15 Off-Road Trails Near Houston That You Must Try!

Have you purchased a shiny, new off-road vehicle but don’t have enough time to make the trip to the best trails in the country? Well, you’re in luck because Houston (and Texas as a whole) has some of the best trails for off-roading enthusiasts of every skill level. 

So, are you ready to start your off-roading adventure? Before leaving, you need to purchase an OHV sticker or permits (depending on the trail), so that your trip will be hassle-free. Also, you need to stock up on supplies as these trails are in remote locations. Aside from that, you should bring a winch, and other recovery gear as some trails in this list are very muddy or has soft sand.

Are you excited to discover which trail you can explore this weekend? Read more below!

Black Gap Road

Difficulty: Moderate to Hard

Trail Length: 8.6 miles

Trail Time: Around 2 hours

Terrain: Dirt and rock

Black Gap Road inside the Big Bend National Park has the distinction of being the only Jeep Badge of Honor Trail; and arguably the most well-known off-road trail in the state of Texas. Connecting Glenn Springs Road with River Road, Black Gap is perhaps the most remote un-maintained road in the park, providing scenic views of the Chisos Mountain Range as well as wide-open vistas of the Chihuahuan Desert. For those looking to experience Texas at its best, Black Gap Road is an absolute must-do!

Bolivar Peninsula

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 24.5 miles

Trail Time: Around 3 hours

Terrain: Sand and beach

Rarely can one find a place that appeals to such a diverse range of personalities and interests as the Bolivar Peninsula.

Port Bolivar on the western tip of the peninsula houses the Bolivar Flats Shorebird Sanctuary, easily accessible by walking from the west end of the off-road beach. Some may even prefer to set up camp for the night on the beach and walk through the sanctuary during twilight hours.

For those party-goers looking for a thrilling atmosphere, the beaches along the central Crystal Beach portion of the Bolivar Peninsula will surely be pleased. So, you should plan to camp the night at the Crystal Beach washout and let the party start!

Moving eastward from Caplan, Rollover Pass – a man-made pass through Bolivar Peninsula – earned its name as smugglers used this narrow strip of land between the Gulf of Mexico and Galveston Bay, to “roll” their barrels of good across to awaiting recipients up through the Prohibition Era. This pass provides second-to-none fishing as a fish pass through when the tides move.

High Island and Gilchrist on the western edge show the effects and ruins of past hurricanes, notably the most recent Hurricane Ike, and provide cause for a moment of reflection.

Bryan Beach

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 3.6 miles

Trail Time: Around 30 minutes

Terrain: Sand and beach

Popular with local fishers and beachgoers, Bryan Beach, along with the adjoining Quintana Beach, provides an enjoyable alternative destination from nearby more heavily trafficked beaches. Tides permitting, following the beach to its farthest western edge, also allows access to excellent fishing and delightful camping options at the mouth of the Brazos River. The natural state of the beach also provides opportunities for collecting driftwood for those interested in crafting with natural beach relics.

Christmas Mountain

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 5.6 miles

Trail Time: Around 1 hour

Terrain: Sand, dirt, and rock

For those Big Bend visitors looking for ‘exclusivity’ in trail access along with the most stunning views at elevation, a trip up Christmas Mountain is a must. Limited to only two small groups up the mountain per day – one in the morning and one in the afternoon – access to the most scenic views in the region are managed through Terlingua Ranch Lodge. Plan accordingly, though, as space atop Christmas Mountain is very limited – large enough for only a few vehicles.

Follett’s Island Beach

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 10 miles

Trail Time: Around 1 hour

Terrain: Sand and beach

Follett’s Island Beach provides beach lovers and overland excursionists an opportunity to enjoy a 10 mile stretch of beach within proximity of services and amenities, all within a reasonable drive from the Houston major metropolitan region.

Unlike the neighboring beaches, Follett’s Island Beach permits year-round camping, and of course, sunbathers, fisherfolk, and kayakers also enjoy recreation along the beach. Those exploring Follett’s Island Beach will also appreciate the relative quiet of the midsections of Follett’s Island Beach, compared to the densely populated neighboring beaches during peak season times.

Lost Highway 87

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 20.8 miles

Trail Time: Around 2 hours

Terrain: Sand, rock, and beach

Of all the beach runs in Texas, the Lost Highway 87 run offers an eerie reminder of the destructive damage and erosion caused by past storms. What was once a state highway lined with homes and businesses is now mere scattered ruins along a narrowly passable 20 mile stretch of beach. Awareness of the tide charts is key to making the run comfortably and legally along the shoreline.

