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Favorite Big Bend Mountain-Bike Rides

Written by Matt Joyce.

BikeFest TRIOWhen out in Big Bend for the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, I talked with multiple local riders to gather information for my story about mountain biking in the Big Bend region. I threw in an extra question for some of them: What’s your favorite ride? Here are their responses.

Read Matt Joyce's story on the Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest and biking Big Bend.

Mike Long, owner and guide at Desert Sports

“Probably my favorite short ride is Loop 3 on the Lajitas Trail system. It’s a six-mile loop that’s just a lot of fun. We built the trail as part of a race course, and it was built with mountain biking on it as a specific idea. For a moderate ride, I would say that the Contrabando Dome at the state park [Big Bend Ranch State Park] is really a great ride. It’s in the neighborhood, depending on how you do it, of 14 to 18 miles. For a longer ride, the Rincon Loop, which includes sections of Government Road Trail, is really spectacular as far as the vistas. Some of the creek-bed stuff can be a little challenging, but the ride itself is really a beautiful, challenging ride. The scenery is amazing.”

Nathanael Gold, superintendent of the Big Bend Ranch State Park complex

“I just can’t get over the Fresno Divide on the West Contrabando Trailhead. It’s a blast, and so are the trails over here at the East Contrabando Trailhead—Dog Cholla, Rock Quarry, Crystal Trail, and Camino Viejo—they are phenomenonal too. I like the free-flowing nature of them. I like that you can get going at a pretty good speed, go over some obstacles, but it’s not too terribly technical to where you have to be super skilled to ride them. I like that you don’t have to have to concentrate so hard and can go fast and zoom through.”

Amber Harrison, interpretive ranger Big Bend Ranch State Park

“The Fresno Divide Trail (3.2 miles long) is one of my favorites for both mountain-biking and hiking. It’s our newest trail, and we really spent a year trying to find the best route for it that would be the most sustainable over the long term and the most pleasurable for all user groups. It’s a fun mountain bike ride, and it’s one of the trails that is easy to access off of the main highway that can afford visitors, both mountain bikers, hikers and equestrians, a splendid view of the Contrabando System and this part of the park. It takes you up to a saddle, and you can overlook Fresno Canyon. You can see the flatirons of the Solitario, you can see Chimney Rock, you can see all of the major landmarks from that point. It’s easy to access and it’s not too technically difficult; most everybody can do it.”

David Elkowitz, former chief of interpretation at Big Bend National Park

“I’d probably pick Old Ore Road [in Big Bend National Park] as my favorite because of the scenery. It’s remote, it’s rugged, and it’s lightly traveled—a real adventure and a beautiful area. If I were looking for a moderate or easier ride in the national park, it would be Grapevine Hills. It’s pretty easy, pretty flat. It’s less challenging in terms of the makeup of the road, and it goes to a nice two-mile trail, which you can hike as well, the Grapevine Hills Trail. It’s a two-mile trail round trip. It goes to a balanced rock, which is really popular.”

Kevin Urbanczyk , geology professor at Sul Ross State University

“I guess I would say that my favorite ride would be starting at the West Contrabando Trailhead, over the Divide Trail, left on the Contrabando trailhead, connect over to Buena Suerte, and then down into Fresno Canyon, take a right onto Government Road trail, and then around to Rincon, back down to the west Chimney Rock cutoff, and then go west to east on the cutoff trail, and then retrace the route back to Buena Suerte, to the Fresno Divide, and then back to the trailhead. The difference between this and the Rincon Loop is that it includes the Divide Trail, which is one of the best trails out there. The thing I always say is that not only is the geology is really cool, it’s really a good trail. And once you get beyond the Buena Suerte you’re really in the backcountry. It’s a 30-plus mile ride. It gets you way the heck out there. I like to go places where there are not a lot of people.

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