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Fresno-Sauceda Loop - IMBA EPIC

 4.7 (9)

A huge ride with plenty of challenges. Great opportunity to make it into a multi-day ride.

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4,490' 1,369 m


2,394' 730 m


3,914' 1,193 m


3,916' 1,194 m



Avg Grade (1°)


Max Grade (12°)

Dogs Unknown

E-Bikes Not Allowed

  • The Big Bend region is characterized by very hot summertime temperatures that extend from mid April through September. It is not recommended to attempt the entire loop during this period.Be prepared and try to do this ride during the cooler months.
  • Make sure to use a sealant in your tubes and carry spare tubes if you are running tubeless. You may be able to buy tubes and other basic supplies at Sauceda so carry some money.


This IMBA Epic ride combines much of the best riding in Big Bend Ranch State Park into one Epic Loop. The loop consists of a variety of riding conditions with a mix of singletrack, creek beds, and 4x4 roads. The singletrack is a nicely flowing combination of hard pack and rocky trails with lots of short steep climbs and dry creek crossings. Many of the 4x4 roads have not seen motorized traffic for many years and are essentially two track trails. There are significant numbers of long, steep, technical and rocky climbs and descents. Creek riding conditions vary from hard-packed and easily rideable to sandy and soft with some rocky and technical sections.

Its epic just to get to the trailhead of this ride. But if you make the effort you wont be disappointed. Far from the nearest major city, this is some of the most rugged and remote backcountry in the U.S.

The terrain that the trail traverses varies from 1700 to 4300 feet in elevation and passes through a variety of Chihuahuan desert landscapes from low desert brush to high desert grasslands.

In addition to the great riding, the trail system traverses a variety of Chihuahuan Desert terrain ranging from 1700 to 4300 feet in elevation and varies from low desert brush to high desert grasslands. The area's outstanding geology attracts geology students from around the world and includes the 5000 flatirons of Fresno Peak along the rim of the Solitario and views of 9000 ft igneous mountains across the border in Mexico.

The trail system also passes by abandoned mines and prospects, old homesteads and ranch houses and Native American campsites and pictographs. The rich igneous soils that dominate Big Bend Ranch State Park are ideal for trapping water and there are springs everywhere if you know where to look. Several creek sections have flowing water and large groves of cottonwoods.

Need to Know

  • The Big Bend has very hot weather in the summer months. It's best to do this ride between October and mid-April if possible. Be prepared for extreme conditions if you go during other times of the year. Rain can cause muddy and difficult conditions on some trail sections but is rarely a problem during the winter.
  • There is no cell coverage on most of the trail, so ride with others and be prepared to deal with any mechanical or other issues. A Sat phone or Spot is a great idea. It's not likely that anyone will be along to help if you have a problem.
  • Water is available at Sauceda near the halfway point and there are other water sources along the trail if you wan to carry a filter.
  • This is a great bikepacking trip and there are options to add additional milage and extend the trip significantly. Check with Desert Sports, the local bike shop and outfitter. They even offer multi-day guided trips if you want a supported ride.


The ride is mostly uphill during the first half and mostly downhill coming back. But don't let that fool you...there are plenty of challenges on both halves of the loop, so leave something in the tank for the return leg. Carry a map (availible at the park headquarters across from the trailhead or at Desert Sports in Terlingua) and be ready to use it. Although the trails are generally well marked there are lots of options and it may be hard to stay on the IMBA Epic loop without one.

From the trailhead, hit the Dog Cholla trail and take it to the jeep road. The trail alternates between jeep road and singletrack and includes the Crystal Trail and the Camino Viejo Trail. This section has a beautiful sidehill traverse of a calcite crystal covered hill. Once you hit Contrabando Creek and the end of the Camino Viejo Trail it's a several mile gentle climb to the Buenas Suerte and Whitroy mines. From there the road descends rapidly to Fresno Creek where it hits the Old Government Road. Watch for signs here as you don't want to miss the turn here and head up Fresno Creek. The Old Government Road is a local favorite and was an old military road that was built during the time of the Mexican Revolution to help secure the frontier against border incursions from raiders out of Mexico. The old road passes along the flatirons that form the outer ring of the Solitario and leads to Rincon where there is primitive camping and shade shelters. From there it is a quick run down to Fresno Creek. This is the best turn-around spot if you're feeling tired. It is about the 1/4 mark distance wise and you can still do a great 30 mile ride by following the trail down Fresno Creek and doing the Rincon Loop.

