Five2Ride: Mountain Bike Trails in Texas

five2ride_texas

The Lone Star State is fiercely independent, and that independence, coupled with its massive size, almost makes it a country in its own right. In fact, as the second-largest state in the United States (after Alaska), it’s bigger than many countries: for instance, Texas is bigger than France, about the size of Afghanistan, and smaller countries don’t stand a chance. (Click here for some interesting size comparison maps.)

Still, despite Texas’s massive size and the large number of trails Singletracks members have shared (212 at last count), 4 of the top 5 trails in Texas, as rated by Singletracks members, are located near Austin. Personally I attribute these results to Austin’s well-developed cycling culture and the rocky, hilly country located nearby, so take these choices with a grain of salt. However, even as Austin-centric as this list may be, you’re still guaranteed a fun ride at any of these five trails:

Flat Rock Ranch, Comfort

Photo: Sierradirtslayer
Photo: Sierradirtslayer

With over 20 miles of singletrack trails (in addition to jeep trail connectors), there’s plenty of rocky, hilly goodness to be had in this corner of Texas. And yes, despite the name of this system, there are hills in Texas: a 20-mile loop at Flat Rock Ranch logs just a touch over 1,400 feet of elevation gain.

“When I moved to San Antonio, the first recommendation from a LBS employee was Flat Rock Ranch. This spring we had the opportunity to help out on a trail work day and rode the upper loop. Just yesterday I had the chance to ride the lower loop. Of the two, the lower loop required far less hike-a-biking and had some great, flowy sections as well as fun switchback descents. The upper loop has some great sections and is far more technical. Overall, the trails are great here, very well-maintained and the owners of this private ranch are very personable mountain biking folk. I highly recommend making the trip. Just make sure to keep an eye out for roaming cattle and sheep! I hope to get a day soon that I can dedicate to riding both loops.” -djeneration

Palo Duro Canyon State Park, Canyon

Photo: RoadWarrior
Photo: RoadWarrior

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is the only trail system on this list that’s not located close to Austin. Rather, it’s just south of Amarillo, in the panhandle of Texas. This state park has earned a reputation for excellent mountain biking that’s spread across the nation. With a deep canyon and intriguing rock formations, not only are the 26+ miles of trail fun to ride, the views are more than camera-worthy.

“It’s quite exceptional to see this magnificent canyon just drop out of the seemingly endless prairie. This is easily the best scenery for 200 miles in any direction. It is also home to some great mountain biking. There’s everything from easy valley bottom cruises to steep, technical climbs (and descents) to the top of the canyon walls. The Capital Peak trail makes a nice loop and, if you don’t mind an out-and-back, the Rock Garden trail will challenge legs, lungs, and technical skills.” -John Fisch

Madrone Trail, Canyon Lake

Photo: saahirahmad
Photo: saahirahmad

The Madrone trail is located entirely on a peninsula jutting out into Canyon Lake–a rarity anywhere, and especially in Texas. While there’s not much elevation change to be had here, the rocky tread will keep you on your toes.

“Had been wanting to try this trail for a while now that I moved closer to it. All the previous reviews are pretty much spot on. This was one of the funnest trails I have been on in a while. The scenery is awesome, there are a lot of smooth areas and a lot of rocky areas but nothing too loose. The trail is easy to follow, there are a couple of places that were a little confusing but if you look around you can find the ribbons or trail entrance from the roads pretty quickly. I did puncture a tire about 1.5 miles in, but it sealed up quickly and the rest of the ride was trouble free. It can be very technical in some spots and has a few drop offs, but there was nothing that scared me or my son (who is a beginner) and a few of the really technical places had a bypass around them, my son did walk a couple of small sections. I would recommend this trail to anyone, if you’re a beginner just pay attention keep your head about you.” -jkeith

Reveille Peak Ranch, Burnet

Photo: Sierradirtslayer
Photo: Sierradirtslayer

Reveille Peak Ranch is renowned for its well-organized trail system and challenging Moab-esque slickrock riding, right down to the spray painted trail dots. While it costs $10 to ride here, that’s not much more than the other trails on this list and your entry fee will get you a good map.

“Amazing trail for Texas. I love the rocky technical sections. Wide open areas of granite that some claim to be similar to that of Moab. This trail is challenging and well worth riding if your in to that kind of stuff. After another ride with a group as well as one of the trail designers I have a whole new respect for this trail system. So much to see here!! They claim it’s most technical in Texas. Not sure if its accurate, but from what I have seen I agree.” -Sierradirtslayer

Rocky Hill Ranch, Smithville

Photo: jjjkkklll
Photo: jjjkkklll

This 30+-mile trail system is touted by many as one of the best mountain bike destinations in Texas. While the trails aren’t necessarily world class, there’s plenty of great singletrack here to keep you entertained. Also, rumor has it that there’s a killer restaurant right near the trailhead for convenient post-ride beer and grub.

“Awesome trails, very well maintained, very well managed. If I lived closer, I’d be out here all the time. They have several camping sites, showers and restrooms at the trailhead, and water stations throughout the property. Although there is some jeep road and fence line riding, must of the trail is sweet, flowy singletrack. Lots of pine trees and hardwoods to keep you shaded and keep you guessing whats around the next turn. My favorites are “the Grind” and “the Wall.” Both are deep drop-ins with a big ascent on the other side. If you can convince yourself to drop-in at or near full speed, you can clear the climb back out. They both flow well so the only obstacle is fear. I rode this trail as part of a team at the “24 hours of Rocky Hill Race” in Oct, 2011. I absolutely loved it and the night riding was amazing.” -mtbtrucker

Your Turn: Think a different trail should have made it on this list? Make sure you’ve reviewed all the trails you’ve ridden in Texas!

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