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Fresno-Sauceda IMBA Epic Loop

"The Other Side of Nowhere" — a brutal, demanding loop running deep into the most remote corners of Big Bend Ranch State Park.

Mountain Biking Severe

94 km
1.2 km
1.2 km
7-8 hrs
Low Point
732 m
High Point
1.4 km
Fresno-Sauceda IMBA Epic Loop Map

Warning: This route is a brutal backcountry endeavor that carries very real risks, such as getting lost in the unforgiving Chihuahuan Desert and dying of dehydration and exposure. Even though IMBA has designated this as an Epic Loop, this is a backcountry route-finding expedition of the first degree.


"The Fresno-Sauceda Loop is epic in every sense of the word," writes Katherine Fuller on IMBA.com. "Ride it too late in the year and it will feel like a blast furnace. Ride it without enough water or beefed-up tires and you'll suffer the consequences. There are no bail-to-the-brewery points. It is remote desert riding with rattlesnakes by day and coyotes by night."

Only seasoned desert mountain bikers should attempt this route. While it has been done as a day ride, this lengthy loop is most often attempted as a multi-day bikepacking route. Riding fully loaded with food and extra water, and preparing to spend the night, will see you better prepared to deal with the travails of the deep desert wilderness.

The loop begins from the Barton Warnock Visitors Center for Big Bend Ranch State Park. Here you can fill up on water, leave your car for multiple days (if you acquire a backcountry permit to hang in your window), and generally enjoy an easy-to-access base to begin from.

The ride begins on the East Contrabando trails, which provide a mellow mix of beautiful singletrack and historic wagon roads slowly turning into singletrack. You'll pedal out on Buena Suerte Road, soon passing the Whit Roy Mine, Fresno Mine, and Buena Suerte ghost town.

Once past the old mine sites, the ride truly gets wild. If you look at the maps, this route is said to negotiate a mixture of dirt roads and singletrack... but do not expect the "dirt roads" to offer easy pedaling. These are little-used wagon trails that "even the most accomplished 4-wheeler would have second thoughts about traversing," according to Mountain Bike Hall of Fame inductee Hill Abell. In many places, these dirt roads are quickly narrowing to singletrack trails that are only suitable for mountain bikes.

...or they could be disappearing altogether. These days, many of the locals will try to dissuade you from even attempting the IMBA Epic Loop. According to reports, recent torrential rains have dramatically altered some of the trails, making the route difficult to discern and impossible to ride in places. These trails and roads are so remote and so little-used that trail repairs aren't likely to take place. Missing a turn due to nonexistent signage and getting lost deep in the Chihuahuan desert are genuine possibilities. That doesn't stop people from attempting the ride, however.

While the Fresno-Sauceda loop does traverse some of the wildest parts of the state park, the far end of the loop does pass the park's guesthouse in Sauceda Station, which offers some amenities, including the possibility to refill your water and potentially purchase some supplies. However, you need to double-check with the rangers at Barton Warnock before you depart to determine exactly what the water situation is likely to be deep in the park.

If you do complete the Fresno-Sauceda IMBA Epic Loop, you will have one hell of a tale to tell about it!



Widely variable, narrow trail tread with steeper grades and unavoidable obstacles of 15in/38cm tall or less. Obstacles may include unavoidable bridges 24in/61cm wide or less, large rocks, gravel, difficult root sections, and more. Ideal for advanced-level riders.

Medium Exposure

2 out of 4

The trail contains some obstacles such as outcroppings and rock which could cause injury.


4 out of 4

In the high mountains or remote conditions, all individuals must be completely autonomous in every situation.

Best time to visit

all year round


  • Technical
  • Singletrack
  • Drops
  • Rock Rolls
  • Rock Slabs
  • Rock Gardens

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Guidebooks in this area