Blazing the Northeast Texas Trail

The Northeast Texas Trail (NETT) is a partially completed rail-trail conversion, stretching 130 miles across six counties and 19 towns, from Farmersville to New Boston, Texas. Over a three-day weekend from October 26 to 28, 2012, Steve DeBauge and I completed a “thru-bike” of the entire NETT corridor. The challenge was as much logistical as it was physical -- but well worth it.

We came away convinced that the NETT vision will ultimately yield a recreational treasure and tourism draw for Northeast Texas. That said, there is a reason this end-to-end trip had never been accomplished before. While the right-of-way legal battles have been won and the user base is building, there are still several segments that are overgrown and/or illegally fenced off. It will take even more hard work, passion, and, yes, some money to get the entire route ready for regular cyclo-tourism.

On the trail between Wolfe City and Ladonia.

THE PLAN. Given the overall distance and the unknown condition of some segments, our plan was to split the trail into three manageable riding days. Our daily mileage divided up almost perfectly: Day 1, 48 miles, Farmersville to Roxton; Day 2, 44 miles, Roxton to Clarksville; Day 3, 39 miles, Clarksville to New Boston.

This was going to be a credit-card tour, meaning that we would carry only clothes, water, bike tools, and a credit card -- no food and no camping/cooking equipment. Using tips from other trail users and extensive Internet research, we carefully mapped out all breaks, meal stops, and overnight lodging we would need along the way.

The fact that we ate well and slept comfortably along the NETT is one of the most important things I have to report. Although the NETT is still a work in progress, we showed that it is feasible to make the entire trek without worrying about the next meal and whether or not you'll find a comfortable bed/hot shower.

THE TRIP. My wife dropped us off at 8:30 a.m. on Friday, October 26, in downtown Farmersville (about an hour northeast of Dallas). Two more friends, Travis Jeakins and Austin Arnold, joined us for that first day only. They would ride with us until Pecan Gap, and it was great to have the extra company. The early riding was steady on the generally good segments between Farmersville and Wolfe City.

One of many old rail bridges along the NETT (Austin Arnold, Travis Jeakins, and author Joseph Pitchford).

Along the way, we took a short break at the Celeste Exxon, and later made our first full meal stop about 22 miles in, at El Arbol Mexican Restaurant in Wolfe City. Fueled by a tasty lunch, we felt strong heading to Roxton for our first overnight stay. En route, we made a quick stop in Ladonia to say hello to Mayor Jan Cooper, whom Steve and I had met in September 2011 on our first overnight NETT trip.

Steve DeBauge, Travis Jeakins, Mayor Cooper, and Austin Arnold.

Upon reaching Pecan Gap, locals strongly warned against riding the illegally fenced trail segment just northeast of that town (from CR 3550 to the town of Ben Franklin). We reluctantly detoured around it on FM 128. Finally arriving in Roxton, we checked in with proprietor Ronnie Rhodes at the very comfortable Roxton House Guest Cottage.

We cleaned up, then walked to the Roxton Grocery & Café for dinner. The Friday night special was catfish, and we demolished our fair share of the perfectly prepared filets.

After a very restful night, we started out Day 2 in Roxton with a big breakfast at Big A’s, personally served by proprietor Allen Hughes. Later, after navigating the notorious overgrowth and fences on the Roxton-to-Paris segment (averaging about 4 mph!), we met up with NETT board president Earl Erickson for a personal tour of the Trail de Paris, which runs for six perfectly paved miles through that city. Earl then drove ahead to meet us for lunch at Weezy’s in the town of Blossom.

Okay, the trail is a little overgrown here.

Energized by good food and great company, we said goodbye to Earl and pressed on to Clarksville. Our lodging for the night in Clarksville was the truly beautiful Courthouse Inn B&B, owned by Cheryl and Perry O’Brian.

The Courthouse Inn B&B.

After checking in, we made our way to the town square for dinner at The Italian Bistro. Again, a very satisfactory meal. The next morning, Perry pulled out all the stops with a hearty breakfast, and sent us very well fed on our way to the finish line in New Boston.

We were extremely disappointed by the segment from Clarksville to Annona -- completely overgrown and impassible, and even worse than the Roxton–to-Paris segment. Fortunately, US 82 offers a wide shoulder as an alternate route, nearly parallel to the trail. A few miles east of Annona, the trail returned to rideable condition, particularly after the intersection with Garland Chapel Road/CR 3312. This occasionally rough trail segment took us to Avery, where we enjoyed a break at the Clark Gas Station/7-11.

