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Top 10 Places to Bike in Texas

Graphic Map of top 10 locations in Texas

Texas offers plenty of great cycling routes, full of fun, adventure, and new challenges. If you’re planning for your next big ride, here are ten of the best places to cycle in Texas.

1. Willow City Loop – Fredericksburg, TX

Field of BlueBonnets in Fredericksburg, Texas

The Willow City Loop is a famous Texas Hill Country backroad. It’s well-known for its breathtaking rural views, especially during wildflower season when the landscape is covered with gorgeous blankets of Texas Bluebonnets, Indian paintbrushes, Mexican poppies, and other wildflowers native to the region.

If you’re starting from downtown Fredericksburg, this 55-mile ride is not a difficult route, but you’ll definitely break a sweat, and you can expect an elevation gain of about 2,877 feet. The road can be bumpy, cracked, and you’ll pass through some low water crossings. Sections of the route will feature steep grades, quick descents, and lots of those rolling hills the Texas Hill Country is known for. Overall, it may take around three to four hours to complete, so make sure to bring lots of water and snacks!

To access the Willow City Loop:

  1. Start at the Fredericksburg Marktplatz downtown and head north on Crabapple Road.
  2. Turn right on Eckert Road, continue north, and turn left on TX 16.
  3. From there, turn right onto the Willow City Loop.

Tips: Private property surrounds the entire loop, so it’s best not to venture off the road, even if a perfect Instagram photo is calling your name. Also, frequent bikers say cattle tend to jump out over rails along the narrow road, so watch out for those cows! And of course, during the wildflower season, the road is packed with tourists in cars and on motorcycles. Many of them stop on the side of the road to take pictures.

2. Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park – Austin, TX

Stream and Trail in Walnut Creek Trail in Texas

Another popular spot for mountain biking in Texas is Walnut Creek Metropolitan Park. This hidden gem is tucked away in Northwest Austin and features a system of bike trails that boast plenty of fun jumps (including a 1-mile BMX loop), gorgeous views, and endless tangles of trails through a thickly forested landscape.

Frequent bikers rate this trail system as intermediate or difficult, and it’s pretty rugged. You’ll primarily be biking on hard-packed dirt and loose rocks, and the outer loop has an average grade of 1%. Although you’re bound to enjoy some beautiful views of rocky limestone cliffs, thick foliage, and wildflowers, you’ll want to keep your eyes on the trails, as they can be tricky to navigate. You can also expect to pass through lots of narrow gaps between trees and several creek crossings. Be warned that some trails are not well-marked, but the main loop is. So when you’re ready to head home, follow the “P” on the trail markers to find your way back to the parking lot. 

To get to this trail system, head to 12138 N. Lamar Blvd., Austin, TX 78753. You can access the park off Parmer Lane by turning onto Willow Wild Drive (you’ll pass through a residential neighborhood to get to the park entrance). Or, you can take N. Lamar Blvd. and enter via Walnut Creek Park Road.

Tips: There are so many trails at Walnut Creek, so you can honestly have a new adventure every time you ride! Take precautions, though. The ground can get slick after it rains, and it’s also an off-leash park for dogs, so watch out for them and their humans while you ride. On weekends, the parking lot is usually packed, and the trails are crowded. Consider heading out there on a weekday if you want to avoid the crowds.

3. Northeast Texas Trail – Farmersville, TX to New Boston, TX

Cliff in Northeast Texas Trail

The Northeast Texas Trail runs between Farmersville and New Boston, featuring about 130 miles of primarily unpaved trails along an abandoned railroad bed route. It’s a multi-use trail used by runners, cyclists, and horseback riders alike. This route is best known for its picturesque bridges, river and creek crossings, and historic old railroad lines. If you’re itching to cycle through the Texas backwoods and prairie lands, this trail is for you! 

