El Paso and West Texas Motorcycle Rides

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Way out in West Texas, an inexactly defined region found west of the Hill Country and the Central Plains, lies a mosaic of arid and semi-arid landscapes that contain some of the grandest views and greatest motorcycle rides in the entire state of Texas. As REVER’s resident Texan I can tell you with confidence that you will not regret putting West Texas towards the top of your list when it comes to the must-ride regions of the Lone Star State. Exploring new regions and navigating exciting routes is easy with REVER. Just download the app, select your route and hit the road!

Tips for Riding In El Paso And The West Texas Desert

If there’s one thing you should be prepared for when it comes to riding in West Texas, it is of course, the summer heat. A few years ago I made the interesting decision to ride across the American southwest in mid-July. As I rode past Van Horn and Sierra Blanca on Interstate 10, the ambient air temperature readout on my gauge cluster wavered between 109 and 113 degrees. I survived, but not without consuming several camelbacks full of water and stopping every so many miles to douse my head and undershirt in cool water. That being said, it is possible to ride West Texas on hot summer days, but in order to stay comfortable and enjoy the experience as much as possible we recommend riding during the morning hours (high temperatures can linger late into the evening). Carrying water with you is a necessity, as is protective gear suitable for hot weather. If you’re coming up short on high temp riding gear, consider picking up a hydration system and take a look at some well-regarded summer riding jackets. A little gear goes a long way. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to any exposed areas of skin!

Mt. Livermore Loop

Starting off northeast of Fort Davis on Highway 17, this roughly 110 mile route cuts a curving and scenic path around Mt. Livermore, the most isolated mountain peak in Texas and the state’s fourth-highest with a summit rising to over 8,300ft. This ride is approachable for riders of most any skill/experience level, just always be sure to ride within your limits.

From the route’s starting point, ride southwest along Highway 17 as it follows the twists and turns of Limpia Creek. Before long you’ll be rolling into Fort Davis. The town of Fort Davis originated as a frontier military outpost, built in 1854 to protect emigrants and commerce during the Indian Wars. Today, the Fort Davis National Historic Park is home to what is considered one of the best surviving examples of this kind of military outpost. Visitors only need about 1-2 hours to explore and enjoy the Fort Davis National Historic Park, which is home to over 20 restored buildings, 100 ruins, hiking trails that offer excellent views of the park and surrounding Davis Mountains, and more. You can learn more and plan your visit via the Fort Davis National Historic Park website. Another place in town worth stopping at is the Fort Davis Drug Store. This charming restaurant/hotel has been serving the community since 1931 and is an ideal spot along this route for breakfast or lunch.

After topping off your tank in Fort Davis, ride southwest on 17 for a short ways before turning onto State Highway 166. This easy going road will bring you west until you are directly south of Mt. Livermore, at which point rolling curves will begin appearing more frequently. As 166 begins to draw a sweeping circle around the isolated mountain peak, you will be pointed north and then northeast towards Hwy 118. There are many opportunities along this loop to stop and enjoy the view - Don’t hesitate to do so! Once rolling southeast on 118, a long section of very scenic and twisting road paves the way back towards town. Enjoy the ride as you carve lines through the high desert of West Texas! Arriving back in Fort Davis, you can make a stop for lunch or dinner at one of the many fine places to eat, and/or check out the Fort Davis National Historic Park if you didn’t during your first time through town.

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Fort Davis National Historic Park provides a glimpse of nineteenth century West Texas.
The rugged mountain ranges of West Texas provide a unique backdrop for the desert scenery.

Big Bend National Park Loop

Departing from the town of Alpine before winding a stunningly scenic route through Big Bend National Park and along the Texas-Mexico border, this 355 mile route in the Chihuahuan Desert is suitable for more experienced riders who are looking to get a full day of exploring under their belt in the farthest reaches of West Texas. This route can also easily be made into a two-day trip with an overnight stay in Terlingua - There’s so much to see and experience in Big Bend that this might just be the best way to make the most out of this route! If your motorcycle has a limited range (<120 miles), consider carrying some extra fuel with you via a fuel bladder or RotopaX, just so that you won’t have to worry about running out of gas may you decide to do a bit of extra exploring between gas stations.  Given the altitude and dry climate, be sure to begin hydrating days in advance and definitely pack in more than enough water for a full day on the bike. We strongly advise against riding this route during the summer, as the combination of extreme heat and sun exposure can be very dangerous. On a long route such as this, it’s also never a bad idea to pack a lunch or at least a few snacks that you can break out while stopping at different points along the route.

