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.