Did you know that you can ride off road and dirt bikes in Sam Houston National Forest? Yes, you read it right! Sam Houston National Forest off road trails or multiple-use trails are the only trails open to dirt bikes in the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas.
And we couldn’t be happier about it! The off road or dirt bike trails at Sam Houston National Forest are literally the only and the best ones to ride your dirt bike on in the Houston area at the moment.
In this post, you will find everything you need to know about riding dirt bikes on the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. We will discuss the following topics:
- Dirt bike trails in Houston
- Sam Houston National Forest off road trails
- Our favourite dirt bike trails in Sam Houston National Forest
- Recommended rider levels at Sam Houston National Forest
- Amenities at Sam Houston National Forest
- Camping at Sam Houston National Forest
- Accessibility and pricing for Sam Houston National Forest
- How to find Sam Houston National Forest
- And lots more!
Dirt Bike Trails in Houston
As sad as it makes us to say this, Houston is not the promised land of trail riding and enduro dirt biking.
There used to be a few great riding spots, such as the Sterling Ranch ATV Park in Willis and few private trails around the north side of Houston. However, unfortunately they have closed their gates at least for now.
Luckily, our favorite place is still standing and you are able to take your dirt bike out on the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. It was one of our top choices to ride dirt bikes even when there were other options available for dirt bike riding in Houston. And it still continues to be one of the most versatile and fast single track trails in Texas. Simply put, it’s always fun to ride on the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails!
With only one trail riding and enduro option available in Houston, you may feel like you need some variation to your riding routines. In this case, we recommend that you head to the Austin area where the nearest and some of the best dirt bike trails in Central Texas are located. Check out our choices for the best dirt bike trails in Austin, Texas to tune in to the local riding scene.
Then again, if you rather take your dirt bike to a motocross track, there are couple of nice motocross tracks in the Houston area. You can conquer the jumps and turns at 3 Palms Action Sports Park in Conroe, Splendora Motocross Park in Splendora, or Rio Bravo Motocross Park in Houston.
Dirt Bike Riding in Sam Houston National Forest
Sam Houston National Forest contains 163,037 acres and it is popular among different types of outdoor enthusiasts. You can go hiking, biking, horseback riding, and riding registered off-highway vehicles (OHVs) in Sam Houston National Forest. And more importantly, it has a lot to offer also for dirt bike riders.
There are about 85 miles of designated multiple-use trails in Sam Houston National Forest. This means that you are not allowed to ride your dirt bike just anywhere in the forest but you have to do it on the designated Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. In addition, these multiple-use trails are not dedicated only for dirt bike riding but you can do any of the above-mentioned activities on these off road trails.
There are two separate off road or dirt bike trail systems at Sam Houston National Forest located on the western and eastern sides of northern Lake Conroe. There is no direct off road access from the eastern trail system to the western one. So unless your dirt bike is street legal, you may want to choose to ride only on one side. This way, you can avoid the extra hassle of loading and hauling your bike multiple times.
Sam Houston National Forest Off Road Trails
The Sam Houston National Forest dirt bike trails are wider single tracks that are fast paced. There are clearly marked signs at each intersection on all off road trails, so it is easy to navigate in the forest and not get lost.
The off road trails are two-way so you can turn back at any point if need be. This is very convenient but also a bit frustrating at the same time since someone might be riding towards you on the trail. So you need to always take this into account when riding into corners and blind spots to avoid colliding.
The terrain in Sam Houston National Forest has little to offer in elevation. It is a mix of different types of sand and mud and includes also some technical sections.
The dirt bike trails are wider than most single tracks and typically well maintained. You will find several bridges, creek crossings, and lots of open wooded sections along with some road crossings.
The Sam Houston National Forest off road trails are all similar, however, many of them have small roots and berms and even whoops to keep the riders happy. While the off road trails are fairly easy, even the advanced riders will enjoy the endless trails and fast paced sections.
Western Off Road Trails
The western trail system at Sam Houston National Forest consists of seven different off road trails for dirt bike riding. You can access the western trails from three different parking lots located at the Northwest Trailhead, Westside or 208 OHV Trailhead, and Kelly’s Pond Trailhead.
