Tag Archives: Terlingua Texas

Throwback Thursday: Terlingua, TX Mountain Bike Trail Review

Being a full-time adventurer, Jeff sometimes has difficulty carving out time for his trail review posts! What follows is a Throwback Thursday post:  his review of the mountain biking trails near Terlingua Texas, from our stay in the Big Bend area last February!

Terlingua Mountain Biking, Big Bend Ranch State Park, Texas

img_3603.jpgAfter posting the more intense downhill mountain biking of Whistler, it seemed prudent to post about most of my mountain biking adventures which entail cross-country excursions. Downhill mountain biking is predominantly for adrenalin junkies, although you can spend the day on more mellow downhill pathways provided you stick with the green beginner runs. Terlingua, located directly between Big Bend National and State Parks in south Texas, boasts a thriving population of 58. Every year in February they host the Chihuahuan Desert Mountain Bike Fest where mountain bikers from all over the country explore their many trails at Terlingua and Big Bend State Park. Although we happened to be there about the same time, they capped the event at 500 riders, and unfortunately I was not able to participate. However, the trails prior to the event were very well groomed so it was a fabulous time to explore the trails and a great time to be there given the weather.

Big Bend State Park also happens to be the one of the select places in the US to achieve an Epic Trail designation by the International Mountain Bike Association. Less than 50 places in the US and Canada have that trail designation, so my applause to the Chihuahuan Desert riders who made this happen. IMBA’s Epic, better known as the Fresno-Sauceda Loop, totals 59 miles, although there are many, many more miles of rugged desert single track throughout the area. Although a portion of my exploration entailed the Epic Trail, my focus was mainly on the Dome, East Contraband, and Fresno Divide Loops. The Dome Loop was 19.8 miles and the Fresno Divide Loop was another 9.4 miles. My longest single day was about 23 miles. I also spent time the first day on the Terlingua trails which produced another 16 miles of riding. Overall, after multiple days of riding, I managed to complete 70 miles of trails doing various loops around the two areas. Except for a trail maintenance day in preparation for the event, which yielded a handful of people, I never saw anyone on the trails. This was not due to lack of riders because cars were present at the trailheads, but rather the vast desert environment.



These rides were about solitude and self-reliance. If you venture out, you better be prepared to fix a flat or other mechanical mishaps that may come up. Otherwise, you may have a very long walk back to the car. The scenery was visually stimulating, yielding barren mountains in the background, set among a prickly arid environment. Occasionally I would see a rabbit hopping about, but generally did not see any wildlife during the day. Most wildlife in the desert travels at night, which is fine by me. I managed to see a Bobcat in the distance scurrying across the trail one day and a coyote on another. If you ride out here you better bring plenty of water because the desert literally sucks the moisture out of your body with every pedal stroke. The sun was relentless, but during February the temperatures were not too hot even under direct sun (running about 75 during the day). The riding was mainly intermediate level, but there were occasional technical sections to keep it interesting.

Signs were found occasionally on the trail system which provided history of the area. For instance, one of the signs spoke about the red cinnabar ore (mercury sulfide), which was mined from the 1900s to about 1947. The cinnabar ore was extracted from the ground and cooked in small furnaces until the mercury was distilled out. Little was known about the detrimental health effects of mercury at the time. Harris Smith, owner of the (now defunct) Chisos Mining Company in Terlingua, enjoyed great success with the mine, but it came with a price. Smith was plagued by mercury poisoning, a common ailment among mercury mine workers.  In the 1970s he recalled that “every tooth in my head became loose, and I could no longer eat solid food.” He went on to say, “My diet consisted of bean soup, crackers, coffee, and mouthwash.”

One day I rode deep enough (about 10 miles in) into Big Bend State Park to see one of the abandoned mine processing facilities. There were little support buildings which skirted the mine area, and it was here that I noticed a fairly recent pile of scat on the ground. The scat pile was a little larger than what a large dog would produce, but the shape was similar. What made this scat unique was that it contained a considerable amount of hair. It was definitely something I had not seen before being from Florida, so I snapped a picture for further investigation since my curiosity was peaked. After completing my loop and returning to the car, I dropped by the Ranger Station to ask them what it was. The Ranger asked where I saw this, and I provided the location. He stated, “Yeah, there are some big cats up in that area.” From that point forward I was a little more diligent in constantly surveying my surroundings. I also decided to carry an easily-accessible whistle and knife. Don’t know if either one would ward off a mountain lion, but I felt better having those items ready.

The riding in Terlingua and Big Bend State Park yielded some excellent scenery, some great desert riding, and some interesting wildlife. This one will be on my list again and I highly recommend it!



Big Bend Adventures Part 3: State Park and surrounding towns

IMG_3603To the west of the Big Bend National Park is the nearly-as-large Big Bend Ranch State Park. This park has fewer paved roads and is known primarily for its 4 wheel drive “roads” and multi use trails (equestrian, hiking, and mountain biking).  Back in the trails you’ll find remnants of mining and ranching structures. There are a few short and easily-accessible hikes to features such as hoodoos, the Rio Grande river, and a closed canyon. Jeff spent several days mountain biking on the trails, but he’ll have to do his own post on that!

