So there you are: sitting behind the wheel of your Jeep, windshield down, feeling the breeze on your face, wondering where to take your beauty. Off-roading is not always easy, but the challenge it provides and the thrill of conquering a new trail simply cannot be matched. Finding a trail isn’t always easy either, and although Texas has a lot of natural beauty to explore, you need to do so legally. It’s not uncommon to drive away from a Jeep Dealership near Dallas and wonder where you should go next.
Fortunately, the internet has made it easier than ever before to find places to go and make a plan for how to spend your weekend. Going off-road on private land is against the law in Texas, and doing so can result in serious fines that you definitely want to avoid. That means you want to stick to Off-Highway Vehicle (OHV) parks in Texas and make sure you have a permit or else you can face even more fines. Your three best options for great Jeep trails near Dallas are Northwest OHV Park in Bridgeport, Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area near Gilmer, and Brazos Valley Off-Road Ranch in Bryan/College Station.
Keep It Legal
You might be ready to hit the trail the very moment you drive away from your Jeep dealership near Dallas, but you can get into serious trouble if you don’t take the right steps first. For one thing, you need to know that operating a vehicle off-road in Texas in an area that is not indicated as an OHV park is against the law. This includes private land as well as public lands that are not set aside for riding an OHV.
Don’t think, “My friends have gone off-roading, and they were fine,” because law enforcement is very serious about this issue. There are also a lot of private citizens who are determined to keep trespassers off their land, and they will call the police on you immediately. Trespassing while riding off-road in areas other than official OHV parks can result in a serious fine as well as having your lovely new Jeep impounded – just don’t do it.
Make Sure You Have an OHV Permit
Even if you are in a proper OHV park area, you still need to have a permit from the state of Texas to drive on a trail there. This permit is issued as a decal that you need to place on your window so law enforcement and park rangers know you are allowed to be in a park. The decal is inexpensive and good for a full year, whereas fines for not having a permit can be very expensive. If you’re going to go off-road, then do yourself a favor and get a permit.
Northwest OHV Park – Bridgeport, TX
Now that you’re all set with a vehicle from your Jeep dealership near Dallas and a decal for going off-road, it’s time to find the right location. Unfortunately, there are not a lot of legal OHV parks near Dallas, and nothing right around the Dallas/Fort Worth area. Fortunately, you don’t have to drive too far to find a few.
One of your absolute best options is Northwest OHV Park, located in Bridgeport, which is less than 100 miles northwest of Dallas. This is one of the largest OHV parks in the area, particularly for one that allows 4×4 vehicles like Jeeps – a lot of parks are exclusively for motorcycles and ATVs. Northwest OHV Park has over 300 acres of terrain for your Jeep, including plenty of mud to play in and rocks to navigate.
Note, however, that Northwest OHV Park is only open on the weekends, so be sure to plan your trip wisely. In the summer, they are open from 8 am to 7 pm Saturday and Sunday, while in the winter they are only open from 8 am to 5 pm. Discounts are available for residents in the area, though normal prices are quite affordable, and make sure to bring cash.
Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area – Gilmer, TX
If you’re willing to drive a bit further, then strongly consider Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area, which is about 120 miles east of Dallas, near Gilmer. This is a public park that was designed with off-roading in mind, so it is the perfect first stop after visiting your Jeep dealership near Dallas. One of the best things about this location is that they actually sell OHV Permits at the park – so if you haven’t had a chance to get a decal yet, then you can get one there before hitting the trails.
Speaking of the trails, these are some of the best you will find in East Texas and cover a wide range of difficulties. The trails are clearly marked, and some of them are perfect for beginners – overall, this is a great choice if you are just getting started with taking your Jeep off-road. The entire park is nearly 2,000 acres in size and was designed for dirtbikes and Jeeps, so you know you’ll find some great trails there.
This is also a great choice if you’re looking to make more than a day-trip of it. The Barnwell Mountain Recreation Area includes restrooms and showers, as well as RV hookups, and similar facilities that you can use and enjoy. There are even six cabins and five bunkhouses you can rent, so it’s a perfect choice for an overnight trip with plenty of off-road fun before you head home.
Brazos Valley Off-Road Ranch – Bryan/College Station, TX
This is a bit different from the other OHV parks in the area since it is a private facility that is available for use by anyone looking to go off-road. Since it is a private park, the fees here are more expensive than at public parks, but it also means there is greater availability. Unlike Northwest OHV Park, for example, the Brazos Valley Off-Road Ranch is available for use any day of the week; you just have to schedule an event ahead of time.
This location was owned and mined for gravel back in the 1960s and 70s. The owner of much of the land, Steve Opersteny, had a vision, however, of using the land and some of the surrounding area for creating an off-road park. He purchased the property back from the company that had use of the area, as well as adjacent land starting in 1994. He then consulted with experienced off-road drivers and began reshaping the ranch to create a series of trails for use by off-road vehicles.
The result is the Brazos Valley Off-Road Ranch, which consists of about 300 acres located in Bryan/College Station – south and a bit east of Dallas, past Waco and closer to Houston. They are not open regularly like a public park, but instead are available by appointment only, so you’ll need to contact them. They are more expensive than a public park, and the most cost-effective way to book a day on their trails is with a group of people to split some of the expense – there is a fee per vehicle, with at least two required, and a minimum fee if you have only a few vehicles.
You might have to drive a little bit to get to a good trail after leaving your Jeep Dealership near Dallas, but the trip will be more than worth it. Just get a permit, only choose legal parks, and stay safe out there!