While biking the Northeast Texas Trail, you’ll pass through several small rural towns and pass through beautiful natural Texas landscapes with plenty of wildlife. Although you could potentially bike this trail in a day, many cyclists choose to spread the journey out over a few days and enjoy a long ride through the open countryside without having to worry about vehicle traffic or roads. Most people consider it an easy to moderate ride, so it’s great for cyclists of all levels.

You can get to the Northeast Texas Trail using several different entrance points across east Texas. Here’s a map from the Northeast Texas Trail Coalition to help you locate them.

Tips: You’ll need a mountain bike (not a road bike) to complete this trail, as much of it is unpaved and rough. You’ll also need to walk or carry your bike over some sections of it that still have the original railroad ties. Also, some areas of the trail pass through private property and the owners don’t want people cycling on it, so be aware of where you are and be respectful of other people’s property. Of course, bring lots of water and watch for horses along the route.

4. River Legacy Park Trail – Arlington, TX

Biking Path at River Legacy Park Trail

According to cyclists, this exciting, 12-mile cross-country trail in Arlington is one of the best in Texas. One of the things that makes it so great is that it has a little something for everyone to enjoy. This popular route is perfect for beginners and advanced cyclists, featuring easy concrete paths for leisure riding in addition to moderate log and board triangles and an advanced EKG loop.

Choose from several different loops to enjoy everything River Legacy Park Trail has to offer. Most of the trail is single track and provides a fast and exciting outdoor ride, but if you’re ready to tackle a new challenge, try Roller Coaster Ridge, Fun Town, and EKG. Otherwise, you can take the convenient bypasses at each of these challenge areas and enjoy a less challenging ride.

To access the trailhead, take NW/NE Green Oaks Boulevard and turn onto Rose-Brown-May Parkway. Keep left along the route, past River Legacy Playgrounds, and turn left into the next parking area. The exact coordinates are 32°47’35.8″N 97°07’00.1″W. Here is a map of the park.

Tips: Sometimes, the single track may be closed due to muddy conditions. However, you can still ride the concrete sections of the trail. If you try your hand at the EKG loop, some of it can be pretty technical, so know your limits and wear a helmet!

5. Big Bend Ranch State Park – Presidio, TX

Big Bend Sunset over cliff

Those searching for a breathtaking and exciting ride in West Texas won’t be disappointed by this one. Big Bend Ranch State Park is one of the top mountain biking destinations in the country! It features 200 miles of single track, double track, and old 4×4 ranch roads to explore. Essentially, it’s a vast desert playground full of canyons and stunning scenery that both beginner and experienced bikers will enjoy.

As you explore this incredible natural area on your bike, the winding web of trails will lead you through gorgeous scenery that’s spotted with cultural reminders of past ranchers, Native Americans, Spanish explorers, and cinnabar miners. There are dozens of trails to explore, but if you’re looking for an easy to intermediate ride, try the Llano Loop (4.8 miles), the Fresno Divide Trail (3.3 miles), or the Encino Loop (12.3 miles). For seasoned mountain bikers, try the Sauceda to Solitario Loop (49.6 miles) or the Fresno-Sauceda Loop (59 miles), an IMBA EPIC ride that features some of the best and most challenging riding that Big Bend Ranch State Park has to offer.

For the best directions into the park, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department website to get details on accessing the east and west entrances.

Tips: Big Bend Ranch State Park is a remote area, so always carry a map with you while you’re biking. And don’t forget to wear your helmet, take two spare tubes, and bring lots of water and snacks. You’re in for quite the adventure!

6. Palo Duro Canyon – Canyon, TX

Cliff in Palo Duro Canyon

One of the best mountain biking locations in the Texas Panhandle is Palo Duro Canyon. This awe-inspiring place boasts a variety of trails, ideal for beginners, intermediate, and advanced cyclists. Known for being the second largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro Canyon offers some of the most breathtaking scenic rides in the state.

