View Full Version : Barnwell Mountain RA

02-25-2008, 10:21 AM
Well, this past weekend my brother and myself decided to go check out Barnwells, just outside Gilmer Tx. This is an 1800 acre offroad park run by TMTC boasting trails for 4x4's, ATV's, and motorcycles.
This all sounds a bit intriguing, to us it certainly did. However, shortly after unloading and setting up camp it quickly became apparent that this park has a VERY heavy leaning towards the 4x4 and ATV crowds. That's not to say you can't take your motorcycle here and have a good time. You absolutely can. You will have to be aware of a few things tho. First and most important thing to know is that the trails are not all marked appropriately. The trails, when marked at all, have a diamond system with 1 diamond being for the novice, all the way to a 5 for the most difficult, and yes I do mean almost impossible. My brother and I decided to check out a 2 diamond trail for our first run, not knowing what to expect we figured we'd start small and work our way up.
We find what looks to be a promising 2 diamond and head in. Now, part of what follows is my fault as I was really expecting something along the lines of a rutted fire break trail or something similar. What I got was a 80 foot 60 degree downgrade covered in loose gravel and large rocks with sharp left and right off camber turns. OK, that's not to bad, I can do this. Then when we bottom out it becomes apparent that this is deffinately not any 2 diamond trail either of us have ever ridden. Facing us now we have a choice, a 60 ft clay bank deeply rutted and in several places having 3-4 foot sheer faces, or the bypass. I opt for the bypass, a 50 ft marginally better surface. Once we top the bypass we are greeted with 2 more choices, neither of which branded with any markers of any kind. Do we go left up a loose scree face overlaying red clay, or do we go right, thru a draw, and up another 80 foot clay face. We look at the loose scree over the clay and decide thats just not an option, so we head right. This it turns out was a huge mistake as we are now unknowingly on a 4 diamond 4x4 only trail. After dropping the DR 4 times we finally make it to the top of this nightmare and back to the main road. Looking back, this is what we see.
While assesing the damages, these guys happened along to show us the way this trail is supposed to be handled, and with what equipment.
Now, we both figured this was our mistake, the path was obviously marked and somehow we just both missed it. We take a short breather and head for the next trail head. Again, we start down a #2, which promptly drops us down a cliff face for lack of a better word, winds us thru the woods, gives us several unmarked options along the way and of course dumps us finally onto another jeep only trail. We decide to backtrack at crawling speeds to see if it's us, or if for some odd reason these people delight in torturing us for no reason. Sure enough, at each junction there is not a single marker, not a trail marker, not a ribbon, not a little arrow, nothing. Now at this point I should mention, when you check in, they give you a xeroxed map of the park. This should be a big help right? Trust me, it's not. It is a black and white image that would be difficult to read if it didnt have contour lines all over it. Add in those lines (about 40 of them per inch) and the map quickly turns from difficult to almost impossible. Then add in the factor that the trails that they do show on the map aren't labelled at the trail heads, but at some random point along their length, then just to make things fun, toss in a bunch of crossings that arent marked either on the map, or at the crossings themselves, and you get the picture.
Now, at this point we decide to disreguard the diamond system and just ride whatever looks interesting. This is what we should have done from the beginning. In our wanderings thru the park we did stumble across (yes I do mean stumble, its not marked on the map or on the trail itself except for 2 locations that we later found) a 1 up bike trail! Here we go, finally! Buddy, let me warn you now, if you plan on riding this path you had better be on a full blown stadium bike. Most of it is pretty tame with moderate to intermediate challenges thrown in to keep you on your toes. However, there were several locations that in my opinion would have required a lifeflight helicopter and a pack of sherpas to get me out after the inevitable.
You might think I am bad mouthing this park. Really I'm not, and my brother and I both bought memberships. I think we need more places like this, and anything I can do short of physical work I will, hehe. What I am doing is making you aware. If you are looking for a nice path thru the woods with some scenic views, the occasional blip on the throttle for the sheer pleasure of it, and the occasional rut or twist just to keep you honest, stay off the trails. The access roads and pipeline right of way are for you. If you are a he man and think you can handle the trails, there are some nice hidden spots to play.
Know this much tho, you will have to work to get to them.
Towards the end of the first day we came up with the theory on the trailhead markers that we needed to go by the 4x4 rating rather than the bike rating. Upon exiting a trail we would always look at the marker to see what it was rated. In almost every occasion the trails that were rated as a 3-4 were far easier than the trails marked as a 2. Now here is why we think that is. The trails that were marked as a 2 for the bikes were marked as 3-4 for the 4x4's. The 4x4's would get back in there and struggle, the trail would deteriorate to the point it was now a true 4 for the 4x4's and a 4-5 for a bike. The trails that were marked as 3-4 for a bike would be marked as 2-3 for 4x4's, consequently they were in much better shape and actually turned out to be the easiest trails to ride.
Should you decide to visit this park you will deffinately not be bored. You will have your hands full tho, that I promise. This park is not for the novice rider!

02-25-2008, 10:35 AM
This park is not for the novice rider!

Wow, I've heard the opposite, that there was plenty of easy stuff for a novice out there. but I've also heard there was good hard stuff as well. Maybe you just missed it somehow?

