“This fat (or plus tire) fun rolls down the beach and then explores the wilds of St. Joseph Buffer Preserve.”
— Thom Cerny
The beaches along the bay are generally hard packed and great for riding on. Plus-size tires are especially helpful getting through the occasional soft spot (and the sugar sand in the preserve). Some paved trail and road riding connect the beach experience to the swamp land trails of the St. Joseph Buffer Preserve.
Need to Know
Depending on wind direction, it may be advantageous to ride this in reverse. You definitely want the wind at your back going down the beach. Also, the preserve is a wild place without any facilities or water sources. Lots of bugs and wildlife can be found here, especially in early morning and early evening.
You could ride this on a normal MTB, but the sugar sand would be especially tough. Those riding on normal width tires might just want to skip the reserve.
Head right from the parking lot down the paved trail along 30E for almost 3 miles into the Air Force property. Look for a gated road on the left just as the path turns north. Go under the gate and down this old lighthouse road to the beach. Turn left and enjoy the great Gulf views all the way to the Indian Pass Boat Ramp. Motor vehicles are allowed on the beach with the appropriate permit, but are few and far between. You may have to carry your bike across Money Bayou, which opens and closes its flow into the Gulf based on water levels. Once at the ramp, use Indian Pass Road (30B) to head east. Turn on Painted Pony Road and follow the MTB Project mobile app
map to minimize time on 30A as you continue west. 30A is a lightly used road, but high speed, so using neighborhood roads is more relaxing. Return to 30A, cross the Money Bayou Bridge, and look for the St. Joseph Buffer Preserve entrance on your right.
The trails in the preserve vary from grass to sugar sand. If it has not rained recently, the sand can get very soft and makes riding pretty strenuous. If it has rained recently, you may find some sections flooded. Use the MTB Project mobile app
to find your way back to 30A, turn right, and head west to 30E. Turn left onto 30E heading toward Cape San Blas. The parking lot will be a few hundred yards down on your right.
History & Background
St. Joseph Bay State Buffer Preserve protects the St. Joseph Bay Aquatic Preserve, preserving the bay's water quality and habitat productivity. These habitats include a well formed system of sand dunes and the Money Bayou tidal creek, both of which feature an unusually large number of rare plants.