Start off your day in Alpine with breakfast at Magoo’s Place before topping off your gas tank and water storage. Head east on US 90 for about 30 miles, then turn onto US 385 and begin your journey south to the border. Before long the landscape around you will become virtually void of man-made objects and the natural grandeur of the Chihuahuan Desert, considered the most ecologically diverse desert in the Western Hemisphere, will be yours to take in from all around you. US 385 will bring you through the northern boundary of Big Bend National Park via Persimmon Gap. Once on park land, continue south on 385 towards Panther Junction. Along the way you’ll have the opportunity to stop at the Big Bend Fossil Discovery Exhibit, which is located just off of the main road. After reaching Panther Junction, check out the park’s main visitors center to learn a bit about the national park and everything it has to offer you during your visit. You can also pre-plan your visit via the Big Bend National Park website, which always has up-to-date information on any park closures. From Panther Junction ride east on Park Road 12 towards the Hot Springs Historic District and Rio Grande Village, where you can soak in the hot springs beside the Rio Grande River and explore the remains of an old settlement tied to mining operations just across the Texas-Mexico border.

After saddling back up, backtrack to Panther Junction and continue west on Maverick Dr through Basin Junction. The route then cuts south via Ross Maxwell Scenic Dr, just west of Panther Peak and Lost Mine Peak. A long series of twists and turns will lead you through the rugged landscape of Big Bend back to the Rio Grande river. Shortly before reaching the Rio Grande you will come across the Castolon Historic District, which makes a great place to stop and enjoy a snack and drink in the shade with your riding buddies. From Castolon, continue west on Ross Maxwell Scenic Dr as it curves and bends along the banks of the Rio Grande. After about 8 miles there will be a pullout that leads to the Saint Elena Canyon Overlook - Don’t miss out on this view! Just beyond the pullout, Ross Maxwell Scenic Dr will terminate at a trailhead that gives access on foot to Terlingua Creek, the Rio Grande river and the trails of Saint Elena Canyon.

Once back on your bike take Old Maverick Rd north through the desert before turning onto Texas State Hwy 118, which will lead outside the boundaries of Big Bend National Park. Pass through the small town of Study Butte and ride west on FM 170 into the historic mercury mining town of Terlingua, where you can stop in at DB’s Rustic Iron BBQ or the Starlight Theatre for an excellent meal. While in Terlingua be sure to check out the ghost town and take some time to do a bit of exploring, as there’s a lot to discover in this charming and unusual little desert town. Continue your ride westward on FM 170 and pass through Lajitas before once again reaching the banks of the Rio Grande. The next 20 or so miles of road will be some of the most technical and sporty of the entire route. Enjoy the ride as you point your bike through turn after turn along the Texas-Mexico border. FM 170 will lead you to Presidio, a historic city with Spanish-Colonial roots dating back to the 1500’s and an even deeper history of native occupation.

Fuel up and head north on I-67 for the 60 mile jog to Marfa, Texas. Originally founded in the late 1800’s as a railroad water stop for steam locomotives crossing the West Texas desert, Marfa is now a major center for minimalist art and home to a number of different cultural attractions that are unique to the city. Marfa is of course also home to the mysterious phenomenon known simply as the Marfa Lights. This optical phenomenon has been observed by Marfa locals for well over 100 years, and can be seen in the distance to the southwest of Marfa on clear nights. Visit the City of Marfa Website to learn about everything that this unique town has to offer you during your visit. After departing east from Marfa on Interstate 67-90, it’s only about a 25 mile cruise back to your initial starting point of Alpine, where you can recount the day’s adventure with your riding buddies over a cold beer. What a ride!

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Big Bend National Park contains what are undoubtedly some of the most scenic motorcycle roads in the American West.
The mountains of Big Bend were once nearly as tall as the Rockies, but hundreds of millions of years of weathering has changed their elevation.
Saint Elena Canyon is one of Big Bend’s most popular natural features.

El Paso To Carlsbad Caverns Loop

Beginning in El Paso and cutting a winding path through southeastern New Mexico before returning to the westernmost city in Texas, this roughly 470 mile mixed-surface route passes through White Sands National Park, the Lincoln National Forest, Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park. Due to the unpaved surfaces that make up portions of this ride we strongly recommend reserving this loop for adventure bikes or other long-range, off road capable motorcycles, however, this route can easily be altered to eliminate the unpaved sections. To make the most out of this loop, pack up your motocamping gear and find a nice spot to pitch your tent somewhere around the halfway point - Both the land surrounding Carlsbad Caverns National Park and Guadalupe Mountains National Park are great areas for doing so. If you haven’t done any motorcycle camping before, check out these tips to make your first motorcycle camping trip a seamless success. Due to the great variance in elevation on this ride, picking the right time of year to ride it can be tricky. During the summer temperatures in the mountains are ideal, but the desert zones can be dangerously hot. On the flip side, ride it during the winter and you’ll be plenty comfortable in the desert while freezing your fingers and face off in the mountains! This being said, your best bet is to ride this loop sometime in the late spring or early fall. Plan your trip in advance by referencing seasonal weather data for points along the route such as Las Cruces and Cloudcroft, this will give you an idea of when conditions will best align with your personal preferences. As with any desert and/or high elevation routes, be sure to pack in plenty of water and utilize a layering system with your riding gear. This way you can easily adapt to changing temperatures and conditions.

