Because of its immense size, you may think that there are lots of Overlanding opportunities in Texas. This however is not the case. Texas is actually not very overland friendly compared to other western states due to its lack of public lands.
Nevertheless, there are some areas you are allowed to go off-road. In this article, we discuss overlanding in Texas, what you need to do before you head out, and (of course) the best places to overland in Texas.
About Overlanding and Off-Roading in Texas
What’s to love about overlanding in Texas? Hands down, it’s the variety of landscapes you’ll encounter. You can off-road on the beach, in the mountains, and throughout the stunning landscapes of Big Bend National Park – all in one state. Because Texas is so diverse, you’ll find different terrain in nearly every area you explore.
Not only that, but Texas is a friendly state for overlanders. In 2006, Texas officials developed the Texas Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) Program to create safe and legal places to ride. Since then, many OHV sites have opened for off-road enthusiasts to traverse. Order your OHV decal before you head out!
Can You Overland in National and State Parks in Texas?
You might be wondering if you’re allowed to overland in the National and State Parks of Texas.
The short answer: absolutely!
In fact, some of the best overlanding routes in Texas are on public and state lands. For example, Big Bend National Park features multiple dirt roads throughout the vast landscape you can explore as you wish. These include Old Ore Road, Glenn Springs Road, River Road, and Black Gap Road.
Don’t own an off-road vehicle? No problem! Visit Big Bend offers overlanding tours in a 4WD Ford Excursion, in which you and your family will be the only passengers.
There are also plenty of OHV trails throughout the State Parks, such as Eisenhower State Park, Mustang Island State Park, and even the Sam Houston National Forest.
Whether you want a guided tour or to find your own route, you’ll have plenty of options in the Lonestar State.
Pro Tip: If you’re new to overlanding, it can be an intimidating camping option to consider! Ease your mind by reading What Is Overlanding All About? Why People Do It, and How
What Do I Need to Go Overlanding in Texas?
First and foremost, you’ll need a high clearance 4×4 vehicle such as a truck or SUV with larger tires and a heavy-duty suspension. This will allow you to venture into nearly all of the places we feature below.
You’ll also need to purchase an Off-Highway Vehicle Program (OHV) decal, which provides access to all the off-road trails under Texas’s OHV Program. You can find more information about this program and how to order your decal at Texas Parks & Wildlife.
Next, get the necessary gear and provisions for your trip. Will this be a multi-day camping excursion? If so, make sure you have plenty of food and water, as well as weather-appropriate clothing. You’ll also want to bring the tools and supplies you’d need in case of a flat tire or break down.
Remember, some of these trails go through very remote locations. Before heading out, be as prepared as possible and bring a device to communicate with civilization (not reliant on cell service) in case of an emergency.
Best Places to Go Overlanding in Texas
The following locations are some of the best places to overland in Texas. Not only are these areas diverse, but they also have plenty of activities to do and sights to see.
Let’s dive in!
Barnwell Recreation Area
Barnwell Recreation Area is a fantastic place to go overlanding in Texas. Located on Barnwell Mountain, you’ll find deep, rutted trails, steep hills, and even a few level roads–all within a beautiful wooded area.
While you can find a few easy routes throughout the trail system, most trails are moderate, with a few difficult ones in between. If you’re looking for a low-key adventure, stick with the Connecting Road and Main Road. However, if you want to test out your vehicle’s abilities, check out the steep incline of Green Lane.
Located in Gilmore, there’s plenty to do and see in the surrounding area. Gilmore is the home of the Cherokee Rose Festival each May and features a historical museum, antique shops, and endless sightseeing.
Are you looking for long stretches of drivable beach? Look no further! Located on the Bolivar Peninsula, Crystal Beach delivers with almost 25 miles of shoreline. Enjoy the day driving along the gulf coast, and at night, feel free to camp out at the Crystal Beach Washout. Just make sure your vehicle is up for the challenge – this sandy route has a moderately difficult rating.
While you’re there, you can bird-watch at the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, visit the Bolivar Lighthouse, and enjoy live music on the beach. There’s truly something for everyone on the Bolivar Peninsula.
Texas Hill Country Route
Located in southwestern, central Texas (near Fredericksburg), the Texas Hill Country route provides locals and visitors alike with miles of stunning land to explore. In fact, there are over 148 miles of dirt and gravel roads winding throughout the hills, mesas, and valleys of this area.
Keep in mind that most of the routes in this area are surrounded by private land. Always be respectful of private land when overlanding.
As for difficulty, the terrain of the Texas Hill Country route is not technically advanced but does feature several creek crossings under 18”. Just make sure your 4×4 vehicle has all-terrain tires and decent clearance, and you’re good to go!
Black Gap Road
Located in Big Bend National Park, Black Gap Road is one of Texas’s most popular off-road trails. In fact, it’s such a fantastic place to overland in Texas that Jeep gave it their Badge of Honor award.
As you drive through the amazing landscapes surrounding this route, you’ll see the views of the Chisos Mountain Range and the Chihuahuan desert. Its difficulty level is moderate, so bring a high clearance, 4×4 vehicle.
After you’ve explored the 8.5 miles of Back Gap Road, you can explore all that Big Bend National Park offers, including hiking, biking, and floating the Rio Grande.
Mustang Island Beaches
Yet again, Texas offers more beachfront off-roading opportunities, and we’re definitely not complaining! Located in Port Aransas, Mustang Island State Park has over 13 miles of beach trails ready for you to explore. These beaches are relatively easy to maneuver, providing overlanding newbies an excellent chance to get their feet wet (literally and figuratively).
You’ll also have plenty to do in this area, as both Corpus Christi and Port Aransas have plenty of restaurants, museums, and boutiques to explore. Off-roading, beaches, and good food? What’s not to love?
Pro Tip: Spend the night camping on the beach at one of these 7 Best Port Aransas RV Parks on the Beach.
Want to go really remote? Check out River Road OHV trail in Terlingua, Texas. This route is 51 miles long and located in the southern portion of Big Bend National Park. River Road is moderately difficult, and the National Parks Service recommends you have a high clearance 4×4 vehicle such as an SUV or a truck to explore this area.
While you’re touring this isolated part of Texas, you’ll have plenty to do. It won’t be hard to make the most of your trip between camping, fishing, hiking, birdwatching, and stargazing.
Old Ore OHV Road
Last but not least, Old Ore OHV Road is another fantastic place to go overlanding in Texas. Located in Big Bend National Park, Old Ore Road is moderately difficult and features 26.5 miles of off-road driving.
If you’re interested in exploring Big Bend National Park for days on end, you’ll be glad to know that there are various primitive roadside campsites along your way. Just prepare appropriately with plenty of gear and a 4×4 vehicle.
Pro Tip: Check out these 10 Best Spots for Camping in Houston perfect for a Texas adventure.
How to Plan Your Texas Off-Road Trip
Now that you’re an expert on overlanding in Texas, it’s time to plan your trip! After you’ve decided which location you’ll explore, research the weather and road conditions.
Ask yourself: Can my vehicle handle the terrain? Will I run into any severe weather events? What do I need to bring with me in case of emergencies?
After all, overlanding is only fun when you’re adequately prepared. Nevertheless, if you’re open to experience and plan accordingly, we don’t doubt that you’ll have an adventure of a lifetime in Texas!
What’s the best off-roading trip you’ve ever experienced? Let us know in the comments below!
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