Big Bend Ranch State Park, located in the remote mountain country of far southwest Texas, is set to host the third annual Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest, a challenging three-day mountain bike ride Feb. 14-16, at what many consider to be the up-and-coming premier mountain biking destination in the southwestern U.S.
Bike Fest 2013 will again feature three full days of guided rides through rugged, desert terrain at the 300,000-acre plus state park, Big Bend National Park, and on the Lajitas Trail system. Numerous guided and unguided ride opportunities are scheduled each of the three days, led by veteran riders from Texas Parks and Wildlife Dept. and Desert Sports/Big Bend Trails Alliance.
Highlighting the event's agenda again will be the signature, 58-mile EPIC ride (as designated by the International Mountain Biking Association) scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 16, onto which bikers can elect to extend an additional 12 miles (covering 70 miles total). There's also a two-day EPIC ride option, with an overnight stay and meals at the park's Sauceda bunkhouse.
There will also be daily forays along the state park's 30-plus-mile Rincon Loop, Chimney Rock Cut Across, Dome Loop and Contrabando trails, all of which are popular routes because of their single-track trails, vivid desert scenery, and historical points of interest.
In addition, park staff has added additional rides for this year's event, such as the Rock House Tour, a 21-mile course led by a park ranger that ventures off the beaten path to some of Big Bend Ranch's natural and cultural features like 100-plus-year-old ruins. And a "Geo-Ride" has been added, which is a self-guided geocache tour for bikers who like to use their GPS skills.
Water stations with drinking and potable water are located at various intervals along the trails for Bike Fest, and trained park staff and volunteers will be on hand for each ride. Even so, all riders should bring ample supplies of water, and do some advanced prep and training.
Although most of Bike Fest's rides are geared for advanced mountain bike enthusiasts, the park also offers shorter, ranger-led rides of 10-11 miles for strong beginner and low-intermediate level bikers who have the conditioning to ride 11 miles of relatively flat terrain. A kid's ride is also scheduled for Friday and Saturday as well.
"While there are many challenging trails in the state park, there are also a number of double-track sections, which are great for beginning-level mountain bikers who are physically fit and equipped with appropriate gear and water," said Dan Sholly, deputy director of Texas State Parks. The primary staging area for Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest will be the Lajitas Golf Resort and Spa, and Maverick Ranch RV Park, also in Lajitas. Both are strategically located along FM 170 near the event's daily trail head start and the state park's Barton Warnock Visitor Center.
Fun won't just be limited to the two-wheel variety; each evening there'll be live music, swimming, hula-hoop dancing, dining in Terlingua, and other activities. Bike manufacturing/company reps will also be on hand with a fleet of demo bikes for riders to try out on the trails. In all, last year, nearly 300 riders participated in Bike Fest, and more are expected for this year's event. Proceeds from Bike Fest will benefit the Big Bend Trails Alliance.
Preregistrations are now closed, but you can still go and register at the Maverick RV Center on Thursday at 730am. You will also want to reserve any overnight accommodations since rooms are limited in the area. The registration schedule is posted on http://www.desertsportstx.com/mountain-bike-event/tentative-rides/
On the Web:
Lajitas Golf Resort & Spa -- http://www.lajitasgolfresort.com/
Desert Sports -- http://www.desertsportstx.com/
Big Bend Ranch State Park -- http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/state-parks/big-bend-ranch
Chihuahuan Desert Bike Fest -- http://tpwmagazine.com/archive/2012/oct/scout2_bikefest/