02-25-2008, 10:44 AM
The easy stuff consists of the acess roads as far as we could tell. We didnt see a single trail that we would rate as a novice trail, and only a couple that we would rate as novice-intermediate. Several intermediate trails, and a ton of hard to very very hard.
Now, all this is being said in the middle of Feb., the start of the season. How much these trails have deteriorated since last year I can't tell you, nor can I say how much they will improve them as the season wears on. I am stating the way they were yesterday and the day before.
1 thing they really need to work on is physical markings on the paths. There were many places where trails crossed with no warning, and no indication of which trail was which, nor of flow indicators. I'm sure as this park matures these things will be addressed, as there were a few trails that did have these indicators.

02-25-2008, 03:17 PM
I think that was my friend's FJ62 in that picture.

02-25-2008, 04:30 PM
I've been to Barnwell several times with my Jeep. That red clay takes forever to wash off!

Good park though...wish there were more of these sprinkled across texas.

02-25-2008, 09:34 PM
Good stuff!

Thanks for posting.

Barnwell is VERY underutilized!

I rode my DR out there on some of the jeep trails. Now that was a hoot.

My 200 is a better choice.

02-25-2008, 09:36 PM
I've been to Barnwell several times with my Jeep. That red clay takes forever to wash off!

Good park though...wish there were more of these sprinkled across texas.

We are soon going to start working on the trail system at EDRA near Ozona.

Steve T has some things going with the Forest Service.

02-26-2008, 09:06 AM
I agree, this is a great park. I think that the DR650 & KLR650 however were the wrong machines for this park, hehe. Toss in old age, slower reflexes, and the fear of mortality and it added up to an eye openning experience. I may think I'm 16, but my body knows I'm far from it. Believe it or not, I still ache all over! The best trails we rode were the jeep trails, that is the ones that werent overly rutted and washed out. And to be fair, those were few and far between. All in all I can safely say we had a blast.

02-26-2008, 11:05 AM
I have been in rockcrawling for the last 5-6 years and regularly go to Barnwell. FYI, the diamond system there is very decieving because the red clay trails are always changing, you cant trust em.

02-26-2008, 11:53 AM
The diamond system maybe decieving, but it is still a good guiding point. Granted I have seen the pictures of Desi's Way (2 diamond) turn into a 4 when wet and I have driven Cylde's several time with out ever engaging 4wd, but other times was thankful for 4wd and a locker.

02-26-2008, 12:45 PM
Outstanding ride report. Entertaining & informative.

02-26-2008, 03:15 PM
There is a single track trail intended for motorcycles approx. 18 miles long ( if I remember correctly) that is fairly easy to stick to once you get started in the right spot. It starts at the park entrance and pretty much circles the property. Next time you are there, ask someone to help you out with directions to get started and you should be able to figure out the rest. It's been a couple of years since I've been there but at that time the trail was marked with small signs with an "M" on them.

Some spots will still be a handful for a 650 DS...but, alot better than trying to navigate the rock crawling stuff. From what I've seen at Barnwell,it takes a few trips there to get to know the place.


02-26-2008, 09:33 PM
+ on the single track. Last time we were there, we rode almost 30 miles on the single track trails. Some parts aren't marked as well as others, but you can do it...although I probably wouldn't try it with a DS. We did it with CRF250X's.

BTW, the last couple of pictures showing the little wooden bridge? Last time we were there, that bridge was missing. Now, that was a challenging little crossing without the bridge! Only took us about 20 minutes to get both bikes across :giveup:

Our first time found us lost in the 4X4 world as well and we weren't very excited about it. The second trip on the single-track trail has us wanting to go back for more! It's worth the trip. If you can handle some of the more challenging parts of Red River, you can handle Barnwell with no problem.

02-26-2008, 10:22 PM
I will say it again ...

The MC trails are very underutilized. Maybe 20 bikes a weekend on average.

The trails are hard to follow in some places because they are overgrown.

We need to host a TWT/TMTC MC weekend out there ...

02-28-2008, 07:18 AM
I will say it again ...

The MC trails are very underutilized. Maybe 20 bikes a weekend on average.

The trails are hard to follow in some places because they are overgrown.

We need to host a TWT/TMTC MC weekend out there ...

Say when Tony=Ya'll buying the hotdogs:eat:
Maybe more than just me and you park people will show up
next time.

That was kinda disheartening.A good thing with no support!!!!
Don't just gripe about riding areas,go out and do something folks.

02-28-2008, 07:33 AM
I will say it again ...

The MC trails are very underutilized. Maybe 20 bikes a weekend on average.

The trails are hard to follow in some places because they are overgrown.

We need to host a TWT/TMTC MC weekend out there ...

Say when and I'll try my best to be there! Let's go do some riding!!!!

03-04-2008, 09:44 PM
Say when Tony=Ya'll buying the hotdogs:eat:

Did someone say hot dogs ... YUM!!! :eat:

Say when and I'll try my best to be there! Let's go do some riding!!!!

We may have to scare up a group of folks and get out there soon. Most of March is already spoken for as is April, but maybe in May.