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How To Drive Down North Padre Island On The Four Wheel Drive Trail
Above, photo of the beach on North Padre Island, Texas. One of the last truly remote spots on earth accessible by vehicle.
Driving Down North Padre Island
One of the last remote areas of the United States is the beach "road" that leads down the length of North Padre Island to the Mansfield Channel or "cut".
The four wheel drive only trail starts just below the hotels on the upper part of North Padre, across the causeway from Corpus Christi Texas. You must have a four wheel drive vehicle that is also high clearance. A Subaru just won't cut it. The area is maintained only by mother nature and there can be large washouts and channels in the sand. For those bold enough to make the trip a winch and long lengths of rope or chain along with a tire to bury in the sand are a must. If you are stuck, which can happen often, you will need a shovel, boards and the tire and winch to pull yourself out. Just a note of caution, if you do call a wrecker, provided you can make a call at all, you may be charged over $1000 for being pulled out, depending on how far down the Padre Island four wheel drive trail you are. This most likely won't be covered by AAA or your towing insurance.
There are times when the beach seems ideal for driving, but be aware when driving down North Padre Island that beach conditions on the upper part may change, preventing you from returning. You must keep aware of weather conditions. Carry along a NOAA weather radio.
The distance from the beginning of the four wheel drive only trail to the point at which you cannot go any further, the Mansfield Cut, is about sixty miles, give or take for all the winding around sand dunes you will have to do. There is no cell phone coverage on much of the trek so just be aware of this. Consider taking along a cell phone booster to give you a little extra range and a personal locator beacon in case of emergency. For safety be sure to notify friends and family of your plans.
When driving down North Padre on the four wheel drive trail don't expect to find any gas stations, restaurants, convenience stores, etc. You will have to take all the supplies that you need. Take extra cans of gas since you will be getting poor gas mileage in four wheel drive. Take enough water too. You will need at least a gallon per person per day. Don't expect to live off fish either. Take enough food to last for several days in case you are stuck. The sun is brutal on Padre Island so take enough 50 SPF for everybody and wear hats and sunglasses. There are times when you will not see any cars for days and if you are stuck in the sand you will have to walk out or wait for rescue.
The four wheel drive trail on North Padre Island Is About Sixty Miles Long
What You Will See When Driving The Four Wheel Drive Trail On North Padre
For some the beach will seem monotonous and boring. For others the idea of splendid isolation is beauty enough. You'll see beautiful sunrises and sunsets along the windswept beaches of North Padre, such as the one below. You may encounter all kinds of debris on the beach, both manmade and natural. You'll find hardhats and rubbish from overseas, seashells (some rare), coconuts from far off lands, parts of ships and wrecked boats and more. Each time you drive down the island you will see different things that have been washed up or uncovered by the shifting sand. You may see a Kemps Ridley sea turtle who has come ashore to lay it's eggs. If so, report it, if you still have cell phone coverage. They are federally protected so do not disturb them.
The surf fishing can be amazing at times. If you fish you will need a saltwater license along with the appropriate stamps. These can be purchased on convenience stores at the top of North Padre Island.
When driving down North Padre Island it is a good idea to let park rangers at the north end know of your plans. Stop at the ranger station near Maliquite Beach and inquire about conditions. There are times of the year the road is closed. Be respectful of nature and pack out more than you pack in.
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