Off-roading continues to gain popularity as one of America’s favorite forms of recreation. The number of Americans over the age of 6 who participated in off-roading increased from 281,000 in 2006 to 1,705,0000 in 2016, according to.(1) In the last three years alone, the number of participants has increased by five percent, making off-roading one of the top ten fastest-growing outdoor activities. If you’re looking to get into off-roading fun, there’s no better place to be than Texas. Here’s a guide to three of the top off-roading spots in the Lone Star State.
Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area
One of the most popular off-roading sites in the United States, Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area is located in East Texas, 130 miles from Dallas, 260 miles from Houston, and just five miles from the town of Gilmer. You may not be familiar with Gilmer, but it’s the birthplace of both Johnny Mathis and Don Henley. The park sits high in the Barnwell Mountains, where it draws off-road enthusiasts from in and out of state.
The park sprawls over 1,850 acres, and its trails were specifically designed for motorized off-roading enthusiasts. The trails were developed and are maintained by volunteer Texas Motorized Trails Coalition members as the TMTC’s first property. It features 140 miles of trails for recreational OHVs (off-highway vehicles), with 27 miles of challenging single-track trails for UTVs (utility vehicles/side-by-sides) and a less demanding 16-mile Adventure Trail for dirt bikers and ATV (all-terrain vehicle/quad) riders. All trails are mapped and rated, with signage posted. Some of the trails are rugged, so make sure your vehicle is equipped with durable tires, like BF Goodrich All-Terrain T/A KO2 tires. The climate is hot and humid in the summer and mild to cool in winter, with average highs of 93 degrees in July and average lows of 32 degrees in January, so dress accordingly. The park hosts primitive group camp sites, 20 RV sites, showers, a pavilion, a dump station, cabins, and bunkhouses. Concessions are available near the pavilion.
Hidden Falls Adventure Park
Competing closely with Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area for the claim to Texas’ top off-roading spot is Hidden Falls Adventure Park. The park is located about 60 miles northwest of Austin between Marble Falls and the community of Smithwick, birthplace of former Houston Oilers defensive end and AFL All-Star Dudley Meredith. Hidden Falls boasts over 200 miles of trails, including trails for 4x4s, ATVs, UTVs, and motorcycles. The climate and temperatures are similar to what you’ll find at Barnwell Mountain.
The park offers primitive tent sites, improved tent sites with electricity and water, primitive RV sites, 30/50 amp RV sites with full hookups, and bunkhouses with a two-night minimum. Becoming a Trail Park Member gets you 7-day-a-week access, discounts on camping and park services, and coverage of trail park rider fees for all individuals covered under your membership. Weekends feature special moonlight riding hours.
Another popular off-roading site in Texas is Katemcy Rocks, located near Mason about 115 miles from Austin and 250 miles outside of Dallas. Family-operated, the park is named after a rock formation that was once reportedly the camping grounds of Comanche Chief Ketemoczy (Katemcy), who signed a peace treaty that allowed German settlers in the area.
The park is covered by 800 acres of granite rock. This unique terrain, perfect for rock climbing lovers, has earned it the name “the Moab of Texas.” The park’s diverse topography offers something for all off-road skill levels, from easy to extreme, and all types of vehicles, including four-wheelers, stock vehicles, and extreme rock crawlers. Although, be sure to have tires that are durable enough for the terrain, like the Dick Cepek Extreme Country as shown above. Tougher trails have obstacles for advanced off-roaders. Lodging includes primitive camping, 30 amp and 50 amp RV hookups, and on-site cabins, as well as bed and breakfast and inn lodging in nearby Mason. The area is sunny 234 days a year, with July highs of 94 degrees and January lows of 34 degrees. This popular spot is only open to wheeling on select days, so plan ahead.