Texas BBQ Tour Overnighter
105 Mi.(169 KM)
% Rideable (time)
Maxwell is a born and raised Texan, and has a great appreciation for most outdoor pursuits. Being a person in long-term recovery, he is in constant search of humbling adventures and believes that there’s no better way to right-size yourself with the world than pushing the mind and body to new limits, and bikepacking fits the bill perfectly. Find more of Maxwell’s photos @mt.johnston8.
It’s no surprise that Texas has very limited public land for grand adventures compared to much of the American West. However, there are plenty of beautiful state parks that can be strung together with country roads to create a perfect weekend microadventure.
The Texas BBQ Tour Overnighter begins in Lockhart State Park, a small park in the quaint town of Lockhart. Lockhart is known as the “BBQ Capital of Texas” and is home to multiple family-operated BBQ joints that are all worth trying. Great food isn’t the only thing this area of Texas has to offer though. Some of the best gravel and chip seal roads in the region await just minutes outside of town. Leaving Lockhart on the route, you’ll hit your first stretch of gravel after a few miles of state park road, guiding you through the local farms and ranches. Most of them are small family properties, although you’ll see some massive operations for all kinds of livestock.
During the first day of the ride, you’ll quickly realize that the soil, vegetation, and landscape look far different than Austin. Caldwell County is located on the Gulf Coastal Plain, only 30 miles east of the Balcones Fault Zone, where the Texas Capitol is situated. The rocky limestone that’s synonymous with the Hill Country quickly turns to sandy soil that’s more familiar to coastal regions. Prickly pear cactuses no longer line the gravel roads, but lush green pastures cover the rolling hills and large trees provide temporary relief as their limbs tangle together into canopies.
Just past the small town of Harwood, you’ll encounter an old iron truss bridge suspended over the San Marcos River. This bridge, which is more than 100 years old, is out of service for vehicles, but luckily cyclists are still able to cross. After a 55-mile day one, you’ll arrive at Palmetto State Park, a lesser-known park that has some incredibly unique features. This tiny tropical swamp seemingly comes out of nowhere and is aptly named after the dwarf palmetto plants that cover the entire park. If you have the energy, there are five miles of additional trails to explore all this park has to offer. This Texas marshland surrounded by a forest filled with Spanish moss, woody vines, and dwarf palmettos is well worth checking out.
The next day is a straightforward 50-mile ride bringing you back through the storied downtown square of Lockhart. Pick your choice of barbeque restaurant to reward yourself after a great weekend out experiencing the Lone Star State.
This is a simple overnighter route designed for beginners in mind. The most difficult aspect of this route, as with most Texas routes, will be planning your camp reservations ahead of time. Featuring two 50-mile days with mild elevation and multiple resupply points, this ride is manageable for any rider with moderate cycling fitness.
Route Development: This route was developed in the spirit of highlighting the small town of Lockhart, Palmetto State Park, and some of the best gravel and chip seal roads in Central Texas. The route uses sections of various classic Central Texas gravel races, including the Cycleast Midsouth route, Caldwell County Classic, and Red Rock Roubaix.
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- Palmetto State Park, a state park nicknamed the “Central Texas Tropics,” is a seemingly out-of-place swamp in the middle of rural Texas. Explore the five miles of trails in the beautiful park on the San Marcos River.
- “BBQ Capital of Texas,” eat as much BBQ as you can from the many different family owned BBQ joints in Lockhart.
- Old Iron Truss Bridge, a bridge built in 1915, is shut down for cars but can be crossed on bike, although with some footboards missing. I’d suggest walking across.
- San Marcos River, swim, fish, tube, or canoe in this river that flows through Palmetto State Park. Canoes and kayaks can be rented through Texas Parks and Wildlife.
- Lockhart’s Historical Downtown, explore the late 1800s architecture through Lockharts downtown area.
- Lockhart State Park is a small park with some hike and bike trails, a creek to fish, and showers to clean up after your ride.
- This route is rideable all year long, but I would avoid it in the summer due to extreme heat.
- Reservations are required for both state parks, so be sure to plan ahead.
- Be cautious of loose dogs, as you may encounter a few on this route.
- If you’re riding this route in the warmer months, make sure to bring bug spray. The mosquitos can be brutal.
- If you choose not to stay the night at Lockhart State Park the night before, you can also park at Lockhart City hall to begin your route.
- This route was designed with the intent of exploring all the best legal gravel roads in the area, and if you are looking for shorter days, there are many ways to cut out mileage to make it more manageable for riders of all fitness levels.
- Palmetto State Park: Entrance fee – $3, Primitive camping fee – $12/night. Restrooms with showers are available, reservations are required.
- Lockhart State Park: Entrance fee – $3, Primitive camping fee – $20/night. Restrooms with showers are available, reservations are required.
- BBQ Capital of Texas – Lockhart has some of Central Texas’ best BBQ restaurants (Kreuz Market, Black’s BBQ, Smitty’s BBQ, and Lockhart Chisholm Trail BBQ)
- Buc-ee’s – A little off route but this Texas gas station chain is known for their food and beverage options, but more importantly their clean bathrooms.
- There is also a gas station, Dollar General, and H-E-B grocery store on route for resupply.
- There are facilities to refill water and use the restroom at both state parks.
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