Historic Battlefield Trail


6 Reviews

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Historic Battlefield Trail Facts

States: Texas
Counties: Cameron
Length: 10.1 miles
Trail end points: E. Harrison St. and Los Fresnos Nature Park
Trail surfaces: Asphalt, Boardwalk
Trail category: Rail-Trail
ID: 6017086

Historic Battlefield Trail Description

Get your fill of American history at the Historic Battlefield Trail in Brownsville, Texas. This unique ten-mile rail-trail runs from the heart of Brownsville in the south through the Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park to Los Fresnos in the north. The prairie of Palo Alto, recently preserved by the National Park Service, was the site of the first battle of the Mexican-American War in 1846. The war literally changed the map of North America: Prior to the war, the Republic of Texas (and later the United States) claimed the Rio Grande River as its southern boundary, while Mexico claimed the border farther north at the Nueces River.

The Historic Battlefield Trail is part of the Caracara Trails, which will connect hundreds of miles of hike and bike trails, paddling trails and bicycle routes—creating fun new ways to explore, be active, and live healthy across Cameron County, Texas.

The trail opened after the city of Brownsville purchased a portion of an abandoned railroad corridor that originally ran from Brownsville to Robstown (not far from Corpus Christi) in 1999. The railroad line was opened in 1904 by the St. Louis, Brownsville and Mexico Railway Company, which met its early demise after a failed merger with Missouri Pacific Railroad in the 1950s. Evidence of the Historic Battlefield Trail's railroad history is easy to find—the trail ends in the north near an active rail line and crosses a couple of restored railroad trestles on its route.

Paved with asphalt along its entire journey, the trail is also a convenient option for residents of Brownsville to travel to other parts of the city via foot or bike. The trail winds through downtown Brownsville, connecting a number of residential neighborhoods with the city's various amenities, including the Brownsville Event Center, Brownsville Tennis Center, Northside Transfer Station (which serves Brownsville's bus network), and a host of restaurants and stores. Residents and visitors of Brownsville alike can start their trek at Southern Pacific Linear Park, which is directly in front of the federal courthouse for south Texas. A block down the trail from the courthouse is the Brownsville Museum of Fine Art and Gladys Porter Zoo for those wishing to extend their visit even longer.

More extensions to the trail have since been added, including the Historic Battlefield Trail Galveston and Fort Brown connections. Beginning at Galveston Rd., the Galveston Connection is a .37-mile extension to the Resaca de la Palma National Battlefield located at 1024 Paredes Line Rd. That location memorializes a pivotal battle in the Mexican-American War. (The Galveston connection is sometimes referrred to as the Resaca de la Palma Connection). 

The Fort Brown Connection, comprises 2.75 miles of bicycle and pedestrian enhancements through Downtown Brownsville. It provides a bike-ped link to Brownsville’s three historic battlefield sites: Fort Brown earthworks; Palo Alto Battlefield National Historical Park; and the Resaca de la Palma Battlefield site.

The trail continues from the Palo Alto Battlefield NHP trailhead, heading north while paralleling Paredes Line Road. This latest addition is 1.8 miles reaching into Brownsville's northern neighbor, Los Fresnos. The extension is one of six catalyst projects designed to build momentum for the Caracara Trails vision.

The Historic Battlefield Trail is well-maintained with painted stripes, streetlights, benches, and water fountains along its entire route, making the trail appropriate for users of all ages.


Parking and Trail Access

To access the Historic Battlefield Trail, park at the lot at Southern Pacific Linear Park in front of the courthouse on E. 6th Street. Alternatively, park at the Northside Transfer Center's parking lot off of Habana Street at the trail's midpoint. Farther north, the Brownsville Event Center and Brownsville Tennis Center have ample parking at their lots off of Paredes Line Rd. For those wishing to start their trek at the Palo Alto Battlefield trailhead, park at the visitor center on Paredes Line Rd./FM 1847 just north of the intersection with FM 511.


Historic Battlefield Trail Reviews

More than a trail…..