With 66 miles of trail and several different trailheads, you’ll never be at a loss for a great adventure here. The trails lead you through the deep canyon, where you’ll come face-to-face with native wildlife, astounding rock formations, and lots and lots of red dirt. The Lighthouse trail is the park’s most popular, where you can bike (and then hike) up to the iconic Lighthouse rock formation. Many cyclists say the trip out to Canyon, Texas is worth the views you’ll get there alone.

To get to this gorgeous Texas state park, you’ll need to travel about 12 miles east of Canyon on State Highway 217. From Amarillo, hop on interstate 27 South to State Highway 217 and head east eight miles.

Tips: If you plan to bike through Palo Duro Canyon, prepare for a rugged ride! Of course, it can get pretty toasty in the park during summer, so bring lots of water or a hydration pack. You’ll need it to beat the Texas panhandle heat! To make the most of your trip, consider camping for a few days so you have more time to explore as many trails as possible. 

7. Galveston Seawall – Galveston, TX

Galveston, Texas Sea Wall

Looking for something completely different? The Galveston Island Seawall certainly isn’t a mountain biking trail, but it offers some of the best views of the Gulf Coast you could possibly get while cycling. Not to mention, when you finish your ride, you can stop in one of the many restaurants or bars along the coast and enjoy a rewarding meal and drink while you soak up the views and enjoy the sandy beaches.

This 17-mile beachfront cruise is best enjoyed during the off-season when tourists are not likely to be out enjoying the beach. Otherwise, you’ll likely find it challenging to take in the beautiful views of the ocean while also dodging strollers, benches, and people who’ve enjoyed one too many margaritas! For much of the year, this paved path makes for an easy and relaxing ride that’s completely free of all vehicle traffic. 

Accessing the Galveston Seawall is easy. Start at either end of the seawall and bike your way down to the other end. There’s parking on either side and all along the way, too. 

Tips: If you’re driving down to Galveston purely for this ride, plan to do some other activities as well, since it’s a short and easy one.

8. Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley – Mission, TX

Woman Biking Alone in Rio Grande Valley

Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park is a gorgeous Texas state park adjacent to the border with Mexico. It’s home to the Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley Loop Trail, an easy ride that’s perfect for beginners. The state park is also the headquarters for the World Birding Center and is famous for more than 20 species of South Texas specialty birds. 

This 4.4-mile trail is well-kept and paved the whole way, so it’s a great option for bikers of all ages and abilities. There are a few fishing spots along the way and plenty of wildlife and birds to watch as you go. Watch for unique birds like the Green Jay, Gray Hawk, Ringed Kingfisher, Altamira Oriole, and more. These beauties make the ride even more beautiful! The state park also offers primitive camping if you decide to stay for a day or two.

The park’s address is 2800 S. Bentsen Palm Drive (FM 2062), Mission, TX 78572. If you’re coming from the upper valley, take East Expressway 83 to Bentsen Palm Drive. Travel south on Bentsen Palm Drive to the World Birding Center Headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park. If you’re coming from the lower valley, take West Expressway 83 to Bentsen Palm Dr. Travel south on Bentsen Palm Drive to the World Birding Center Headquarters at Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park.

Tips: Bentsen-Rio Grande Valley State Park visitors can bring their own bikes or rent them at the office, so just keep that in mind! This trail is moderately trafficked by hikers, walkers, and dogs too, so beware of your surroundings. If you like birdwatching, bring binoculars so you can better enjoy the incredible show of nature!

9. Fort Davis Scenic Loop – Fort Davis, TX

Fort Davis Cliff

When it comes to road cycling, the Fort Davis Scenic Loop is one of the most scenic rides in the state and also one of the most challenging. Many of Texas’ best cyclists aspire to complete this ride due to its overall intensity.

