Are you planning to go on an overland trip to Texas? We've got you covered!
An overland trip is best enjoyed when you have pre-planned routes and trails to travel on before starting the ignition. This not only boosts your traveling confidence but also ensures you make the most of your trip! Below, we have provided the ten best overland routes and trails in Texas for adventurous campers like you!
Can You Go Overlanding In Texas?
Texas is a vast and gorgeous state with lots of fascinating scenery. If you ever plan to visit this state, one thing you can be sure of is you will have interesting places to explore. From The Alamo, a gorgeous historical site, to the famous Big Bend National Park, Texas is undoubtedly the home of amazing sights and equally fantastic experiences.
However, sightseeing is not the only thing you can do in Texas.
Along with exciting places to visit, Texas also boasts a fascinating landscape that ranges from canyons to islands, valleys, and dormant volcanoes. Texas is home to alpine mountains, craggy hills, plateaus, and plains. These make the perfect location for a summer camping getaway or a week-old overlanding trip.
The best part of going overlanding in Texas is that Texas is a pretty large state. In fact, Texas is the second-largest state in the United States of America, judging by land area.
Texas is located in the South Central region of the United States. Home to more than 29 million people, Texas measures 268,597 square miles. This is more than twice the size of New Mexico.
The state’s vast land means tourists have more ground to cover and more places to visit without running out of things to see and explore. Couple this with the state’s exciting food, music, culture, and wildlife, and it is easy to see why an estimated 72.5 million out-of-state visitors came to Texas in 2018.
However, tourism is one thing, and overlanding is another. Unfortunately, Texas is not considered as unrestrictive as many other states in the US, like Utah or Colorado.
Although it is a significantly large state, people often wonder if they can go overlanding anywhere in Texas without restrictive access. This concern is undoubted because the state has a long history of citizens with vast private lands dedicated to ranching. As a result, there are fewer public lands in Texas than in many other states.
Thankfully, although private lands are still predominant in Texas, there are still public lands that adventurous campers and overlanders can explore without getting in trouble.
The U.S. Forest Service controls more than 675,000 acres of public lands in The Lone Star State. This is about 4.2 percent of Texas’s total land area. This might seem relatively small, but in Texas, 4.2 percent of the land is a whole lot.
However, one important thing to note is that Texas has very little BLM land, unlike other states. This is because upon its entrance into the union as a state in 1845, Texas demanded to withhold ownership of its land, a request that was respected.
Although this is one of the many things that make Texas unique, it also means overlanders not familiar with the state’s geography might find it difficult to find trails to explore. Regardless, there are many options for adventurous souls as long as they know where to look.
Don’t know where to get started? Here are the ten best overlanding routes to explore in Texas.
Ten Best Overlanding Trails In Texas
1. Barnwell Recreation Area
Barnwell Recreation Area sits on top of the Barnwell Mountains in East Texas. It is a property of the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition (TMTC) and is undoubtedly one of the most popular overlanding trails in Texas.
Opened in 2000 and located in Gilmer, Barnwell Recreation Area features more than 27 miles of trails suitable for overlanding and off-roading adventures. The courses in this route are mapped and maintained by volunteering TMTC members, meaning you should not expect fully-developed trails and a smooth ride. However, it would help if you kept in mind that the difficulty of this route varies with the path you choose to travel on. If you are not interested in a little bit of off-roading activity, Barnwell Recreation Area offers a 16-mile trail for people looking for a less demanding overlanding adventure.
Barnwell Recreation Area welcomes all types of capable vehicles, including dirt bikes, UTVs, and OHVs. The area’s landscape features accessible roads, and in some trails, rutted trails, steep hills, and rugged, muddy trails. The best part, besides the trails themselves, is undoubtedly the neighboring woody areas and undulating mountains.
There are primitive campsites in the area, so you have somewhere to hunker down after a hectic day of exploring the area. These campsites have spaces to accommodate vehicles of any size. Although the primitive campsites do not offer water hookups or shower facilities, these can easily be obtained at the nearby rental camps.
Essentially, Barnwell Recreation Area is an exciting location for adventurous overlanders regardless of their level of expertise.
2. Black Gap Rock
Another overlanding route that will knock your socks right off is the Black Gap Road.
Black Gap Road is located in the Big Bend National Park and is famous for its interestingly challenging routes and beautiful scenery. Black Gap Road is so good that it received a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail award. In fact, it is one of the two trails in Texas with the badge, the other being Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport.
Black Gap Road might be the most well-known trail among off-roaders, but it is also popularly used by overlanders in the area. It is a highly remote and unmaintained trail that connects Glenn Springs Road with River Road.
The roads in Black Gap Road are primitive and can be challenging if you are unfamiliar with rough terrain. However, the breathtaking view of the area from the roads is worth every minute of driving down the route.
3. Mustang Island Beaches
The Mustang Island Beaches are a series of beaches that stretch on for miles along the Gulf of Mexico. Located in Texas, the Mustang Island beaches look like something straight out of a movie.
The Mustang Island Beaches stretch from Corpus Christi to Port Arkansas. It also shares proximity with Mustang Island Park, and this ensures there are a lot of fun activities to indulge in whether you are on a solo overland adventure or you are with friends or family.