Running from Sabine Pass in Jefferson County to High Island on the Bolivar Peninsula in Galveston County, the “Lost Highway 87” runs primarily along McFaddin Beach. Adding to the mystic of the run is the fact that the mid-sections along McFaddin Beach are (albeit illegally) visited by those enjoying nude sunbathing during the warmer months. However, local custom courtesy does require those sunbathers to cover with a towel as approaching traffic make their way down the beach. Still, one may wish to use discretion when bringing children on the run during peak summer months.

Matagorda Beach

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 23.3 miles

Trail Time: Around 3 hours

Terrain: Sand and beach

Popular with fishers, shell collectors, kayakers, paddleboarders, 4WD 4×4 off-road enthusiasts, and beachcombers, Matagorda Island offers up 23 miles of accessible beach with a wide variety of sand and shell terrain. Whether you’re looking to lay under the sun with a large group of friends or find a secluded spot to camp for the weekend, you’re sure to find just the right place on the island. Notable gathering and fishing spots include the large, sandy area at the Three Mile Cut, the western edge of the island out on the jetties, as well as the eastern edge of the island at the intracoastal waterway cut. Be sure to note the abandoned ruins of the destroyed piers along the way, random items washed up after a massive storm, and who knows what you’ll see along the ‘nude beach’ stretch.

Old Ore Road

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 26.7 miles

Trail Time: Around 3 hours

Terrain: Rocky and dirt

Old Ore Road is a very picturesque 4×4 trail found in Big Bend National Park. The road is about 26 miles long and was used in the early 1900s to move ore from Mexican mines to the Marathon railroad station. The Old Ore Road generally follows along the route once used by mules and pack trains from a century ago. It’s one of the most popular primitive dirt roads inside the Big Bend National Park.

The road is very rocky and sandy, so it’s perfect for off-roading. Also, the speed limit is set at 25 mph. It’s a long, scenic road that provides breathtaking views of the hills and mountains to the east. If you want to explore the area entirely, you should allow a half-day or more for the trip. Passing through the base of the Dead Horse Mountains, the Old Ore Road requires a high-clearance vehicle, so four-wheel drive vehicles are strongly recommended due to some extremely rugged terrain. The road also has excellent views of the Chisos Mountains from the other side of the Tornillo Creek drainage to the western side. Ernst Tinaja, five miles away from the southern portion of the trail, is a famous destination.

Proper preparation is needed to ensure that you have a safe, enjoyable trip on this trail. Because the area is pretty remote, you should take special care to make sure that your vehicle is ready for the journey. Be sure that you have your spare tire and that your tires are in good condition. You will most likely find sharp rocks, mud, deep sand, very steep ups and downs. Do not consider doing this in a passenger car

Padre Island National Seashore

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 60.2 miles

Trail Time: Around 4 hours

Terrain: Sand and beach

Padre Island National Seashore is a public beach situated on Padre Island off the coast of Southern Texas. Compared to South Padre Island, famous for its beaches and crowds of college students, PINS is found on North Padre Island and is made up of a long beach where nature is well-preserved.

Most of the park has no facilities, but camping is still available, and most of the beach can only be reached by 4WD vehicles. Also, only four miles of the park’s road is open to vehicle traffic. The park is also the fourth designated national seashore in the country.

North Padre Island is the longest preserved barrier island in the world. The national beach is 70 miles (110 km) long, with 65.5 miles (105.4 km) of Gulf beach. It also hosts a wide range of pristine beach, dune, and tidal flats, including the Laguna Madre on its west coast, a popular spot for windsurfing. Also, it lies in parts of Kenedy, Kleberg, and Willacy counties, with Kenedy County having the majority of its land area.

Without a doubt, the drive on Padre Island National Seashore (PINS) is among the most iconic overland runs in Texas. Sixty miles one-way, completing this out-and-back beach route of 120 miles will require a solid 7-8 hours, leading most to set camp along the beach.

Blue waters, beautiful dunes, countless bird species, sea turtle spottings, and excellent fishing are just some of the factors that are drawing visitors to visit the park. But you should be prepared for soft sand as even 4WD vehicles have been known to get stuck in the boggier sections.

Park Road 1 Hidden Falls Adventure Park

Difficulty: Difficult

Trail Length: 4.1 miles

Trail Time: Around 30 minutes

Terrain: Paved road and sand

It is the main park road through the adventuresome Hidden Falls Adventure Park and will lead you into many different trailheads that will have you enjoying a beautiful day on the trails. There are always friendly people and groups here that you will meet and can hook up with if you’re coming alone. As you travel this road, you will catch a glimpse of Wildcat Mountain. Wildcat Mountain will be directly in front of you as you enter camping Area B, and is the highest peak in the park at 1400 feet. Park Road 3 will lead you there for some spectacular views of the area and surrounding lakes, or you can take trails Jody’s Revenge or Penthouse for a more challenging route. Either way, Hidden Falls Adventure Park will leave you wanting to return over and over again.