We could have had a nice pizza lunch at the Avery 7-11, but our plan was to make it to DeKalb. The trail from Avery to DeKalb was beautiful, and we were rewarded for our decision with a terrific meal at the famous Front Street Junction Café. The Sunday-after-church crowd did not seem to mind two cyclists in their midst, as we devoured a few rounds of good country cooking.

After lunch, we had only about 12 miles to go from De Kalb to New Boston. These were some of the easiest miles of the entire trip -- very well-maintained trails, absolutely ready for cyclists of almost any experience level. We finished up exactly on schedule in New Boston, at 3 p.m. on Sunday, October 28. A good friend picked us up at T&P Trailhead Park in downtown New Boston (with appropriate beverages), and another great bike trip was in the books.

Steve DeBauge (left) and the author enjoy a victory beverage in New Boston.

Highlights. Adventure! Great people in great small Texas towns! Fresh air, beauty, and sunshine! Good food, and surprisingly good lodging. 

Lowlights. Bad/fenced/unrideable segments, including Roxton-Paris, Pecan Gap-Ben Franklin, and Clarksville-Annona. The angry (and unfenced!) bull outside of Roxton. Some old rail bridges, while picturesque, may be intimidating for the inexperienced rider.

Equipment & Technology. Prior to the trip, I mapped the entire NETT route in the online program Ride with GPS. I then loaded this GPS map into my iPhone, using an app called Cyclemeter. This turned out to be very helpful. In a few locations where the trail grew faint, I could determine the way to go by zooming my imported GPS map in Cyclemeter. The Cyclemeter app was running constantly in the background, giving us a complete record of our trip, including speed, mileage, and more. I also used my iPhone for all photos and video, shot from a handlebar mount. As for our bikes, Steve rides an older 26-inch-wheeled Trek, while my steed is a Salsa El Mariachi with 29-inch wheels -- my new favorite bike. Both bikes have front suspension, which is helpful on much of the NETT. An extra accolade for my Viscacha seat pack, made by Revelate Designs. It held all the gear needed for three days, and because it attaches to the seat rails and seat post without the need for a rack, my bike was considerably lighter than Steve’s -- something we noticed while hoisting our bikes over numerous fences! I used WTB Nano tubeless tires, expertly installed by fellow NETT cyclist Kevin Campagna at BicyclesPlus, Dallas. Great tires and no flats! Steve had just one flat with his Slime-brand tubes (on the Roxton to Paris segment, of course).

Get more information about bike overnights.

Conclusion. The Northeast Texas Trail has the potential to become Texas’ own version of Missouri’s incredible Katy Trail -- a spectacular recreational amenity and economic driver for northeast Texas. While the NETT is not truly complete yet, our trip showed it is ready for the more intrepid cyclist -- with all due care and caution. For more information, visit the NETT Facebook page.

31 responses so far ↓

Michael McCoy - Jan 2, 2013 at 8:22 AM

Here's the link to a nice pdf schematic of the trail: http://www.traildeparis.org/userFiles/380/nettownsinsetmap2012.pdf Not sure how current it is -- Joseph?

Joseph Pitchford - Jan 2, 2013 at 12:18 PM

Yes, that map of the Northeast Texas Trail is current. It does not differentiate between cleared and less cleared segments. Best way to determine that is to ask here, or on the NETT Facebook page (link above). Here is a link to an importable GPS map: http://ridewithgps.com/users/115743/routes

Kevin Campagna - Jan 2, 2013 at 2:38 PM

Nice work Joseph. It's awesome to see this in an ACA blog.

Zac - Jan 2, 2013 at 3:33 PM

Awesome!

Jim Sayer - Jan 3, 2013 at 11:49 AM

Wanna go! And I too love my new Salsa Mariachi --

Kathleen - Jan 3, 2013 at 8:34 PM

Great posting, Joseph. And I applaud you and your friends' trailblazing and bushwacking. Liked the technical notes too. Thanks for writing.

bryan - Jan 6, 2013 at 4:18 PM

Great project, we have the resources to solidify this trail. We just need to bring the entire cycling community together and make it happen.