If you're continuing on the Epic Loop, cross the creek and turn right onto Fresno Canyon Road heading north. This road follows its namesake creek descending in and out of the drainage, following the creek bed for several short sections. Watch closely for the road sections that climb back out of the creek each time you drop in.

Turn right off the jeep trail after about 6 miles onto a smaller 2 track road that crosses the creek and head off to the right toward Pila Montoya. This old road continues to climb steadily up to Pila Montoya and the main ranch road (dirt) where you head left across rolling high desert with fantastic views of the surrounding country until the turnoff to the Papalote Encino trail. This old two track cuts across beautiful high desert dominated by igneous hills. Turn right when you hit the main road again and ride into Sauceda where you'll find water and a nice resting spot.

From Sauceda head south on Javelin Road and then on Tascate Trail to the turn-off to Madrid Falls Road. This section is alternately sandy, rocky, steep and rolling. The Madrid Falls Road climbs steeply (most folks walk the last pitch) up on to a beautiful rolling high plateau and takes you to Pila de los Muchachos where the road descends steeply (scout this as the top can be very dangerous - it's ok to walk!). After the initial steeps, the road descends towards Fresno Creek. This section is super fun and very scenic but there are several steep, loose and dangerous downhills so pay close attention and don't be surprised if there are a few hike-a-bike downhill sections. Don't miss the singletrack section that goes away from the road in Arroyo Primera or you'll wind up in a long soul sucking sand pit. The final drop into Fresno Creek can be washed out and dangerous, so be careful.

There is a beautiful cascade just upstream of the cottonwood grove where you hit Fresno Creek if you have time to walk or ride up. Follow the trail/road downstream being careful to look for each place the trail leaves the creek. You'll wind up at the same spot you originally entered Fresno Creek. From there back track toward the Buenas Suerte mine and the trailhead. Locals usually skip the Crystal trail and ride the Rock Quarry trail on the way back.

Buenas Suerte!


Shared By:

Leslie Kehmeier with improvements by Regina4$

Trail Ratings

  4.7 from 9 votes


  4.7 from 9 votes
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169 Views Last Month
21,123 Since Mar 3, 2014



Into the arroyo.
Dec 30, 2015 near Lajitas, TX
Snaking down Dog Cholla
Apr 18, 2013 near Lajitas, TX
Flatirons of the Solitario
Apr 18, 2013 near Lajitas, TX
The old floatation mill from the Buenas Suerte mine.
Apr 18, 2013 near Lajitas, TX
Crystal Hill!
Apr 18, 2013 near Lajitas, TX
Fresno Cascades, one of several springs on the Epic Loop
Apr 18, 2013 near Lajitas, TX



Current Trail Conditions

Minor Issues 38 days ago
Add Your Check-In


Feb 17, 2023
Jay DeFoore
Plan for a full day. Good idea to bring lights in case you finish in the dark. Sauceda Ranger station was closed when we arruved but could use faci… 59mi — 11h 00m
Jul 19, 2021
Rudy Flores
Mar 11, 2020
Jonathan Ackley
45mi — 9h 00m
Feb 9, 2019
Jansen Ivie
Trails were awesome and some work has been done to keep you on the trail. All around awesome ride 59.4mi
Jan 2, 2018
Ivy Wei Chen
Oct 28, 2017
Jiri Hajek
60mi — 9h 00m
Aug 13, 2017
Russell Adams
Feb 17, 2017
Tony A.
Rincon Loop 35mi

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