Off-Roading In Texas

by Amanda Poe @NomadOffroadTX

Texas is the land of opportunity for off-road enthusiasts of all kinds. From the forests of east Texas to the plains of west Texas, and everything in between, we have a wide array of terrains and obstacles right here in the Lone Star State. Whether you’re looking for a day trip, or a whole weekend of adventure, here is a list of some of the off-road destinations within easy driving distance of San Antonio. 

Barnwell Mountain Recreation area in Gilmer, Texas

Distance: 6 Hour Drive

Advantages: There are trails of all kinds, most of which are well marked and accurately graded. This makes it a blast for off-roaders of all experience levels. For more experienced off-roaders, there are some very technical obstacles to test not only your rig, but also your patience. We make regular trips to Barnwell and always plan to stay for a minimum of three days. They make long weekend stays very easy by allowing visitors to camp anywhere in the park. This means there’s plenty of spots to set up camp, even on busy weekends. 

Disadvantages: Be prepared to detail everything. The park is in east Texas, so it is full of red dirt and red clay. You will take home more of Barnwell than you can imagine.

Insider tip: Maps of the park are not provided at the gate – they must be purchased. I highly recommend purchasing a map if it is your first trip.

Overall Rating: 9 out of 10. 

Hidden Falls Adventure Park in Marble Falls, Texas

Distance: 2 Hour Drive

Advantages: This is a beautifully maintained park with breathtaking views of the gorgeous hill country. There are plenty of technical trails for more experienced off-roaders, all of which are very well marked and graded. There is very little dust here since it is mostly rocks and hills, making it easier to ride doorless on nice days.

Disadvantages: This is a small park with very few “easy” trails. Vehicles with unmodified suspension will have great difficulty finding enough trails to occupy the weekend. On crowded weekends, the “easy” trails are sometimes backed up to the trail entrance with long waits to access the trails.

Insider tip: During rainy season, add an additional diamond to all trail ratings. A trail that is rated at a two diamond when dry, quickly becomes a three diamond when wet because of the rocks and inclines. 

Overall Rating: 6 out of 10. 

Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport, Texas

Distance: 5 Hour Drive

Advantages: With more than 25 miles of 4×4 trails, there is enough in Northwest OHV Park to entertain most off-road enthusiasts. This park is also on the easier side, making it more fun for off-roaders of all experience levels. With more than 75% of the park being accessible by a mostly stock 4×4 vehicle, there is plenty of fun to be had by all. For Jeep drivers, the whole park is also a part of the Jeep Badge of Honor program. Simply checking in anywhere in the park will get you one of the coveted badges.

Disadvantages: First, trails are not well marked, nor well graded. Less experienced off-roaders should take the trails slow and be prepared to make plenty of U-turns. Second, there is no camping in the park. Long trips will require hotel stays in town. Third, there is no night wheeling allowed. The park closes at 7pm and all vehicles must be out of the park by close, save for 2 or 3 sponsored night rides a year. 

Insider tip: This park has no running water, one port-a-potty style restroom, and no place to purchase refreshments of any kind. Visitors should pack accordingly for their trip. However, the park is very close to the small town of Bridgeport, and there are several good local spots in town to grab some food and drinks. 

Overall Rating: 5 out of 10. 

Big Bend National Park in Presidio County, Texas

Distance: 5.5 Hour Drive

Advantages: This 1,200 mile national park is home to hundreds of miles of off-road trails and otherworldly scenery. While most of the actual off-roading at Big Bend is not any more difficult than your typical fire road, a trip here is not for the faint of heart. Make no mistake – this is some of the most remote terrain in the US. Off-roaders should pack plenty of emergency supplies. However the scenery makes it worth every second.

Disadvantages: First, all 1,200 miles of the park are remote, uninhabited nature. This means the wildlife in Big Bend rules the land. Visitors who camp in the park should keep an eye out for wildlife of all types. Second, temperatures in the park can very drastically from day to night. Visitors should expect more than 20 degrees of temperature variance from day to night. In both these situations, visitors should prepare accordingly before making the trek. 

