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ADV RidesRiding TerrainDesert6 Reasons Texas is an Underrated State for Adventure Riding

6 Reasons Texas is an Underrated State for Adventure Riding

 Why you should consider Texas for your next adventure riding destination.

Published on 08.21.2018

Photo by Robert Hensley

Colorado, California and Utah are all almost impossible to overhype as top destinations in the USA for dual-sport rides or long tours on an adventure bike. It is no coincidence that bike manufacturers, gear companies and part distributors are often headquartered in these areas. These powersports paradises are a place where the hobby and lifestyle thrives – and for good reason. But there is one state that flies under the radar, Texas. Offering well over 250,000 square miles of unforgettable back-to-back sections of technical trails, titillating twisties and serene country roads along with a robust and bike-friendly OHV program.

While you can’t quite surf and ski all in the same day like California, Texas still has its own epic range of riding and terrain conditions. You say you want fast sand washes not seen since the Dakar Rally actually raced to Dakar? Rough terrain with elevation changes that will make you think you are on a Rocky Mountain High? Tight, technical gulches at the floor of canyons that look like the perfect place for a stagecoach ambush? Two lane blacktop roads through lush, green hills with wildflowers looking like a set piece for The Sound of Music? Texas has it all.


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The reasons why Texas is a worthy location for your next adventure ride are more numerous than the theories behind who shot J.R. from the TV Show “Dallas.” But we made it simple and ran with six of the best.

1. The Hill Country

Ride the Hill Country in Texas Photo by Jerry and Pat Donaho

Just an hour and a half west of San Antonio and Austin, the terrain changes to a hilly, green landscape with stream-cut valleys. The Hill Country of Central Texas offers some of the best adventure riding in the state. Some of the best riding can be found around the Fredericksburg and Llano area. Here you’ll find wide-open spaces, scenic vistas and limited traffic on both paved and un-paved roads. Even though it’s close to two major cities, there are more cows than people on these backcountry roads. It’s an ideal place for scenic adventure rides with historic ranches, spring-fed swimming holes and granite cliffs to keep things interesting for several days or just a day trip.

Stonehenge II in Hunt Texas
Always wanted to visit Stonehenge? How about a replica 2/3 the size of the iconic structure, in its intact form before it fell apart? You can visit such place in the Hill Country of Texas. Photo by mlhradio

2. The Twisted Sisters

Ride the Three Sisters in Texas Photo by ridetexas.com/Miguel Fasensio

For those that like their adventures twisty, the “Twisted Sisters” are Texas’ answer to the famous ‘Tail of the Dragon’ road. The Twisted Sisters (also called ‘The Three Sisters’) is a roughly 130-mile loop on curvy roads 335, 336 and 337 that will change your perception of Texas as you wind in and out of green hills juxtaposed next to beautiful clear rivers. Cars and trucks are wise to the bike traffic and actively watch out for motorists. See more about the route at ridetexas.com.

3. Big Bend

Ride Big Ben National Park in Texas Photo by visitbigbend.com

The Texas Big Bend area, bordering Mexico along the Rio Grande, is reminiscent of the High Desert region of California. The Big Bend area consists of Big Bend National Park, Big Bend Ranch State Park, and Terlingua Ranch. Most people think of Texas as boring and flat, but there are several peaks topping 7,000 feet in the Big Bend National Park. Big Bend offers a variety of off-road riding from sandy washes to rocky two-lane dirt roads that are open to motorized, street legal vehicles. It also has great weather most of the year and opportunities to cool off in the Rio Grande or take a dip in the Hot Springs.

Ride Big Ben National Park in Texas Photo by tpwd.texas.gov

While Big Bend is one of the largest National Parks in the lower 48, it is one of the most remote and least visited. An extensive backroads system offers loads of challenging dual sport riding and you’ll have the place practically to yourself. Hundreds of miles of winding asphalt and dirt roads, amazing vistas and low traffic are a perfect combination for adventure riders on anything from a KTM 690 to a BMW R1200GS.

4. Sam Houston National Forest

Sam Houston National Forest OHV Trails in Texas Photo by samhoustontrails.org

Texas boasts over 15 OHV areas that are perfect for guys and gals on dual-sports like DRs or XRs looking for flowing single track. While the OHV offerings in Texas may not top the offerings in California or Colorado, they are still worthy of a visit. You can ride in any Texas OHV area by simply purchasing an 16-dollar permit sticker that affixes to your right fork.

