bottles, graffiti, and it was crowded. There is a trail downriver and although the fence had a break in it the posts were painted purple so to a proper hiker that is a no-go. But since I had researched the area on REI’s Hiking Project App I knew as possibly others didn’t that there is also a trail up the east cliff.

The east cliff from the west cliff.

There was no one on the east cliff so I walked up to a nearby traffic light and crossed the very busy road to the east cliff trail. It was much cleaner, but the trail was also a lot tougher.

Pennybacker Bridge from the east cliff
Lake Austin from the east cliff.

That’s a local hiking bucket list item off the list. Actually two, Wild Basin was on there too, but I will do that again, the Pennybacker Overlook?……… probably not.

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