Insider tip: The best trails in the park are Old Ore Road, Black Gap Trail, Glenn Spring Trail, Paint Gap Trail, and River Road Trail. As you are riding trails, be sure to stick around the park at night at least once. The best views of the Milky Way can be found in the middle of the park, far off the beaten path.

Overall Rating: 10 out of 10. 

Top 10 Off-roading and 4×4 trails in Texas

Off-road 4x4 Toyota
Off-road 4×4 Toyota

What is the best way to enjoy Independence Day weekend? Most people enjoy the 4th of July Weekend with their family grilling outside and watching fireworks. That is why this week we launched our 4th of July fireworks giveaway!

Here at OUTLAW Off-Road + Performance we wanted to make a list of activities for anyone who loves the outdoors, loud engines, adventure, mud, and speed. Today we are counting down the top-ten best off-roading and 4×4 trails are a must!

Ready to make some 4th of July weekend memories?

1) Texas Hill Country Overland Route – Llano Texas

The Texas Hill Country Overland Route is near Llano Texas and passes Mason and Fredericksburg. The 191 mile off road point-to-point track has elevation gain of 9,271 feet. The trail may require the entire day so plan on viewing parts or planning accordingly. The trail is perfect for large off-road vehicles like a Tacoma 4×4 or a Ford F-150.

Off-road wheels, tires (Nitto ride or Trail grapplers would be good, and lifted trucks are ideal for the trail but most of the path is regular dirt and paved road. Some of the interesting sites include enchanted rock and the Llano River.  This trail is moderate and great for anyone starting to off road or hoping to spend more time outdoors.

2) River Run ATV Park

The River Run ATV Park is a moderately difficult trail. This trail also allows dogs as long as they are on a leash!

The track covers a 2,000-acre tract of land. The Neches River crosses it at various points and visitors can go fishing, swimming, and enjoy cooling off after riding ATVs or 4×4 vehicles. The trail has mud pits, sights of oil field back roads, and features riding that is rough and requires skill when navigating in ATVs or 4×4 Trucks. This trail is not for people new to off-roading but is a thrill for those willing to test their skills. The total length for the trail is 12.0 miles and reaches an elevation of 328 feet.

Off-road travel on mountain road, with light off sunset.
Off-road travel on mountain road, with light off sunset.

3) Ironweed Trail System – Eisenhower State Park

The Ironweed Trail System is scenic route at Eisenhower State Park. Entrance fees are $5 per person. The park requires riders to have approved safety gear like helmets and also reserve a spot ahead of time. For more information about the park check here.

Take in views of the lake, birds in the woods, and traverse various mud pits and rocky terrain. There are many more activities to check out at Eisenhower so think about this spot if you’re looking to get outside for the 4th of July weekend!

Capturing ATV in Mud Pits
Capturing ATV in Mud Pits

Big bend National Park

4) Old Ore OHV Park

In beautiful Big Bend National Park, the Old Ore OHV Park is a stunning 26.5 miles point-to-point trail which takes riders on scenic and moderate trails. Off-road vehicles and all terrain trucks are great for this trail.

Some riders enjoy taking motorcycles but beware of the high heat indexes over summer. Take plenty of water, food, and protection from sun exposure.

Enjoy views of Ernst Tinaja, beautiful rock formations and canyons! Be on the lookout for abandoned stone houses, gravesites, and local animals. There are many sights to enjoy at Old Ore and those with lifted trucks, upgraded all-terrain tires, and suspension will enjoy few rocky spots which require navigation and careful treading.

5) Black Gap OHV Trail

This trail is also located near Big Bend National Park. The Black Gap OHV Trail offers amazing sites of hills, rock formations, and wildlife.

The trail is 16.3 miles and experiences an elevation gain of 935 feet. The trail is primarily for ATVs and larger 4×4 vehicles but it isn’t rare to find people horseback riding on the trail. Some sections on the trail may be difficult for larger than full-sized vehicles.

Black and White shot of Jeep in Deep Water
Black and White shot of Jeep in Deep Water

There are a few wet creeks and the trail ends at Glenn Springs. When it rains the trail gets muddy and is perfect for those with SUVs like a Jeep Wrangler of Toyota 4Runner TRD Off-road premium.