I spent the last years on the Board of the Rails to Trails Conservancy. My husband and I have ridden trails all over the country….some shaded, some not, some asphalt, some not, some thru quaint towns, some thru the middle of nowhere and more. In each and every case we stopped to learn more about where we were and the “story” behind the trail or the journey along the trail. By doing so our ride was enriched and we “saw more”, “felt more”, and “took away more.” The Battlefield Trail is in Deep South Texas on the Mexican border. It is called the Battlefield Trail because it takes the rider/walker along the same path that the soldiers took during the Mexican American war. There were 3 battles fought along the trail and the Americans won. There are 3 National Park/Historic spots on the trail to mark this history. In essence the trail tells the story of how we became who we are and how this region became America instead of Mexico. What it lacks in shade it overflows with segments of the original pockets of the Rio Grande, birds galore who live here and migrate thru here (we are a major fly corridor), and a stunning collection of flowering cactus (if you visit at the right time of year). If however you do not know this you might simply see a flat area with sparse shade. At it’s southernmost end you begin at Fort Brown and it’s earthen wall ruins, ride thru downtown (our downtown has more historic intact buildings than any other city in Texas except San Antonio), up the Mitte Cultural District (visit the Farmers Market on Sat) where you can stop at a great coffee shop or check out the Gladys Porter zoo. Keep going and you will see several small lakes (we call them resacas) and plenty of swan, heron, and more. Continue to the far north and you can ride into the National Park and learn the history while you spot the famous nilgae (Asian antelope) in the brush. All in all a full ride with history, nature, culture and plenty of selfie spots! The next day you should check out the West Rail Trail on the west side of town from Palm Blvd to the Flea Market. Brand new after a 10 year struggle to acquire the right of way…..green and interesting! Worth a 35 min drive from SPI……absolutely positively!

great trail that is 35 min from South Padre

This is a straight old rail trail. It is well maintained and well-protected at crossings. Passes many cultural and historical sites and one view over a resaca (old river channel of Rio Grande) is stunning at sunset. Not sure what some other reviewers expected in the coastal plains and river delta of south Texas. There are coffee shops, a bike shop, river scenes, National park service park, tons of bird watching, a beautiful university campus with river features and beautiful architecture But yeah. Nothing to see here. ;)

Wish there were more in the area

After reading a couple of the other reviews was not expecting it to be nearly as nice as it was. This, in my opinion, is a beautiful trail. it runs mostly thru residential and urban areas. There are several "rest stops" on the trail as well. There are a couple areas where the trail passes construction zones or houses where the residents do not keep their yards nice but what can you do in this case.

I have ridden several trails across this great country and if this one is not scenic for the area its in, I don't know what would be. You can't expect a Grand Canyon view without the Grand Canyon. This is exactly what it should be in south Texas, a nice clean trail, fully paved and perfect for the area.

My only wish is that there were more 10+ mile long trails to ride in the general vacinity. One other review said not worth the drive from South Padre. We stayed on Padre and the drive was 38 minutes one way to get to the trail, again, what more could you ask for.

A bit confusing to follow leaving downtown area near the campus but if you follow the map it works pretty well. Flat, uncrowded trail.

A bit confusing to follow leaving downtown area near the campus but if you follow the map it works pretty well. Flat, uncrowded trail.


Protected trail in SPI area

This may not be the most "scenic" trail, but the scenery does match the area. Well protected & separated from traffic. One single overpass to cross at north end, otherwise totally flat.

Not very scenic

We just returned from a trip the South Padre Island this February. One windy day we ventured into Brownsville to ride this trail as it was supposed to be warmer and less windy in Brownsville that day. Warmer yes, less windy no. We started in town and rode towards the battle field into a 20-30 MPH wind. Not much for wind protection on this trail. After being a bit convoluted getting through the first couple of miles the trail basically runs through the housing areas of Brownsville on a greenway corridor. There is some water, but overall not a very scenic ride. Glad we went in to ride it but we would not take the couple of hour drive time from South Padre Island in the future. BTW, I am not rating the trail based on the wind that day as those things happen and are not the trails fault.

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