Quintana Beach

Difficulty: Difficult

Trail Length: 2.2 miles

Trail Time: Around 30 minutes

Terrain: Sand

Left to nature as a “natural” beach, Quintana Beach, along with the adjoining Bryan Beach, provides an enjoyable alternative destination from nearby more heavily trafficked beaches. Tides will rarely prevent making the short journey along the beach to the 8th Street Pier. You should also prepare for a picnic and enjoy a day in the sun on Quintana Beach.

Creekside Off-road Ranch

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 3.2 miles

Trail Time: Around 1 hour

Terrain: Dirt and mud

Thirty-five miles northeast of Houston, you’ll find Creekside Offroad Ranch with miles of demanding trails covering around 350 acres. Sand, water, mud, and steep hills give 4WD enthusiasts the kind of adventure they are looking for. If you want to make it a weekend of endless fun, the ranch also offers full RV hookups for camping, showers, and restrooms. Although the area is only open weekends starting Fridays at noon and closing Sundays at 6 p.m., there are special events throughout the year for off-roading enthusiasts.

Xtreme Off-road Park and Beach

Difficulty: Moderate

Trail Length: 5 miles

Trail Time: Around 1 hour

Terrain: Mud, sand, and river crossings

Situated in Crosby, Texas, Xtreme Off-Road Park and Beach provides the perfect muddying for all off-roading activities. This privately-owned park has more than a hundred acres of deep mud bogs, forest trails, steep inclines, and several small lakes. So, you’ll surely have a lot of fun on the trails, at the beach, and in the mud. Also, you can go fishing, swimming, and picnicking at the park as well as bush camping (that means no amenities or hookups). This park is open every day, but the hours depend on the season.

General Sam’s ATV and Off-road Park

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Trail Length: 60 miles

Trail Time: Around 3-4 hours

Terrain: Dirt, mud, and river crossings

A luxurious, privately-owned park located north of Huntsville, Texas, General Sam’s has over 60 miles of trails through 706 acres of pine forest and across six spring-fed creeks. The park also has camping facilities that have electric hookups, showers, and restrooms, so you can make turn your trip into an exciting weekend away. If you want to host an off-roading convoy, the park also has a pavilion that will hold a large group of guests. To take care of your car after a muddy drive, General Sam’s has wash-down facilities and air-filling stations. You can also visit General Sam’s every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. But you should book your appointment from Tuesday through Thursday.

Sam Houston National Forest

Difficulty: Easy to Moderate

Trail Length: 85 miles

Trail Time: 6 hours

Terrain: Hardpack dirt

Sam Houston National Forest’s off-road trail is the only one of its type in the national forests and grasslands of Texas. The forest has 85 miles of excellent, multiple-use trails that can be used for off-roading, horseback riding, and other activities. With varying trail conditions including dirt, sand, mud, and creek-crossings, you’ll have a lot of fun off-roading whole-year round. Beware, though, after heavy rain, the trails are closed to reduce erosion.

Related Questions

What Is A Texas OHV Decal?

Texas OHV decals are $16 and are valid from Sept. 1 – Aug. 31 of the following year. OHV decals are prescribed by law for all people driving an OHV in Texas at a venue that allows driving one, which is located on the public lands of Texas, or on areas that have received OHV grants from the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department.

How High Can You Lift Your Truck In Texas?

According to Texas.gov, the maximum height of your vehicle can be no more than 14 feet in total. The height of the bumper is not specified, but the headlamps should be no more than 54 inches and not less than 24 inches from the ground.

Where Can I Buy A Texas OHV Decal?

Texas Parks & Wildlife Department sells the Texas OHV decal. You can obtain an OHV decal by calling 512-389-8917 or by visiting one of the locations which are reselling the OHV decal. A list of places where the OHV decal can be purchased can be found on the OHV “Where to Buy” web page.

Is ATV Insurance Required In Texas?

The simple answer is no. Since 2015, according to the Texas Department of Public Safety, ATV’s do not require insurance. All-Terrain Vehicles aren’t even needed to be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles.

Are ATVs Allowed On Texas Beaches?

ATVs are not allowed on the state parks and beaches around Padre Island. According to the National Park Service guidelines, beaches in Texas are “public-owned highways. Only street league and licensed vehicles” may be driven on the beaches.

Can I Ride My 4 Wheeler On The Road?

ATVs may be driven on a highway or road if allowed by law enforcement when conventional motor vehicles cannot be used for transportation due to snow or other extreme highway conditions. An individual may not operate a car on a public highway without a valid motor vehicle driver’s license.

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