Heading to Texas for an overland adventure? You're in for a treat! Let's dive in and discover the best routes and trails this grand state has to offer.

Is Texas a Good Place for Overlanding?

Absolutely! Texas isn't just big; it's also incredibly diverse. With iconic landmarks like The Alamo and the breathtaking Big Bend National Park, Texas is a treasure trove of experiences. But there's more to Texas than just sightseeing.

Picture this: a state with an ever-changing landscape, featuring everything from alpine mountains to dormant volcanoes, canyons, and beaches. It's a dream for campers and overlanders alike. And with Texas being the second-largest state in the U.S., covering 268,597 square miles, you'll never run out of new places to explore.

In 2018, over 72.5 million people visited Texas from out-of-state, drawn by its rich culture, food, music, and wildlife. But how does overlanding fit into this picture, especially with Texas known for its extensive private lands?

Navigating Texas' Overlanding Scene

While Texas does have vast private lands, mainly used for ranching, it also offers public lands for adventurers. The U.S. Forest Service manages over 675,000 acres of public land in Texas, which is about 4.2% of the state's total land area. While this may seem small, in Texas, it's quite significant.

However, unlike other states, Texas has minimal BLM land due to its unique history. When Texas joined the union in 1845, it kept control over most of its land. This uniqueness can make finding trails a bit challenging for those unfamiliar with the area, but plenty of options are still available.

Where to Start Your Overland Journey in Texas

Not sure where to begin? We've got you covered with the top ten overlanding routes in Texas. Whether you're looking for a weekend getaway or a longer adventure, these trails offer a variety of landscapes and experiences for every overlander.


Top Ten Overlanding Spots in Texas

1. Barnwell Mountains: A Must-Visit for Overlanders

Barnwell Mountains: A Must-Visit for Overlanders

Nestled atop East Texas's Barnwell Mountains, the Barnwell Recreation Area is a top pick for overlanding enthusiasts. Managed by the Texas Motorized Trails Coalition (TMTC), this spot has earned its fame as one of Texas's premier overlanding destinations.

Since its inception in 2000, the Barnwell Recreation Area in Gilmer boasts over 27 miles of diverse trails perfect for both overlanding and off-roading. These trails, mapped and cared for by TMTC volunteers, offer a raw and authentic experience. They're not your polished, easy-going paths, so prepare for some rugged adventures. The challenge level varies, so whether you're looking for an adrenaline-filled ride or a milder journey, there's a path for you – including a 16-mile trail for those preferring a gentler adventure.

The area is open to a variety of vehicles, from dirt bikes and UTVs to OHVs, ensuring no one misses out. The terrain here is a mix, from easy roads to challenging sections with steep inclines, muddy stretches, and rugged paths. The real charm lies in the surrounding woods and rolling mountains, adding to the area's allure.

For those planning an extended stay, primitive campsites are available. They're basic but adequate, accommodating vehicles of all sizes. While these sites lack amenities like water hookups and showers, you'll find these facilities at nearby rental camps.

In summary, Barnwell Recreation Area is a fantastic choice for overlanders at any skill level, offering a mix of terrains and experiences in the heart of East Texas's beautiful landscapes. However be aware that an entry fee is required and it depends on your vehicle type.

Check out more information at 

Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area


2. Black Gap Road: A Jeep Badge of Honor Trail

Black Gap Road: A Jeep Badge of Honor Trail

Get ready for an unforgettable overlanding journey on Black Gap Road in Big Bend National Park. Not just another trail, Black Gap Road is a challenge-seeker's paradise with its rough, unmaintained paths and stunning views. It's so impressive, it earned a Jeep Badge of Honor Trail award – a prestigious recognition shared only with one other trail in Texas, the Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport.

Black Gap Road isn't just for the off-road enthusiasts; it's a favorite among overlanders too. Stretching between Glenn Springs Road and River Road, this remote trail offers a thrilling ride on primitive roads. The payoff? Spectacular views that make every bump worth it.

3. Mustang Island Beaches: A Coastal Overlanding Adventure

Mustang Island Beaches: A Coastal Overlanding Adventure

Imagine miles of beautiful beaches along the Gulf of Mexico. That's Mustang Island Beaches in Texas – a picture-perfect setting for your next overland trip. Spanning from Corpus Christi to Port Arkansas, these beaches offer more than just stunning views. They're near Mustang Island Park, meaning adventure is always at hand, whether you're solo or with loved ones.

Driving along these 18 miles of beach is as breezy as beach driving gets. It's a unique experience where you can soak in the sun, sea, and sand right from your vehicle. And when you're ready to stretch your legs, the crystal-clear waters are inviting. Beyond driving, there's a world of activities to dive into – think surfing, camping, kayaking, or bird-watching.

4. River Road: Texas' Scenic Marvel

River Road: Texas' Scenic Marvel

Welcome to River Road, a route so scenic it's hailed as Texas' most picturesque drive. Nestled in Terlingua, this 51-mile journey is a visual feast. It winds through Big Bend State Ranch park and along the Rio Grande, offering views you won't find anywhere else in the Lone Star State.