6) Kelly’s Pond Loop – Sam Houston National Forest

Located in Sam Houston National Forest, Kelly’s Pond Loop is a moderate trail which is often used for OHV, ATVs, and dirt bikes. The trail typically has hikers, bikers, and others using it for off-roading so plan-ahead and adjust if there is moderate traffic.

Take in the natural pine trees lining the road, local foliage, and enjoy dense canopy which provides cool shade from the sun.

Kelly’s Pond Loop has a $5 fee and is 17.3 miles and reaches a max elevation of 715 feet.

Jeep Off-roading in backcountry
Jeep Off-roading in backcountry

7) Williams Ranch Road OHV Trail — Salt Flat

South of Guadalupe Mountain National Park you will find Williams Ranch Road OHV Trail in Sal Flat, Texas. The trail is 7.5 miles long and reaches an elevation of 419 feet.

The trail is available year-round and has amazing views of mountains, flat valleys, and reaches Williams Ranch at the start of Guadalupe Peak. Enjoy seeing deer, snakes, birds and various different desert plants.

In order to get the gate to access the trail you must first check in at Pine Springs Ranger Station.

It is recommended you brink a spare tire air compressor and jack as there is no cellphone service out there. Bring water and food and vehicle with the tires that can make it through rough terrain. The trail has several heavy brush spots and sharp rocks so sliders are recommended and you may not want to attempt after a new paint job! If you do get stuck out on the trail the ranger service will bill you $1,000 so beware and tread lightly.

8) CreekSide Off-road Park OHV Trail

Located in Splendora Texas, this 3.2 mile trail with an elevation gain of 68 feet is no joke. Although some may see the ponds, mud pools, and other boggy terrain as a simple drive-through, this trail is one that has seen Jeeps, trucks, and other all-terrain vehicles need repairs and get stuck.

After rain this trail is muddy, has deep pools that are misleading, and is a memorable time for any fans of the rough and dirty all-terrain experience. This is one of the best places to go mudding near the Houston area, it is recommended you bring a couple of spares and a winch in case your vehicle does get stuck.

For more information on CreekSide Offroad Park OHV Trail check this link!

Wheel close up in a countryside landscape with a muddy road. Water splash in off road racing. Off road vehicle coming out of a mud hole hazard
Close up in a countryside landscape with a muddy road. Water splash in off road racing. Off road vehicle coming out of a mud hole hazard

9) Brazos Valley Off-road Ranch Trail

Ready for a challenging off road trail? Right by College Station and east of Austin the Brazos Valley Off-road Ranch Trail is not for the faint of heart. Originally designed for 4-wheelers and ATVs this ranch trail is rugged, muddy, and risky.

The owner of the trail is welcoming and always ready to help those new to off-roading. However, beware that the trail becomes much more complicated about a 1.5 miles in and there typically is no turning back once you get started. The trail is a total of 3.9 miles and has a low elevation gain of 124 feet. The route is a loop and getting lost is not possible unless you are trying!

ATV Pushing through muddy and rocky water pool
ATV Pushing through muddy and rocky water pool

10) Malaquite Beach Walk

Featuring a trail that has no mud but rather a whole lot of sand, the Malaquite Beach Walk is a 4.6 miles located near Corpus Christi and managed by the Padre Island National Seashore. For those hoping for a beach getaway with a thrill, this is the perfect trail.

Dogs and kids are allowed but there is little shade available and heat can become serious during mid-day and afternoon hours. The Padre Island National Seashore charges entrance fees of $25 per vehicle. The fee is less for motorcycles.

We hope you find these locations are a fun get-away from your busy life. Here at OUTLAW Off-road + Performance we encourage everyone to explore the adventure and thrill of off-roading regardless of what their skill level will be. When the getting gets tough, and your vehicle needs service or an upgrade, you dream it and we will build it!

OUTLAW Off-road + Performance is located at 12120 IH35N San Antonio. We specialize in lift kits, tires and rims, shocks, bumpers, accessories, leather seats, tint and wraps for 4X4 and pre-runner trucks.

Find us at www.OutlawSA.com, OutlawSA on TikTok, and Outlaw_SanAntonio on Instagram.