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March 2011 cover image The Best of Texas, Naturally!

Epic Ride

Big Bend Ranch trail earns honors from mountain bikers.

By Karen Hoffman Blizzard

Tune up your mountain bike, pack a few puncture-sealing tubes and get ready for the ride of your life. Big Bend Ranch State Park has joined the elite international mountain biking community and awaits your visit. In November, one of its premier loop trails, Fresno Canyon to Sauceda, was designated an “Epic” ride by the International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA).

The Fresno Canyon–Sauceda Loop Trail is the only Epic mountain bike ride in Texas and one of only two in the southwestern United States. IMBA has named fewer than 50 Epics in the U.S. and Canada in its 22-year history. IMBA board member and Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee Hill Abell of Austin describes the Fresno–Sauceda trail as “a huge day in the saddle and super-challenging.”

The IMBA Epics, which serve as models for trail recreation on public lands, typically are remote, rugged backcountry journeys that include stunning scenery and challenging terrain. They are also characterized as having local community engagement and public land management cooperation.

The Fresno–Sauceda trail is a variation of ride No. 23 in the Big Bend Ranch Biking Guide, which is available on the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website and at the park. The trail winds from Lajitas up through Fresno Canyon in the eastern section of the park, with frequent climbs and steep descents. Parts of the trail are singletrack, while other sections retrace historic wagon roads, incorporating points of interest such as abandoned mines, turn-of-the-century ranch ruins and Native American archaeological sites.

Other popular rides in the park include the Contrabando Loop Trail, the singletrack Dome Trail, the road to the “Other Side of Nowhere” and the Solitario Inner and Outer Loop Trails, which lie within the remote Solitario, a collapsed volcanic dome and signature feature of the park.

“Within three to five years, Big Bend Ranch State Park could well become the mountain biking mecca of Texas, if not the United States,” says State Parks Deputy Director Dan Sholly. “Riders can customize their own trips in a 300,000-acre rugged landscape that is pure paradise for bikers.”

Because Big Bend Ranch State Park is extremely remote and rugged, planning is crucial. Riders should obtain detailed information about the park and the biking trails before going. Some visitors may want guide services and/or support vehicles. It is critically important to carry enough water. Hard-soled hiking shoes are helpful for “hike-a-biking” up some of the steep hills. A GPS unit/compass and a good map are critical, and tubeless tires or Slime tubes (with spares) are recommended. Travel information is available on the park’s website. Booklets and detailed maps are available at the Sauceda ranger station and Barton Warnock visitor center.

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