Several individuals can ride a bike, but not everybody can take the challenge of riding on mountainous trails. It’s reserved for a special set of bikers — mountain bikers. Every mountain biker loves the challenge of a new trail. Apart from the thrill of exploring a new trail, meeting fellow mountain bikers, and taking in wonderful views, mountain biking has enormous health benefits. These benefits include full-body workouts without lifting weights and excellent cardio sessions, which are undoubtedly good for your heart.
Texas, well known for its extremes, doesn’t disappoint when it comes to topography. Craggy mountains, breathtaking canyons, and every type of terrain you can think of can be found within its 270,000 square miles—so much of it is navigable on a bike.
So if you live in Texas or you’re planning to visit Texas, here is a mouth-watering list of the best Mountain biking trails to visit. Whether you are a newbie, a professional, or an average rider trying to stay fit, riding with friends, or simply riding for adventure, we’ve got you covered. Dust those bikes, and let’s go for a good old bumpy ride.
1. North Shore Trail
The North Shore Trail, which runs along the North Shore of Lake Grapevine, is located in Flower Mound, Texas. It started as a motor cross trail and is one of the longest, most famous, and most visited trails in Texas. The trail has a decent length of 22.5 miles and is divided into two loops.
The East loop, which is suitable for intermediate riders, contains the first four loops and slightly edges out the West loop with a stretch of 12.5 miles of a dirt path.
The West loop, not to be outdone, is a 10-mile challenging stretch complete with all sorts of technical features that only the genuinely resilient can finish. If you are a beginner, it is advisable not to ride the West loop alone. The North shore trail also allows dogs (leashed) and accommodates all, regardless of your skillset.
2. Arbor Hills Trail
If you are an advanced beginner looking for a trail that isn’t too strenuous but challenging enough to get the adrenaline pumping through you, then the Arbor Hills Trail is the right place for you. Comparatively shorter than most trails on this list, Arbor Hills is 2.7 miles long (or short). While it isn’t too challenging, it boasts of enough rooty climbs and off-camber sections here and there to give even intermediate riders a run for their money. Do not be deceived by the length of the trail—it is only as hard or easy as you make it.
The mountain biking trail is just a part of a much larger nature preserve comprising soft-surface trails and concrete trails. This trail is the only one within the preserve that specifically allows bike riding—as most other soft-surface options grant access to hikers only.
3. Knob Hills Trail
Running alongside the Denton Creek edges, the Knob Hills Trail, designed as a stacked loop trail, is one of the most visited and heavily-trafficked in Texas, and it deserves all the attention it gets. The well-marked trail is over 18.3 miles long and has diverse terrain types and technical features such as loose rocks, gravel, switchback, rollers, descents, punchy climbs, big rocks, and the famous Goat killer.
Although the trail closes when it gets too muddy, it is never in short supply of bikers of all skill levels. If you are planning to visit Knob Hills, watch out for bikers. It is important to check local status reports before you visit the trail.
4. Big Cedar Wilderness Trails
The Big Cedar Wilderness Trail is the paradise of all mountain bikers. Whether you are a beginner, intermediate or advanced rider, you will find different loops tailor-made to suit your skillset and challenge levels. Located on the highest elevation in Dallas, Texas – Prayer Mountain – the Big Cedar trail is owned by Mountain Creek Community Church.
The trail boasts seven loops with varying difficulty levels, a mix of single track and fire road. Dirt jump areas, a downhill area, an area dedicated to trials, a pump track, and a skill area where you can showboat, or watch others display intriguing skills, are part of why the Big Cedar trails are a haven for bikers. For the truly daring, the trail has several dramatic downhills designed explicitly for advanced riders. Due to the trail’s location on church property, the tracks are closed on Sundays until 1 pm and Mondays to ‘let the tracks rest.’
Riders are advised to stick to the marked tracks, which span an impressive 12.5 miles. If you are in Texas, make sure to visit the Big Cedar trails, and you’ll not regret that you did.
5. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
No list of great mountain biking tracks in Texas is ever complete without mentioning the iconic Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Stretching around 70 miles with an average width of six miles and dipping about 1,000 feet in a few areas, the basin is perfect for horizontal and vertical exploration.
Biking is one of the best things to do here. The canyon is home to thirty miles of interconnected horse, bike, and foot trails — each promising varied terrain and beautiful views. A visit to the canyon can only end one way — a full day of adventures and discovery that is sure to leave you aching in all the right joints and pleasantly indulged.
Already a popular outdoor recreation spot, the park, located in Amarillo, Texas, appeals to mountain bikers with an impeccable 26 miles of single-track trails laced with dirt paths, challenging drop-offs, switchbacks, and nerve-wrenching climbs.
Although the Palo Duro Canyon is technically not a trail, it is a conglomerate of three individual trails, all interconnected. What this means is that you can ride the three trails while parking just once.
Now to the trails that make this park memorable:
Givens Spicer and Lowry Running Trail
Shortened as GSL, this trail is particularly popular among mountain riders. With red dirt that provides traction, this trail does not prove too difficult. However, you need to note that hikers also use this trail, so watch out. The scenic views are a sight to behold too.