These are the western off road trails in Sam Houston National Forest:
- North Balloon Trail (7.5 miles)
- South Balloon Trail (9.25 miles)
- String Trail (5.13 miles)
- Woodpecker Trail (8.52 miles)
- Kelly’s Pond Trail (3.04 miles)
- Honey Moon Trail (2.58 miles)
- Big Loop Trail (7.39 miles)
In the Sam Houston National Forest trail map below, you can find the locations of all the westside trails and the three trailheads (P) you can access these off road trails.
Eastern Off Road Trails
Also the eastern trail system at Sam Houston National Forest consists of seven off road trails. The eastern trails are accessible only from one parking lot located at the Eastside Trailhead (233).
These are the eastern off road trails in Sam Houston National Forest:
- Zebra Trail (8.19 miles)
- Fern Trail (6.1 miles)
- Sandy Trail (4.06 miles)
- YCC Trail (2.41 miles)
- Northwest Trail (2.38 miles)
- Boy Scout Trail (3.55 miles)
- Lake Loop Trail (14.39 miles)
In the Sam Houston National Forest trail map below, you can find the locations of all the eastside trails and the trailhead (P) you can access these dirt bike trails.
Our Favourite Dirt Bike Trails in Sam Houston National Forest
Our favorite Sam Houston National Forest off road trails for dirt bike riding are located on the east side.
We like the eastside off road trails because all of them interconnect easily around the parking lot. And these trails are usually in great condition and well maintained, with the exception of occasional poor weather conditions. You can also pick and choose how long of a loop you wish to ride as the trails intersect frequently.
These off road trails in the east side of Sam Houston National Forest are fast paced and easy. They fit for riders from the beginner level all the way to racers getting their weekly race pace practice in.
Recommended Rider Levels at Sam Houston National Forest
The Sam Houston National Forest off road trails are great for all types and level of dirt bike riders starting from the beginners all the way to advanced riders and racers. The trail systems offer shorter loops to choose from and the fact that the trails are two-way means you can turn back whenever you want to.
If you are a hard enduro rider looking for technical practice, this place will not offer much to you. But since it is one of the only places open around the Houston area, it offers a great place to practice and keep your riding skills up to par. The long, fast, and easy dirt bike trails are great for increasing your stamina and physique.
We have seen adventure riders, kids, as well as bigger groups out on the trails. So needles to say, it’s great for the entire family. You can also camp in Sam Houston National Forest, which makes the weekend riding even better with group of friends or family.
Amenities at Sam Houston National Forest
There are most of the basic amenities available near the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. So you don’t have to worry about things like not having restrooms or a place to park your truck or camp your trailer. All in all, dirt bike riding in Sam Houston National Forest is made easy and fun.
Restrooms Near the Off Road Trails
You can find vault toilets in Sam Houston National Forest at all trailheads with OHV parking lots. However, there is not water available so you want to bring your own water bottles and hydration backpack to stay hydrated.
Loading Ramps at the Trailheads
Two of the trailheads, more precisely Westside or 208 OHV Trailhead and Eastside Trailhead (233), have also a loading ramp available. It’s very convenient to use the ramp to load your dirt bike when you’re tired after riding all day on the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. We highly recommend trying them out!
Camping at Sam Houston National Forest
You can find one of the Sam Houston National Forest campsites at Kelly’s Pond Campground, which is located at the end of Forest Service Road 271. The camping ground has a direct trail access to the western off road trails, which is very convenient for dirt bike riders and other outdoor enthusiasts alike.
There are a total of eight campsites in Kelly’s Pond Campground and the camping area is very primitive with no potable water or electricity. There are vault toilets in the camping area. In addition, all Sam Houston National Forest campsites offer picnic tables, fire rings, and lantern posts. These campsites are available free of charge on a first-come, first-served basis and no reservations are taken.
There is no need to worry if you are arriving with a large trailer to the Kelly’s Pond camping ground in Sam Houston National Forest. It is located on a flat, grassy field so there is plenty of room to turn around and you don’t need to stress about reversing.
If you don’t have a trailer, tent camping is also available in this campsite at Sam Houston National Forest. Just park in the adjacent parking area and walk to the camping units.
This is how to get to Kelly’s Pond campsites in Sam Houston National Forest: From I-45, follow FM 1375 west approximately 10 miles, turn south onto FS Road 204 and follow 1 mile, then turn west onto FS Road 271 and follow 1.5 miles.
There are also three additional developed campsites in Sam Houston National Forest: Cagle, Double Lake, and Stubblefield Recreation Areas. These campsites are not located near the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails and you are not allowed to ride OHVs in the area. However, they offer plenty of other activities, such as water sports, fishing, birding, and swimming.