Shane - Jan 14, 2013 at 5:38 PM

That was a great read and hopefully it inspirers more people to ride the NETT I know it has for me. I can’t wait to get out there and try it myself.

Phil Loveless - Jan 24, 2013 at 8:06 PM

Grew up in the Pittsburg and Mt. Vernon area. Folks for this route need to visit the Silver Comet trail here in Georgia to get an idea of the economic impact such a trail can have on small towns. Look forward to riding the NETT in the future when it is fully maintained.

Phillip Dye - Feb 7, 2013 at 10:43 AM

Texas Highways - March 2013 edition highlighted this trail under Northeast Explorer. I was looking for a 100 mile plus safe off the busy highway ride, I was ready to take it on until I read these post. I think the article will generate a lot of interest and I hope it does. It looks much more glamours than you Reality adventure. Maybe I will do part of the trail.

Jeff - Feb 8, 2013 at 6:47 AM

Looks like a fun adventure! Thanks for the writeup, I'm looking forward to riding the NETT one day soon.

Joseph Pitchford - Feb 8, 2013 at 7:36 AM

In reponse to Philip Dye: I hope you give the NETT a try. The good news is that there are fairly easy (and low-traffic) detours around the fenced/overgrown sections. There is also a lot of momentum toward improving/clearing the trail. Check out the NETT Facebook page for regular updates---and there is a web site coming soon.

T - Feb 12, 2013 at 1:14 PM

I too just read about this in TX Highways and am thinking about driving up from Houston to check out the trail. I'm still figuring out logistics. I'll be riding solo and driving up there solo, So I'll probably start at one end, ride in 40-50 miles to one of the towns, spend the night the ride back to my vehicle. Again, I just read about this earlier this afternoon and am still in the planning stages. Are there any updates to the conditions of the trail? If you had to ride one day, stop for the night and then return, what section would you recommend?

Last question (for now): Is a mtnbike the way to go or would a cross bike be better? My mtnbike is geared but the CX bike is single speed which might be a benefit in the grassier sections.

Let me know.

Thanks

Joseph Pitchford - Feb 13, 2013 at 4:09 PM

T, for a trip the length you are contemplating, I would recommend starting in Farmersville and riding to Ladonia (about 31 miles, one way) or to Roxton (about 48 miles, one way). Depending on your fitness/mileage goals, both offer a nice out-and-back overnight trip.

The Farmersville-Ladonia trail is essentially all clear/rideable, just overgrown in a few segments. No B&B in Ladonia, but you may be able to camp there. The only restaurant in Ladonia is Gloria's Kitchen, a great little place. There is also a gas station in town that has burgers/beer.

Farmersville-Roxton does have a few segments that are better routed around, including Pecan Gap to Ben Franklin. The entire Farmersville-Roxton trip took us a full day, from 9am to 6pm, including all breaks and a nice lunch in Wolfe City. In Roxton, you can stay at The Roxton Guest House. Contact the owner, Mr. Rhodes, at (903) three-four-six-three-8-8-three. Good places to eat in Roxton, as noted above.

As for the bike, I prefer front suspension and wide tires when I am in the saddle that long on a trail.

Again, check out our "NE Texas Trail" page on Facebook, especially if you want some folks to join you. Good luck!

T - Feb 14, 2013 at 8:06 AM

Thanks man. Wow, 9-6 for 48 miles sounds rough, especially if I'm driving back to Houston afterwards on Sunday. I'm tentatively planning on 2/23 & 2/24.

Is there any elevation to speak of? If not, I may convert my mtn bike into a single speed to get rid of the grass in deraillures concern.

Jeff - Feb 14, 2013 at 8:24 AM

Re: elevation

Not really, the trail is mostly between 500 and 700 ft, and the elevation profile looks pretty tame. I think a SS would be fine, esp if you have a flip flop hub (and have a lower available gear just in case).

Click on the NETT route to see the elevation profile. Hover over the route or profile to see the corresponding location on the other: http://ridewithgps.com/users/115743/routes

Spinner - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:31 AM

a couple of use are thinking (like "T") of doing a out & back trail ride, but we will be on recumbent trikes - will your recombination's work for us as well?