This 74-mile loop through the Texas Alps has a total elevation gain of about 4,000 feet, with a starting elevation at just over 5,000 feet in Fort Davis, the highest town in Texas. Some people consider the Davis Mountains (outside Fort Davis) the most beautiful and picturesque scenery in Texas. Formed long ago by violent volcanic activity, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the ride features exhilarating descents, excellent wildlife viewing, and gorgeous sights. You’ll also ride past the famous McDonald Observatory and enjoy several shaded picnic areas. An added perk is that this route also typically has very little traffic! 

To get to this scenic ride, you’ll need to head to Fort Davis, Texas, where it begins. Either take exit 209 from I-10 and go south on TX-17 for 31 miles or head north on TX-17 from Marfa.

Tips: This route is truly a Texas gem, but it is quite a challenging ride, so make sure you’re up for it before committing! Also, be aware that you may come across the occasional mountain lion, although sightings are rare.

10. El Capitan to El Capitan Heritage Bike Route – Van Horn, TX

Cliff in El Capitan Texas

This cycling route is a gorgeous and moderately easy ride for cyclists of all skill levels. Plus, it’s chock full of fascinating Texas history and breathtaking mountain views!

The famous El Capitan to El Capitan ride is a 55-mile stretch of paved road through scenic, preserved mountain views. It starts at the historic 1930’s cattleman hotel, Hotel El Capitan in Van Horn, and takes you to the base of “El Capitan,” a massive rock structure in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. As you bike this route, you’re bound to come across lots of interesting West Texas wildlife, including rock squirrels, snakes, tree lizards, mule deer, black-tailed jackrabbits, coyotes, javelinas, and more.

To get to the Hotel El Capitan, you’ll need to head to Van Horn, which is located at the junction of I-10 and scenic highways 90 and 54. The Hotel El Capitan, where the ride begins, is located at 100 East Broadway, Van Horn, Texas, 79855.

Tips: Don’t expect to find any gas stations, picnic spots, or bathrooms along this 55-mile route, so stock up before you leave Van Horn. Also, make sure to bring lots of water, snacks, and tire repair supplies since you’ll be riding through the desert with limited resources. You’ll pass by lots of private property along the way, so be respectful and don’t venture off the road.

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Sources:

  1. https://www.fredericksburgtexas-online.com/plan-your-trip/willow-city-loop/
  2. https://www.afar.com/places/willow-city-loop-willow-city
  3. https://rootsrated.com/austin-tx/cycling/willow-city-loop-cycling
  4. https://www.singletracks.com/bike-trails/walnut-creek-trails/
  5. https://bikenett.com/faq.aspx
  6. https://walkrideusa.com/states/texas/individual-trails/northeast/northeast-texas-trail-texas
  7. https://www.trailforks.com/region/river-legacy-park/
  8. https://www.mtbproject.com/directory/8010385/big-bend-ranch-state-park 
  9. https://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2009/nov/ed_1/ 
  10. https://www.mtbproject.com/directory/8010398/palo-duro-canyon-state-park
  11. https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/park_maps/pwd_mp_p4506_0007p.pdf
  12. https://www.trailforks.com/region/palo-duro-canyon-state-park/ 
  13. https://products.mtbr.com/trails/united-states/texas/Galveston/galveston-seawall.html
  14. https://www.alltrails.com/trail/us/texas/bentsen-rio-grande-valley-loop-trail 
  15. https://tpwd.texas.gov/publications/pwdpubs/media/park_maps/pwd_mp_p4502_058m.pdf
  16. https://www.texasmonthly.com/travel/cycling-fort-davis-scenic-loop/
  17. https://ridewithgps.com/routes/1120066?lang=en 
  18. https://www.myscenicdrives.com/drives/texas/davis-mountains-loop 
  19. https://fortdavis.com/listing/the-scenic-loop-drive/ 
  20. https://texasmountaintrail.com/plan-your-adventure/el-capitan-el-capitan-heritage-bike-route 

Photo Sources:

Hadlock, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
William L. Farr, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
National Park Service Digital Image Archives, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Sixflashphoto, CC BY-SA 4.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Veronidae, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons
Fredlyfish4, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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