Gravel grinding and bikepacking are grassroots cycling disciplines that have exploded in popularity. In many cases, their popularity is due to a lack of management. Persons of all abilities flock to these genres for the scenery and social aspects and spend many dollars in the small towns they visit. Bikepacking is a more rustic version of bicycle tourism, typically connecting single track trails and camping tourist destinations via dirt or gravel roads. Official routes such as the Tour Divide, Idaho Hot Springs Route, and the now in creation Arkansas High Country Route are world renowned. This opportunity exists in Texas, especially East Texas, where more than 20 million people live within a short drive of a National Forest or Grassland. Coincidentally, TXDOT is currently studying bicycle tourism opportunity in East Texas. The creation of official bikepacking routes and working with land managers to open access opens the many small towns in the area for tourism and economic benefit. This presentation will discuss the concept of an East Texas route, opportunity, and barriers with the goal to create a long distance route that connects multiple forests, campgrounds, small towns, and tourist destinations.
John Blum grew up running on gravel roads in Michigan. After finishing his Ph.D. in San Diego, he moved to Houston and took up cycling. A former board member of BikeHouston, he founded Houston Gravel Grinders in 2014, has finished TransIowa, and is passionate about using bicycles for exploration. He now serves as trail steward at Double Lake Recreation Area and is the Race and Rides Director for the Greater Houston Offroad Biking Association.