Spinner - Feb 16, 2013 at 11:36 AM

"T" - we are thinking about doing that same trip (MAYBE THE SHORTER), we will be ride recumbent trikes! Please lets us know how is goes!
Thanks

Joseph Pitchford - Feb 16, 2013 at 1:06 PM

Spinner, I don't have any experience riding a recumbent, but I am guessing that very tall grass and overgrowth would not be ideal. You may want to stick to the very clear sections, which are found on the East and West ends of the NETT.

From the West end, Farmersville-Merritt-Celeste is 13.4 miles, one way, and makes a nice out-and-back ride. There is an Exxon in Celeste that offers decent food and the usual drinks, etc.

From the East end of the trail, you can try New Boston-DeKalb-Avery, which is 22.3 miles one way. Ride to Avery, and take a break at the Clark/7-11. On the return leg, stop in DeKalb for lunch, where there are several restaurants, including Front Street Junction Cafe.

Good luck, have a great trip!

Spinner - Feb 17, 2013 at 4:47 AM

Thanks Joseph!

Angela - Mar 28, 2013 at 9:42 PM

I've seen that the trail is easily open to walkers/hikers. Did you see anyone hiking, or do you know of any resources, or anyone I could talk to? I'm excited about the trail, and it'd be a great thru-hike with easy accessibility to food, etc. (I'd like to try it next month)
Thanks!

Joseph Pitchford - Mar 29, 2013 at 2:01 PM

Angela, I have seen numerous hikers/walkers on the NETT, but I am not personally aware of any overnight trips (except by the local Boy Scouts). Does not mean it has not happened. As far as a true thru-hike, keep in mind that some sectons are still pretty overgown, and even an experienced hiker would be forced onto adjacent roads for certain segments. That said, there are many segments that are ready for hiking right now. From the West, Farmersville to Pecan Gap is 37 miles one-way. From the East, New Boston to Avery is 22 miles, one way (much of this segment parallels US 82, so is very nice but not exactly out in the wilderness). As always, exercise due caution, and hike at your own risk. Good Luck!!

Luke - Apr 3, 2013 at 8:43 PM

Great report on your trip. I live very close to the trail in New Boston. Have really enjoyed riding my mt. bike there, but just recently found out that they will be paving the trail with asphalt. Do you know if the plan it to pave the entire length of the trail? I really like the dirt surface.

Nolan Kuehn - May 9, 2013 at 5:48 PM

Hey, I read about the trail being "illegally fenced" more than once! What's being done about this?

This trail is a gold mine waiting to be harvested by the local communities. Wake up and look at the economic benefit derived form similar trail development in many other areas. Daylight is burning, folks! Let's get the show on the riad and complete the trail development. It means too much to the communities of East Texas.

..Nolan Kuehn

sir - May 12, 2013 at 1:15 AM

Find Roger Vivier women's fashion at ShopStyle. Shop the latest collection of Roger Vivier women's fashion from the most popular stores - all in one place. http://www.rogervivieroutlet1.com/roger-vivier-dark-black-patent-leather-heels-p-50.html

Richard White - May 17, 2013 at 10:28 AM

How cool, just found this, was looking for potential bikepacking opportunities for overnights. I'd also make Boy Scouts aware, many do biking related activities and are always on the look out for Eagle Scout service projects.

Dean Nix - Jun 10, 2013 at 3:36 PM

If I wanted to make this a three night out and back, what overnight stop would you recommend after Roxton heading East.

Joseph Pitchford - Jun 10, 2013 at 11:30 PM

Hello Dean, I just answered your question on our Northeast Texas Trail Facebook page. Plenty of lodging in Paris, which is about halfway. You may have trouble finding lodging in New Boston, but I hope you do---sounds like a great trip!

Tracy - Oct 5, 2013 at 11:56 AM

So glad I found this write up. this trail runs through my home town and I had no idea it even existed (De Kalb).
We are thinking of doing this in November but would like to camp along the way. Does anyone know if this would be possible or have any experience camping along this trail.

richard hargrove - Jun 10, 2014 at 4:01 PM

A friend and I are planning to ride from Farmersville to Wolfe City as an out-and-back day ride. Is riding that stretch on a cyclocross bike with 700x35mm tires feasible? Or is a mountain bike absolutely required?

rh

Dean Nix - Jun 11, 2014 at 6:42 AM

Richard, I have done that section out and back on a CX bike four times now. You should be fine. I have however sliced two x35 tires on the trail but they were very soft Schwable race tires.

Leave a Comment

Leave this field empty: