Lightly traveled roads and varied terrain make Big Bend a premier bicycling location. Over 100 miles of paved roads and 160 miles of backcountry dirt roads provide challenges for riders of all types and abilities. Bicyclists must be extremely cautious and well-prepared, but bicycling allows outstanding panoramic views unobstructed by a windshield. It also allows the bicyclist to see and hear some of the smaller wonders of Big Bend from a more intimate viewpoint.
Bicycling is allowed on any road within Big Bend National Park, but is not allowed off-road or on any trail.
Bicyclists must share the roads with vehicles and obey all traffic laws. Paved roads within the park are narrow and often have no shoulders. Bicyclists should take proper measures to stay safe, such as riding single-file, wearing bright and/or reflective clothing, and being away of their surroundings.
Traffic is sparse in summer and highest during March and early April and on holiday weekends throughout the year. Use extreme caution. A good map is essential. Maps and road guides are available at the Big Bend Natural History Association Book Store.
Weather is often pleasant year-round and rewarding trips are possible most days of the year. Cycling from May to September is more of a challenge due to high temperatures.
Many of the rides in Big Bend National Park are easier with a shuttle. A few suggestions follow. Check with a ranger for more information.
If you have a shuttle available:
Panther Junction to Rio Grande Village
Difficulty: Easy; Distance: 20 miles, paved; Time 1.5-2.5 hours
Although there are some hills the ride is mostly downhill as the elevation drops 1,900ft. over the course of the ride. Be wary of large motorhomes and trailers travelling this road, especially during fall, winter and spring. For a variation, ride to the Hot Springs Historic District on the 2-mile unpaved spur road 16 miles from Panther Junction. Your shuttle can meet you at either Rio Grande Village or the Hot Springs. The ride has outstanding views of the Sierras del Carmen and the Rio Grande in the distance.
Panther Junction to Rio Grande Village via the Glenn Springs Road
Difficulty: Moderate; Distance 10 miles paved, 25 miles unpaved; Time: 4-6 hours
Ride six miles toward Rio Grande Village on the paved road, then turn onto Glenn Springs Road. Follow it for 15 miles as it skirts the Chisos Mountains and leads to a desert spring before joining the River Road. Turn left and follow the River Road for 9.6 miles to its junction with the paved road. Turn right and ride on the paved road for 4 miles to Rio Grande Village.
Panther Junction to Castolon via the Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive
Difficulty: Strenuous; Distance: 35 miles, paved; Time: 3-6 hours
This ride travels through some of the most scenic terrain in the park. It skirts the Chisos Mountains and passes interesting geologic features and historic sites. Although the loss of elevation between Panther Junction and Castolon is 1,580ft., the terrain is challenging with many steep hills.
Old Ore Road
Difficulty: Strenuous; Distance: 26 miles, unpaved; Time: 4-6 hours
This ride is best taken from north to south for an easier ride and great views of the Chisos Mountains. The road is rough and rocky and the terrain is challenging. Park on the edge of the Dagger Flat Auto Trail at the north end of the Old Ore Road.
Last updated: September 14, 2017