IMG_3585The paved road on the south side of the park parallels the Rio Grande River and is a beautiful drive, or motorcycle ride. Driving all the way through to the other side brings you out to the small town of Presidio, Texas. It is known as a border crossing town (accessing the town of  Ojinaga, Chihuahua, Mexico) and for frequently being the hottest town in the US during the summer. There’s not much else going on there.

The south visitor’s center contains an informative exhibit describing the geological history, flora and fauna of the area. At the northwest entrance (near Presidio),  you find the historic site of Fort Leaton, a well preserved fortified adobe compound. If offers a glimpse into the turbulent days when the fort served as defensive outpost and supply station in the wilderness on the Rio Grande.

Entrance to the park is $5 per person, per day and includes access to all features and the Fort.

Between the two Parks lies the town of Terlingua, TX. Known for it’s “ghost town” ruins, it was formerly a mining town. The ruins are remnants of worker housing. Some of the remnants have been restored and incorporated into modern buildings. One historic building that remains in use is the Terlingua trading company, the former mining company store. At the time, the store was the most fully stocked establishment between San Antonio and El Paso, serving the needs of the minors and surrounding community. It also harkens back to the time when miners were paid in “scrip” redeemable only at this store.  The town also hosts a self-proclaimed “world’s best chili cook off” in November of each year. Visiting as we did in February, I can’t judge the validity of this claim.

About 70 miles north of Terlingua lies the town of Alpine, situated at an elevation of over 4400 feet. Alpine has the closest supermarket, fast food restaurant, and movie theater. It also is the home to the Museum of the Big Bend, a small but information-rich museum about the area’s history. Located on the campus of the Sul Rose University, admission to the museum is free.

Two weeks here has allowed us to explore this area and we are moving on to a new location: Las Cruces, New Mexico!

Campground Review: Big Bend Resort & Adventures, Study Butte, TX


  • Name: Big Bend Resort & Adventures
  • Dates of stay: Feb 5-19, 2018
  • Location: Terlingua / Study Butte Tx (near Big Bend National Park)
  • Type of campground: Private / Independent
  • Cost: $33 / night, FHU back in site
  • Additional fees: Showers $2 / 6 minutes
  • Stay limit: none
  • Accepts mail / packages: yes
  • Cell reception: cell OK, data slow
  • Website: http://www.bigbendresort.com/
  • Pros: Good value, proximity to Big Bend area parks
  • Cons: mineral-y tasting water, desert heat in summer

Full Review

Big Bend National Park is one of the least visited national parks for good reason — it’s out in the middle of nowhere. As a result, there aren’t too many RV parks to choose from if you want to be close to the park. But, fortunately, Big Bend Resort & Adventures is quite an adequate campground to stay at while exploring the region. The campground is located conveniently between the National Park and the Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Since this is a “resort” with a few hotel rooms (along with the RV park), the park offers a restaurant, game room, gift shop, and small general store along with the usual coin laundry facility and restrooms/showers. The resort also offers tours and horseback riding excursions. A gas station is conveniently located on site.

All of these facilities are basic/limited, as one might expect given the isolated nature of the area. If you want to take a shower in the bath house, it will cost you $2 for 6 minutes! I understand that’s not unusual for a desert resort, but it was the first time we had encountered pay showers. I perused the laundry room ($2.00/load), but half of the machines were out of order. Fortunately, we have both shower and laundry equipment in our bus and don’t have to pay extra or rely on the campground facilities!

The campground has 120 campsites, with spaces suitable for all rig sizes. Our gravel site was back-in this time, but the internal roadway is very wide, allowing us to maneuver into the site with no problem.  Our campsite was wide enough to allow us to park our truck next to the bus. It is desert camping – no fire ring (burn ban in the area) and our site did not have a picnic table (some did). We had the usual full hook ups with 50 amp electric service, water and sewer connections. Being in the desert, the water had a distinct mineral taste which Jeff did not like. We bought bottled water for drinking.

I was initially faked out by the site’s cable box and excitedly hooked up our never-before-used cable, only to find that cable TV is currently offered only to the hotel rooms. If you don’t have satellite TV, you will get absolutely no channels! The area is too far away from civilization to pick up any digital over the air channels. Free wifi was available, but only in the game room. However, our AT&T cell signal was surprising adequate, so long as you are in or near the small town. The data connection was accessible, but slow. Once you venture into the park, you are pretty much off the grid.

The nearest big box store is miles away, but there is a small grocery store down the road as well as a bicycle outfitter. You can get the basics, but it is advisable to stock up before you head this direction. We stayed overnight at the Super WalMart in Fort Stockton and did our shopping there before heading south the next day.

The campground accepts Good Sam discount, but our weekly rate was a better deal at $33/night. There aren’t a lot of frills and no planned activities, but Big Bend Resort provides a reasonably-priced base camp from which to explore the Big Bend area. This IS the desert and gets unreasonably hot in the summer time. We were here in February and the desert sun was still quite warm some days. It’s best to visit in the winter time.

Bottom Line: Basic full hook up site at a reasonable cost near the Big Bend.