Accessibility and Pricing for Sam Houston National Forest
Basically anyone who meets the requirements listed in the next section is welcomed to ride dirt bikes in the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails.
Firstly, you will need a multiple-use trail pass which costs $5 per person per day to ride in the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. You can purchase it at the self-pay stations at any of the trailheads.
If you are planning to ride dirt bikes regularly in Sam Houston National Forest, we recommend you buy an annual pass that costs only $25. The annual pass is available at the Ranger’s Office.
You can also purchase either type of the multiple-use trails pass online here.
Secondly, you will need to have a Texas Off-Highway Vehicles (OHV) decal mounted on your dirt bike when you ride in the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. The Texas OHV decal costs $16 and is valid from September 1 to August 31 of the following year. Find out how and where to buy one here.
Rules to Follow at Sam Houston National Forest
There are few rules to follow when riding dirt bikes on the Sam Houston National Forest off road trails. These following requirements apply both to you as a rider and your dirt bike.
- Dirt bikes are allowed only on the designated multiple-use trail systems.
- Only street legal dirt bikes are allowed to ride on forest service roads.
- Dirt bikes may not be wider than 50 inches (anything larger won’t be able to enter the trail entry posts or gates).
- Dirt bike exhaust may not exceed 96 decibels.
- A current Texas OHV decal must be mounted on the dirt bike.
- Riders must carry a valid ID and a proof of day-use payment.
- Riders must wear approved helmet and eye protection.
- Dirt bikes operated after sunset and before sunrise must have working head and tail lights.
If you and your dirt bike do not fulfill these requirements when riding on the Sam Houston National Forest dirt bike trails, you are subject to a fine of $125 to $500.
Good To Know About the Dirt Bike Trails
All Sam Houston National Forest off road trails are two-way! Therefore, be careful and be aware, especially if you are a faster rider. Head on collisions are known to happen frequently on the dirt bike trails. Also, keep in mind that after storms there might be fallen trees on the trails blocking the trail.
The Sam Houston National Forest dirt bike trails are open year-round. However, the off road trails will close on short notice due to bad weather or when conditions could cause trail damage. This ensures that the dirt bike trails will stay in good condition and the riding will be safe.
So always call the Ranger’s Office first before heading out to Sam Houston National Forest off road trails.
It’s all made simple and easy: just call at 936-344-6205 or 888-361-6908 and select option 2 for trail status. You will hear an automated trail status recording that states whether the trail is open or closed. The date on the recording is the date the trail was opened or closed. The recording will remain the same until the open/closed status changes.
In addition to dirt bike riding, the Sam Houston National Forest is great for other types of OHV trail riding, horseback riding, biking, hiking, fishing, and camping. There are also recreation areas for picnicking, swimming, and boating (both motorized and non-motorized). So there are definitely all kind of fun outdoor activities to do for the whole family in Sam Houston National Forest.
How To Find Sam Houston National Forest
Sam Houston National Forest is located near New Waverly, Texas. It is about 50 miles north of Houston. Map it out with Google here.
Here are the directions to Sam Houston National Forest off road trails and the trailheads on the western and eastern trail systems:
Northwest Trailhead: From I-45, follow FM 1375 west approximately 14 miles, turn right onto FM 149 and follow approximately 1.5 miles, then turn north onto FM 1791 and continue 4 miles to intersection with FS Road 208.
Westside Trailhead or 208 OHV Trailhead: From I-45, follow FM 1375 west approximately 10 miles, then turn north onto FS Road 208 and follow 1.4 miles.
Kelly’s Pond Trailhead: From I-45, follow FM 1375 west approximately 10 miles, turn south onto FS Road 204 and follow 1 mile, then turn west onto FS Road 271 and follow 1.5 miles.
Eastside Trailhead (233): From I-45 follow FM 1375 west for 4 miles, turn north onto FS Road 233 and follow 2.5 miles.
The Sam Houston National Forest off road trails consist of several different trails and they are arguably the best dirt bike trails in the Houston area.
When we used to live in Houston, we regularly visited these trails so we can strongly recommend them. The Sam Houston National Forest off road trails offer the type of riding that helps us all improve technical skills.
Remember to stay hydrated in the Texan heat and keep it pinned!
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Last updated: November 30, 2022