I’ve ridden bikes and written about riding bikes all over the world, but there’s no place I prefer to pedal more than here in Texas. From the Chihuahuan Desert in West Texas to the Piney Woods in the East, the state boasts a diversity of terrain, an ever-evolving network of paved and dirt trails, and—if you’re hip to the gravel bike trend—more miles of dirt road than anywhere else in the nation. May is National Bike Month, so saddle up, amigos. These are some of the best bike rides in the Lone Star State.
The Northeast Texas Trail is a bucket list ride for any Texan. Utilizing decommissioned railroad bed, the mixed-surface trail is still a work in progress, but it will span 130 miles when fully completed, making it the fourth longest bicycle trail in the United States. Test out the trail with a casual but popular ride from the Chaparral Rail Trail trailhead in Farmersville to Wolfe City.
Surface: Gravel, Dirt, and Paved Roads and Trails
Distance: 22 miles round trip
In the fall of 2021, my buddies and I staved off our midlife crises by riding 200 miles of dirt roads from Castell to Junction—and back. The highlight? Kimble County Road 320, which traces the Llano River east of Junction. Leave your car at Schreiner Park and cross the Loop 481 truss bridge over the South Llano River. You’ll spin through a grove of oaks, splash across Johnson Fork Creek, and then enjoy miles of river valley views.
Surface: Portions of paved and dirt road
Distance: 33 miles out and back
I met my wife at a bike race in Fort Davis, so perhaps I’m biased, but I consider this West Texas town one of the state’s best for cycling. You can ride the iconic scenic loop through the Davis Mountains or climb up to the McDonald Observatory. My go-to is a jaunt along Skyline Drive, a ridgeline park road with views in every direction.
Surface: Paved Road
Distance: 14 miles out and back
Here’s how I plan on teaching my kids Texas history: Ride the hike and bike trail along the San Antonio River, which connects the city’s five missions (the Alamo, as well as the Concepcion, San Jose, San Juan, and Espada missions). Each is roughly 2.5 miles apart, with B-Cycle bike-share stations throughout. While the full length of the San Antonio River Walk is 15 miles, the mission section is 10 miles.
Surface: Paved Trail
Distance: 10 miles one way
There’s something for everyone at the Cypress Creek Trail system, northwest of Houston. The sandy, singletrack trails wind through a tall forest canopy, with smooth singletrack for novice riders and a series of technical obstacles for experienced shredders. Adrenaline junkies can even hit a series of jumps—full-face helmet recommended.
Surface: Singletrack Trail
Distance: 9.5 miles with options for varying loops
Austin-based writer Ian Dille is the author of The Cyclist’s Bucket List, and estimates he’s ridden more than 150,000 miles in Texas. His latest story for Texas Highways, “A Ripple In Still Water,” appears in the magazine’s May 2022 issue.