Capitol Peak Mountain Bike Trail
With a trail designed as the figure eight, Capitol Peak has a length of 3.5 miles that can’t be described in words, and not even pictures do justice to it. Blessed with the scenic views that grace all of Palo Duro Canyon, the Capitol Peak needs to be experienced, preferably with a mountain bike, to appreciate all of its beauty. It is the only trail on this canyon that does not have intruding hikers, as it is dedicated to mountain biking only. Do well to stick to the track.
Probably the best-known attraction to Palo Duro Canyon, the Lighthouse trail is sandier and has more loose soil than the other two trails. The Lighthouse trails 2.7 miles leads up to the lighthouse rock, essentially the canyon’s peak, offering a panoramic bird’s eye view of the canyon. Be warned that you would not be able to take your bike up to the Lighthouse rock as the steps are very steep; hence a lock would come in handy. Climbing up or down the steep stairs is a challenge on its own, but one that is worth it.
If you’re visiting Palo Duro Canyon for the first time, you are bound to have second thoughts about the area’s off-road look. As far as the eye can see, there’s flat land all around. But Palo Duro, the second-largest canyon in the United States, is a wonderland for mountain bikers in its own right.
6. Flat Rock Ranch
Located on the outskirts of Comfort, Texas, Flat Rock Ranch is a family-owned, 27-mile mountain biking trail in the cowboy Texas Hill Country.
The ranch, which spans 1300 rugged acres, has remained in the same family for more than a hundred years. The trails wind through a hilly countryside with some breathtaking views, lung-busting hill climbs, and many creek crossings. Just in case you need to fix your bike or get an extra tube, there’s a mechanic at the trailhead.
7. Tyler State Park
Another excellent park featured on this list is Tyler State Park. A 90-minute drive east of Dallas takes you to this 13-mile long trail, which provides challenging single-track trails for bike riders who wish to achieve a challenging goal.
The trail has interconnecting loops winding south, north, and east in an irregular shape (C) around the 1000-acre park. Parts of the park’s attractions include a 64-acre lake and many 100-foot trees, which combine to keep the air cool. You are sure to see wildlife while riding, and the view is unparalleled. The trails cater for advanced and beginner riders; whatever your level is, you’ll undoubtedly get your workout while avoiding the exposed tree roots.
Little Fox Canyon Trail, more or less the earlier mentioned Palo Duro Canyon’s Givens Spicer and Lowry Running Trail extension, is an additional bonus round for lovers of bonuses. The trail spans 2.31 miles and has drop-offs and red-dirt paths that enable a good old high-speed ride.
8. Barton Creek Greenbelt
Barton Creek Greenbelt, also known by locals as ‘The Greenbelt’, is among Austin’s top trails. The Greenbelt is located in south-central Austin and has about 12.68 miles of trails, with its main trail spanning about 7 miles. Barton Creek Greenbelt has served as the major tourist attraction in the city of Austin. The course has a whopping 7 different entrance points! Yes, you read that right — seven. This makes it easier for visitors to access and enjoy all the different wonders the Greenbelt offers.
It also features the Hill of Life, a beautiful area with wildflowers and trees on the sides. Hill of life is the only area in Barton Creek Greenbelt that is not dog-friendly.
9. Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway
The Lake Mineral Trailway is quite different from several others on this list mainly because it is a reclaimed railroad bed with flat grades and gentle curves. More than 33,000 passengers traveled through the Weatherford, Mineral Wells & Northwestern Railroad in 1899. Most came to Mineral Wells for the town’s “healing water.” In 1903, a financial panic put an end to expansion plans for the railroad.
Mineral Wells bought the line in 1989 and named it the Mineral Wells and Eastern. It served as a freight line until 1992 when the city realized it was not bringing enough money. It was abandoned in October 1992.
Beginning from the northwest of Weatherford in central Parker County, the Trailway runs through 20 miles and connects to Lake Mineral Wells State Park, which is open for camping and picnics. The Trailway is 20 miles long and 10 feet wide. Apart from two miles of the asphalt surface from downtown Mineral Wells through the east, the rest of the 20-mile long Trailway consists of finely crushed and screened limestone. The Trailway has four trailheads, which all have paved parking, drinking water, and restrooms.
The Trailway goes across gentle hills and various small creeks in the Brazos and Trinity river watersheds. Sloping gently through different farm and ranch lands, the rolling hills are rich with a wide variety of wildlife. Bikers often come across white-tailed deer, foxes, squirrels, turkeys, and different bird species. The different plants lining up the Trailway serve as a colorful backdrop to the countryside.
10. Reveille Peak Ranch
Reveille Peak Ranch is an excellent place for those looking to improve their biking skills. This trail system has a growing popularity among mountain bikers and has hosted many racing events.
Intermediate to advanced riders will thoroughly enjoy the daunting obstacles at Reveille Peak Ranch, such as rocky obstacles, narrow spots, and challenging uphill climbs. These trails mostly pass through granite rock, enhancing more grip and more traction than several other Central Texas mountain biking trails with limestone.
Although Texas isn’t famous for mountain biking trails, this list proves that Texas does not let up in the biking trail department. A diverse range of different terrains – flat, daunting, scary, and even a Trailway – awaits bikers of all skill sets. Whether you are an intermediate, beginner, or advanced mountain maniac, all you need to do is take your pick from this range of fantastic trails in Texas and get that adrenaline pump with your bike. You are sure to meet other mountain enthusiasts. Enjoy the ride!