Southern Tier - El Paso to St. Augustine
Prepare for a southern-style, cross-country ride on our shortest, most accessible transcontinental trip. And to make it even more accessible, we've broken out a section of this ride that spans just over one month!
We’ll enjoy the relative luxury of having the Adventure Cycling van tote our gear to and from each overnight location as we pedal from El Paso and the border with Mexico, past prairies, beyond bayous, and through citrus groves, all the way to the East Coast. You’ll also enjoy starting this epic tour in the heart of the plains, and ending it in St. Augustine, America’s oldest continuously occupied European settlement.
Notable stopovers along this route, each with a unique set of diversions, include Austin, New Orleans, and Port St Joe. In between there are many other great sights, sounds, cuisines, and cultures to experience.
"I most enjoyed the overall compatibility of our group. Our group seemed to get along very well, much better than the other extended trip (Pacific Coast) I took with ACA. When you are out for the length of time it takes to complete these distance tours only one bad personality can make the tours unpleasant for all."
Week 1. El Paso to Sanderson, Texas
We'll meet each other for this shortened (but still epic) version of the Souther Tier in El Paso, which is a great spot to arrive to early and do some quick exploration in Mexico. El Paso, a boomtown that was so lawless in the late 1800s, earned the moniker “Six Shooter Capital.” From here we’ll stay within sight of Mexico, bedding down in Fort Hancock for a night. We’ll then move on to Van Horn situated in the high Texas plains. Continuing eastward, we’ll ride across what a popular western swing song refers to as “miles and miles of Texas” — more than a thousand miles, in fact. After a long day’s ride to reach Fort Davis, the best surviving example of a southwestern frontier military post, we’ll enjoy a well-deserved layover day with time to explore Davis Mountains State Park and/or the famed University of Texas McDonald Observatory. Rejuvenated, we’ll cruise over sagebrush-covered hills and under the wide open skies of west Texas passing Big Bend National Park, named for the sharp turn that the Rio Grande makes on its way to the sea. We’ll spend a night in Marathon and then swoop into Sanderson, the Cactus Capital of Texas.
Week 2. Sanderson to Austin, Texas
From Sanderson, we'll spend the next week riding our way to Austin. We’ll press on through Del Rio (site of a legendary UFO crash), Seminole Canyon State Park, and Brackettville. Moving into the beautiful Texas Hill Country, we’ll ride along the Guadalupe River and take comfort in the town of the same name. Next we’ll delight in the descent from Blanco to Wimberley and, finally, reach Austin and a long-awaited layover day. Known as “the live music capital of the world,” Austin is exceedingly rich in history and home to an inordinate number of fine museums and great eateries.
Week 3. Austin, Texas to Overlin, Louisiana
Well rested and ready to go, we’ll spin from Austin through the town of Bastrop, nestled along the Colorado River (a different Colorado River), into Winchester, site of the largest mountain bike race in Texas. We’ll cap of the week by riding downhill to our camp spot at Navasota — perhaps stopping in at the Burton Cotton Gin, built in 1914 and still in operation. We’ll cap off the week by gliding through a beautiful stretch of woods within Sam Houston National Forest. Continuing our journey eastward, we’ll glide through a beautiful stretch of woods within Sam Houston National Forest. We’ll then head through the brushy Big Thicket Preserve, historically a hiding place for outlaws and rogues, and spend a night in Silsbee, nestled in the piney woods of southeast Texas. Come morning, we’ll cross into Louisiana and the town of Merryville, which skirts both the state border and the Sabine River. All of Louisiana lies within the geological province known as the Gulf Coastal Plain. We’ll spend the majority of our time here crossing the pine hills and prairies of the Louisiana Uplands. As we continue to Oberlin, with luck we might catch the Bundick Lake Cajun Cook-Off.
Week 4. Oberlin to Poplarville, Louisiana
Leaving Oberlin, we’ll pass through Mamou, the Cajun capital of Louisiana (and the world!), where we can treat our ears to authentic zydeco music and our taste buds to catfish and boiled crawfish. We’ll ride through Simmesport and then finish the week crossing the mighty Mississippi. As the terrain gradually changes to gently rolling hills, we’ll visit Easleyville and Bogalusa and cross into Mississippi, the land of levees. We’ll camp in Perkinston — known far and wide for its spicy chicken strips — with a layover strategically scheduled for New Orleans. Here we can take in some of the best sights, sounds, and flavors the region has to offer. After recharging our batteries and jump starting our engines with zesty Cajun and Creole food, we'll end the week with our last night in Louisiana.
Week 5. Poplarville, Louisiana to Port St Joes, Florida
Leaving Poplarville, we’ll cross into Alabama and roll our bicycles aboard a ferry across Mobile Bay to the Fort Morgan Historic Site and Dauphin Island, which has flown French, British, and Spanish flags. We’ll then pedal to our campsite in Gulf Shores, situated along the Gulf of Mexico. The next day we’ll find ourselves in Florida, on the coast in Pensacola. We’ll begin our penultimate week of the trip diverting from the traditional Southern Tier Route, cycling near the coast with its amazing sights, sounds, and smells, and by the relatively remote Apalachicola National Forest. Rivers we’ll cross in this area are wide and slow near the coast. We'll take our last layover in Port St Joes sitting on the shores of Saint Joseph Bay.
Week 6. Port St Joes to St. Augustine, Florida
As we start our last week and home stretch, we'll leave the Gulf and head across the state towards the Atlantic. We’ll pass near Ichetucknee Springs, Florida’s natural lazy river. we’ll bypass Gainesville in favor of the smaller communities of Hawthorne and East Palatka — where, it’s rumored, previous Southern Tier riders have tracked down some of the best milkshakes on the entire route. Our journey concludes in St. Augustine, the oldest European-settled city in the USA. Here we’ll dip our wheels in the Atlantic and relax.