Texas Mountain Ride!
The mountains in Far West Texas are a surprise to most people, and they provide easy climbs and thrilling descents through charming small communities with real cowboys and ranchers. We’ve got a great three-day ride through unspoiled mountain scenery, in the historic path of Comanche and Buffalo Soldiers and modern hipsters, on smooth roads with no traffic. Sound good?
Day One - Marathon, TX to Fort Davis, TX (via Alpine, TX); 54.1 miles - view the Google map
Start your journey in Marathon (pop. 400) a historic ranching town, and gateway to Big Bend National Park. Before heading out, most cyclists visit the French Co. Grocery for last minute bike and camping supplies and provisions.
Bikes at French Co. Grocery, Marathon, TX (taken by Marci Roberts, March 2011)
From here, you follow the route Buffalo Soldiers used to patrol the region, providing safe passage for stagecoaches heading west -- now Hwy 90 to Alpine, and Hwy 118 to Fort Davis. Comanche, Kiowa and Apache warriors raided the area when early settlers were making their homes here, and when folks passed through on their way to California to make their fortune in the Gold Rush of 1849.
Mitre Peak between Alpine and Fort Davis, TX (taken by Beth Nobles, November 2008)
While in Alpine, be sure to stop at the Museum of the Big Bend, for a fun, comprehensive introduction to the prehistory, history and culture of the area. Head on into Fort Davis for the night, after an easy 54 miles for the day, and a visit to the best-preserved frontier fort in the West, Fort Davis National Historic Site.
Fort Davis National Historic Site (taken by Beth Nobles, December 2010)
Spend the night in Fort Davis -- a National Trust for Historic Preservation-designated “Distinctive Destination, pop. 1050 -- at any of our Texas Mountain Trail cycle-friendly hotels, B&Bs or historic motor courts.
Cycle-friendly Indian Lodge Hotel in Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis, TX (taken by Beth Nobles, February 2009)
Day Two - Fort Davis, TX to Marfa, TX; 21.3 miles - view the Google map
Because you’ll want to linger in Fort Davis a bit, day 2 is an easy 21 miles down Hwy 17 to Marfa (pop. 2000). (Head down unpaved Fort Street on your way out of town, and you’re on the historic San Antonio-El Paso Road and the Butterfield Overland Mail Route.)
Blooming Cholla cactus forest (from Fort Davis to Marfa), (taken by Beth Nobles, June 2010)
In the 1960s, minimalist artist Donald Judd established the Chinati Foundation to provide a home for groundbreaking visual art. You’ll want to spend time here too, to take in Marfa’s sun-kissed adobe downtown, climb the 88 steps to the top of the Presidio County Courthouse for a bird’s eye view of the area, or tour Judd’s legacy, the Chinati Foundation. Built on the site of Fort D.A. Russell, which was established during the Mexican Revolution and active during World War II, Chinati offers a visual art experience unparalleled outside New York City. Or you could just sit in local restaurants and watch old ranchers interact with the young hipsters who’ve come to Marfa for its art, and the scene.
Day Three - Marfa, TX to Alpine, TX to Marathon, TX; 57.1 miles - view the Google map
Next morning, head back to Alpine (pop. 6500) on Hwy. 90 and enjoy a leisurely visit of this charming mountain community -- home to Sul Ross State University. There are lots of places to explore, including the Murphy Street Raspa Co. for cool shaved ice treats. If your bike needs some care, stop at the region’s only bike shop, Bikeman, on the way into town on Holland Avenue.
Cyclists Jon Gondreau (of Cleveland, OH and Austin, TX) and Brooks Jones III (of Cleveland, OH)
on Hwy 90 between Marfa and Alpine, TX (taken by Beth Nobles, April 2011)
Then, ride parallel to the train tracks back to Marathon, through expansive ranchland and spectacular mountains. Treat yourself to a stay at the historic 1927 cattleman’s Gage Hotel, now a luxury accommodation.
Historic Gage Hotel Courtyard, Marathon TX (taken by Beth Nobles, December 2009)
If you need more miles on the road, try a 10 mile roundtrip Ride to the Post, a Texas Mountain Trail heritage bike ride to a modern-day oasis and Buffalo Soldier encampment.
Best bike shop? Bikeman at 602 W Holland Avenue, Alpine, TX 79830, (432) 837-5050. Some supplies/bike repair/equipment also available at French Co. Grocery, Marathon, TX; and at Old Schoolhouse Bed and Breakfast, Fort Davis, TX.