Start off in downtown El Paso with a hearty breakfast at Lucy’s Coffee Shop before riding northwest on I-10 past the Franklin Mountains and towards Las Cruces, New Mexico. Top off your gas tank in Las Cruces and head east on US 70, it won’t be long before you’re passing by the rugged peaks of the Organ Mountains and shortly thereafter, the White Sands Missile Range headquarters. Another 30 or so miles will bring you to the entrance of White Sands National Park, where 275 square miles of white gypsum sand dunes create an otherworldly landscape that you can explore on road and on foot. Contained within the White Sands Missile Range, White Sands National Park is only about 50 miles due south of the Trinity Site - the location of the first detonation of a nuclear device. To learn more about White Sands National Park and to plan your visit, visit the WSNP Website.

After departing the National Park, continue east on US 70 into Alamogordo before hitting US 82 and beginning your climb out of the desolate landscape of the Tularosa Basin and into the dense forests of the Sacramento Mountains. Roughly 15 miles of winding ascent will bring you to the small mountain village of Cloudcroft, home to a number of unique shops and restaurants. Stop at Mad Jack’s Mountaintop Barbecue for lunch to enjoy some of the only proper Texas-style BBQ that can be had at this elevation. After, visit Dave’s Cafe for the best ice cream in town. From Cloudcroft, head east through the Lincoln National Forest on US 82. If you’re on an adventure bike or other off road capable motorcycle, you can turn north onto Sixteen Springs Canyon Rd (8.5 miles from Cloudcroft on US 82) and follow the dirt/gravel Rd east for about 12 miles before turning south onto Carr Gapp Rd, an extremely twisty backcountry road that cuts its way down from the mountains before dumping you back out onto US 82. If you’re running low on gas, make the brief jog southwest to Mayhill and top off your tank before continuing eastward. Settle in for the roughly 70 mile cruise to Artesia, named for the 1903 discovery of an artesian aquifer in the area of this desert settlement. From Artesia it’s only about a 35 mile ride south on US 285 to the city of Carlsbad, built on the banks of the Pecos River. If you’re overnighting this route (which we highly recommend as opposed to hammering it out in one day) you can either find lodging in Carlsbad or motocamp in the vast tract of BLM land that surrounds Carlsbad Caverns National Park, about 20 miles to the south of the city of Carlsbad. If you’d like to grab dinner while in Carlsbad, you can’t go wrong with Yellowbrix Restaurant or Red Chimney BBQ.

Whether staying in town or camping out in the wilderness, the following morning will require only a short ride before you arrive at Carlsbad Caverns National Park. Depending on what you’d like to explore and the park and how you’d like to explore it, the total time of your visit may vary from just a couple of hours to several. Plan your visit in advance and check for any park closures by visiting the Carlsbad Caverns National Park website. From Carlsbad Caverns head southwest on National Parks Highway (US 180). After about 20 miles you’ll cross back into Texas and begin closing in on Guadalupe Mountains National Park, which contains Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in the Lone Star State. You can make a stop in Pine Springs (located only about 3 miles from Guadalupe Peak) to take in the view and visit the site/ruins of the Pine Spring Stage Stand, built in 1858 as a station on the Butterfield Overland Mail Route stretching from St. Louis to San Francisco. Continue southwest on US 180 for a ways and cross the Guadalupe (salt) Lakes before reaching the small West Texas ghost town of Salt Flat, where a number of abandoned buildings dot a barren landscape backdropped by the towering Guadalupe Mountains. After passing through Salt Flat, a lonely yet scenic stretch of road through the Chihuahuan Desert is all that lies between you and your original starting point of El Paso. Settle in and reflect on your ride and you knock out this final leg of the route and put a cap on your ride in El Paso with lunch or dinner at the historic L&J Cafe.

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Expansive dunes of gypsum crystals make White Sands National Park one of the most unique destinations in the American Southwest.
Park your motorcycle and explore White Sands on foot for an other-worldy hiking experience.
Standing at 8,751 feet above sea level, Guadalupe Peak is the highest point in the state of Texas.
The Chihuahuan Desert, which spans much of West Texas, is one of the most ecologically diverse desert regions in the world.

"You don't stop riding when you get old, you get old when you stop riding."
― Anonymous

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