GPS Tracks: GPX format (courtesy of Brian Granger)
Contrabando is a brand new multi-use trail in Big Bend Ranch State Park, created in cooperation with local riders and the IMBA. The trail system consists mostly of singletrack loops connected by jeep roads (some of which can be surprisingly technical.) Most of the trail cuts through open desert terrain over sandstone composite punctuated by a few brief sections of volcanic rock and crystal. It is a very young desert trail, and thus the climbs tend to be very loose, and there are a lot of deep sand traps that interrupt the flow. Most of the sand traps occur in dry creek (arroyo) crossings, and some of these are followed immediately by a technical climb out of the arroyo.
Once broken in, Contrabando has the potential of being a very flowy, fast intermediate trail, similar to the Lajitas Airport trails across the highway but much more technical. The "difficult" trails are really more intermediate, but they may currently require advanced skill to clean because of the looseness of the trail. This will improve over time. There is no significant exposure, and none of the climbs or drops are particularly steep, except one fairly ridiculous one on the Dome Trail (hint: ride it clockwise to drop the hill instead of climbing it.) Most of the technical obstacles take the form of sandy creek crossings, gunsights and brief rock gardens, short ledges, and scree climbs.
The East Main doubletrack and its singletrack spurs are part of the Fresno/Sauceda Loop, a 70-mile IMBA Epic course which stretches into the interior of Big Bend Ranch, mostly on jeep roads. The bulk of the singletrack on the Fresno/Sauceda Loop comes from Contrabando, so if you want a good taste of the course, riding Contrabando will give it to you.
The best way to ride Contrabando is to set shuttle at either the West or East Trailhead and ride it straight through from the other end. The GPX track above was from such a shuttle ride. We started at the East Trailhead, took Dog Cholla, Rock Quarry, looped back on East Main to hit Crystal, then Camino Viejo, West Main, Dome, then West Main out, for a total of about 15 miles. If you don't have a shuttle vehicle, then you can do a long out & back by starting from the East Trailhead, doing the same sequence as above, but looping back on Dome and riding everything in reverse on your way out. This is about a 25-mile loop, if you take all of the singletrack options both out and back.
The East Trailhead is just east of and across the road from the Barton Warnock Visitor Center, which itself is one mile east of Lajitas on F. M. 170. To get to the West Trailhead, follow F. M. 170 through Lajitas, past the Contrabando Movie Set, and look for the point at which the road makes a big sweeping turn away from the river (around the former Fresno Ranch.) The turnoff for the trailhead is at the apex of this turn. If you cross the Fresno Creek bridge, you've gone too far. More specific coordinates can be gleaned from the GPX track.