The drive-along beaches are about 18 miles long, leaving plenty of room to explore with your vehicle. The beaches are relatively easy to navigate, as easy as you expect from driving along a sandy beach.
At the Mustang Island Beaches, you enjoy beach-front overlanding with a front-seat view of the beach and water. We doubt you will be able to resist the temptation to take a break from behind the wheel and stick your feet in the water.
There are plenty of activities to indulge in on the beaches. From surfing to camping, kayaking, and bird-watching, you will never run out of things to do.
4. River Road
River Road is fondly called the most scenic drive in Texas for great reason! The panoramic view on this long stretch of road can be compared to none in the Lone Star State.
River Road is located in Terlingua. It is a long stretch of highway that passes through the Big southern part of Bend State Ranch park while hugging the famous Rio Grande. River Road is about 51 miles long and is a moderately hard drive. We recommend using a 4x4 vehicle with high clearance if you plan to make the drive down River Road.
If you think driving through River Road will be nothing but a dreary desert ride, you should think again.
5. Old Ore OHV Road
Big Bend National Park is a treasure trove of natural wonders and exciting overland trails. It is home to the famous Old Ore OHV road, a moderately challenging and exciting trail.
Old Ore OHV Road is a 27-mile-long trail near Terlingua. Although it is popularly used for off-roading and horseback riding, it is quite often empty. On the bright side, the fewer people you encounter, the more privacy you enjoy.
It takes about 11 hours and 25 minutes (or less if you do not make any stops) to complete the trail end-to-end. Although this might seem relatively short, especially if you are used to longer courses, every minute spent exploring the landscape in Old Ore OHV Road is worth it.
The roads are bumpy with only a few obstacles, so you should have no problem navigating the area if you have a 4x4 vehicle. However, there are some steep ledge sections and tricky paths you have to watch out for.
Regardless, Old Ore OHV Road is an excellent trail to explore. Be sure to stop over at McKinney Springs while you are there!
6. Bolivia Peninsula
If you are looking for more beach overlanding drive experiences in Texas, you should add Bolivia Peninsula to your list. The Bolivia Peninsula is a narrow strip of land located in Galveston. It separates the eastern part of Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico.
Bolivia Peninsula and Crystal Beach are tourist hotspots which are not surprising given the breathtaking views. The Peninsula measures 27 miles of driveable shoreline that offers a direct view of coastal waters.
On the beach, you can enjoy lots of fun activities like picnics, swimming, surfing, or simply having fun in the sun. There is no shortage of fun on the Bolivia Peninsula.
You can easily access the beach by following the crossroads off Hwy 87. The terrain is moderately rugged, primarily due to the sandy route. However, this is not a problem that a capable vehicle cannot solve.
7. Old Maverick OHV Route
Located in Terlingua, the Old Maverick OHV Route is a 12.6-mile point-to-point trail near Terlingua. It is a moderately easy trail, perfect if you are new to the overlanding scene. The best part is that the course is conveniently short (by newbie overlander standards) and is perfect for a quick drive-by.
Old Maverick OHV Road runs between Maverick Junction and Santa Elena Canyon. This trail is moderately complex, mainly because the road is rough and washboarded in some areas. This gets worse when it rains as the road becomes flooded. Regardless, the trail is usually passable with a regular but hardy 2WD most of the year.
The drive through Old Maverick OHV Route is fun and serene because you will most likely only come across a handful of people.
8. Glenn Spring OHV Trail
Glenn Spring OHV Trail is another point-to-point trail in Big Bend National Park, near Terlingua. It measures about 26 miles and is a moderately challenging ride.
The Glenn Spring OHV Trail road is mostly a flat dirt road, although there are tricky rocky areas that may be difficult to navigate without a high-clearance vehicle. It takes about seven hours to complete the trail.
Going overlanding on Glenn Spring OHV Trail makes it easier to connect with other trails like Black Gap Road. This ensures that you make the most out of your trip.
9. Sam Houston National Forest
Sam Houston National Forest is another of the four National Forests in Texas. It lies 50 miles north of Houston and is managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The Sam Houston National Forest contains 163,037 acres between Huntsville, Conroe, Cleveland, and Richards. It remains a favorite spot for fun activities like hiking, camping, fishing, horse riding, and, of course, overlanding.
10. Hidden Falls Adventure Park
Hidden Falls Adventure Park, located in Marble Falls, holds some of the best overlanding trails in Texas. It is a rugged, moderately challenging park that requires an off-road capable vehicle.
There are more than 2000 acres of trails to explore in Hidden Falls Adventure Park. Don't be thrown off by its name. There is nothing hidden about this park. The park is popular and you will undoubtedly come across other explorers in the area.
Overlanding In The Lone Star State
Texas might not be known for having the largest amount of overlanding routes, but it is impossible to deny the presence of exciting trails. From beaches to forest roads, Texas offers a lot of trails you can explore.
Our list Is just the starting point for your Texas overlanding dreams. To help you make the most out of your overlanding adventure, here are the best overland camping spots in Texas.