Though beautiful, River Road is not for the faint-hearted. It's a moderate challenge, best tackled with a 4x4 and a sense of adventure. Forget the idea of a monotonous desert drive; River Road is a kaleidoscope of landscapes waiting to be discovered.

5. Old Ore OHV Road

Old Ore OHV Road

Nestled in the heart of Big Bend National Park, the Old Ore OHV Road is a 27-mile trail of moderate challenge near Terlingua. It's an ideal spot for off-roading and horseback riding. Despite its popularity, you'll often find it quiet, offering a private adventure.

Completing this trail can take around 11 hours and 25 minutes without stops. Though shorter than many trails, its captivating landscapes make every minute worthwhile. The road, mainly bumpy with a few tricky spots, is perfect for 4x4 vehicles. Keep an eye out for steep ledges and complex paths. Don't miss a visit to McKinney Springs – it's a must-see!

6. Bolivar Peninsula: A Beach Overlander's Dream

Bolivar Peninsula: A Beach Overlander's Dream

Texas boasts many beach driving experiences, with the Bolivar Peninsula at the top of the list. This narrow land stretch in Galveston, dividing Galveston Bay from the Gulf of Mexico, offers 27 miles of driveable beach, showcasing stunning coastal views.

The Bolivar Peninsula, including Crystal Beach, draws tourists for its beauty and array of beach activities. Whether it's picnicking, swimming, surfing, or sunbathing, there's endless fun. Accessible via crossroads off Hwy 87, the sandy terrain is a breeze for any robust vehicle.

7. Old Maverick OHV Route

If you're new to overlanding, the Old Maverick OHV Route in Terlingua is your perfect start. This 12.6-mile trail, stretching between Maverick Junction and Santa Elena Canyon, is moderately easy but offers enough challenge to keep things interesting.

The trail is mostly passable with a sturdy 2WD, despite being rough in places. Rain can make it trickier, but it's generally navigable. It's a serene drive, often with few other travelers, making for a peaceful journey.

8. Glenn Spring OHV Trail Adventures

In Big Bend National Park, not far from Terlingua, you'll find the Glenn Spring OHV Trail. Stretching for about 26 miles, this trail offers a moderately challenging ride that's perfect for a day out. While it's mostly flat, be prepared for some rocky patches. You'll need a vehicle with good clearance to get through. Set aside about seven hours to enjoy the full trail. What's great about Glenn Spring is its connection to other trails, like Black Gap Road, making your overlanding experience even richer.

9. Sam Houston National Forest

Just 50 miles north of Houston is the Sam Houston National Forest, one of Texas's four national forests. Managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, this forest spans over 163,000 acres across Huntsville, Conroe, Cleveland, and Richards. It's a prime spot for a variety of outdoor activities. Whether you're into hiking, camping, fishing, horse riding, or overlanding, this forest has something for everyone.

10. Hidden Falls Adventure Park

Over in Marble Falls, the Hidden Falls Adventure Park awaits with some of Texas's best overlanding trails. Covering more than 2000 acres, this park offers a moderately challenging terrain that's ideal for off-road vehicles. Despite its name, Hidden Falls is far from a secret. It's a popular spot, so expect to meet fellow adventurers as you explore the trails.

 FAQ about Overlanding in Texas

What Equipment Do I Need for Overlanding in Texas?

When prepping for overlanding in Texas, your priority should be a reliable vehicle with good clearance and off-road capabilities. This is crucial, especially for trails with rocky sections like those in Glenn Spring OHV Trail. Another important gear is Rooftop tent. A comfortable rooftop tent improves your overlanding experience largely. You can always check out Benehike's Rooftop tent, whether you want a hardshell or softshell, we have you covered. You'll also need basic camping gear, as many trails offer spots to camp and enjoy the natural surroundings. Don't forget to pack enough water, food supplies, and a first aid kit. Navigation tools, whether a GPS device or traditional maps, are essential too. Lastly, considering Texas' varying weather, bring clothing suitable for both warm days and cooler nights.

Are There Any Overlanding Community Groups in Texas?

Yes, Texas has a vibrant overlanding community with several groups and clubs. These communities are great for beginners and experienced overlanders alike. They organize group trips, share tips and advice, and are a fantastic way to learn about lesser-known trails and safety practices. Online platforms like Facebook and Meetup are good places to start looking for these groups. Joining these communities can enhance your overlanding experience through shared knowledge and camaraderie.

What’s the Best Time of Year to Go Overlanding in Texas?

The best time for overlanding in Texas largely depends on the region and your personal preference. Generally, spring (March to May) and fall (September to November) are ideal as the weather is more temperate. Summers can be extremely hot, especially in areas like Big Bend National Park, which might not be comfortable for everyone. Winter offers a unique experience, though some trails might be less accessible. Always check local conditions and trail closures before planning your trip, regardless of the season.


Michael Chong