The gem of the Texas OHV area is undoubtedly the Sam Houston National Forest in the Piney Woods region of far East Texas. If you squint your eyes (and replace Sequoias with pine trees), you could be fooled into thinking that you are riding in NorCal. A list of OHV areas that allow bikes and 4×4 vehicles in Texas can be found here.

5. Ride on the Beach

Motorcycle camping port Aransas Beach in Texas Photo by Jon Clegg

In 1959 Texas passed the ‘Open Beaches Act.’ This means the state owns all of Texas’s 367 miles of coastline and allows for ‘public access’ of the beach. In practice (and depending on the jurisdiction) you can ride right alongside the ocean or play around in the beach sand dunes to your heart’s content. The Bolivar Penninsula / Crystal Beach OHV area is great, but a little crowded sometimes. The trek down to South Padre Island on the highway is also incredibly beautiful. The abundance of palm trees in this area of Texas is apt to throw you off, along with the challenging 60-mile Padre Island National Seashore route that is open to all street-legal bikes.

6. Easy Access to Mexico

Cascada de Tamul San Luis de Potosi Mexico
Cities like San Luis de Potosi in Mexico are an adventure ride away from South Texas. Photo by Mauro Trejo

While the best dual-sport riding in Mexico will always be right across the California border in Baja, the riding in the areas south of Texas are also quite nice. San Luis Potosi, Nuevo Leon and Coahuila (each accessible from Southern Texas) are all incredibly beautiful and offer amazing asphalt roads. If you go with the right people, you can find even better dirt roads. Cities like Monterrey and Chihuahua City are also very reachable from Texas for a quick weekend trip. These places still retain much of their Spanish-era colonial architecture in the downtown areas and are a great way to escape without venturing even 200 miles from the USA.

You will need to get a temporary vehicle import permit to go south in Mexico. Spanish skills are very helpful if you want to do this. Thankfully, the guys and gals at Two Wheeled Texans are always organizing come-one come-all Mexico rides and will serve as translator for you.

Author: Connor Frankhouser

Connor is a lifelong motorcycle enthusiast. Despite heavy exposure to the delightful smells of Klotz oil and the solvents in new motorcycle tires in his youth, he became a journalist overseas. This allowed him to launch several adventure riding trips in South East Asia, yet he never stopped daydreaming about the single-track trails back home in America. Now stateside again, Connor spends far too much time in the garage working on mods. In his spare time, he enjoys Dual Sport riding around New Mexico and Texas.

Author: Connor Frankhouser
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4 thoughts on “6 Reasons Texas is an Underrated State for Adventure Riding

  1. Anyone interested in Texas riding should look into Two Wheeled Texans (twtex.com) and the Texas Adventure Riders Association (http://www.txadvriders.org/) We have a 500 mile Hill Country ride coming up, as well as The Around the Bend Rally in late February.

    • Second this. My dad is active in the Two wheeled Texans community and regularly hosts rides out at his place in the Sacramento mountains in New Mexico and these guys and gals in TWT are so nice and fun to ride with that I had to give them a shout out.R.G. in College Station and the rest of the crew, hope yall get to read this!

  2. Very good article! One point for visiting adv riders to our state is limited(as in none) public land for primitive camping. Camping is in the two national parks, many state parks, private camp grounds or using permission from private property owners. Be mindful of bands of purple paint on fence posts and trees. Its a legal method of indicating private property on the opposite side of the marking. There are many cattle grates and “bump gates” across public roads here.The bump gates have weights on them and are meant to be nudged open with a vehicle(car/truck). They swing back and close by themselves after the vehicle passes. They can be tricky when riding by yourself. Some can be held open with your left arm while you wiggle your bike through. Some have to be propped open, ride or walk your bike through, and then closed.

    Caution advisory! The Hill Country has many low water concreted crossings that be EXTREMELY dangerous when moss and algae build up on them. There are also numerous creek and river crossings, such as the James River, that use natural limestone ford sites that are covered with moss and algae. These pose no real issues for four wheeled vehicles but can be dangerous for motorcycles and even hikers. Riders have broken bones and drowned bikes out on some of the sites.

    There are many deer in Texas. You have to very careful, particularly in the Hill Country.

    Texans are wonderful people! When you stop along the road for a water break and to look at a map, you will probably be asked if you are broken down and need some assistance.