When the ski slopes melt to slush and the mountain bike trails are still mud-glob city, spring break mountain biking requires a little Southwest road trip.
And Big Bend in far west Texas provides. It’s remote, it’s wild, it’s home to hundreds of miles of fun, challenging trails—and, perhaps most importantly, it’s dry.
Rugged singletrack and doubletrack crisscross and loop over the northern Chihuahuan Desert, including Texas’s only International Mountain Bike Association-deemed Epic trail: the Fresno-Sauceda Loop. Big Bend National Park and Big Bend Ranch State Park combined boast more acres of wild, public land than the entire land mass of Rhode Island. Plus, the ghost town of Terlingua and the few funky newer haunts are road-trip worthy themselves.
Where to ride
The Fresno-Sauceda Loop in Big Bend Ranch State Park gets all the press, and for good reason. It mixes up flowy hard-packed singletrack, creek beds, barely used 4×4 roads and technical, rocky climbs and descents, linking up 70 miles of the park’s best riding. It’s a fun tour of abandoned homesteads and native pictographs—and it’s long. So some people opt to break it up into a two-day bikepacking adventure.
But the Epic isn’t the only trail worth checking out. The Lajitas Trail Loops just to the south are flowy rides perfect for sampling the terrain, and much of the Fresno-Sauceda Loop can be broken up into more bite-sized loops or out-and-backs. Plus, even thought you can’t ride bikes on the national park’s trails, the easy and moderate jeep roads in the park add to the mileage you can rack up on your bike.
Where to restock gear and get info
Desert Sports in Terlingua rents gear, and is the spot to stop and pick up spare tubes. The terrain is brutal out there, and cell phone service in the park is spotty at best, so go prepared. Desert Sports also hosts an annual Chihuahan Desert Bike Fest in February.
Where to stay
If private individual campsites with thoughtful desert views sound nice, hunker down in Big Bend Ranch State Park. Some sites are easily passenger-vehicle accessible, but some require high-clearance or four-wheel-drive access. If funky vintage campers are more your style, check out Retro Rents. If you like your nights a bit more cush, check out the stylish border-style rooms and houses rented by the Big Bend Holiday Hotel.
Where to après
When the sun starts to sink low over the desert horizon, follow the locals to the Starlight Theatre. Its porch is the gathering place for beer sipping, post-ride recon and plain-old sunset watching. Or you can head inside and lay down some cash for a margarita, live music and the likes of chicken fried elk.
Photo credit by Chris Reichel.