Hiking in Texas State Parks provides a refreshing look at nature and great exercise. Even novice hikers can explore the park’s accessible trails and enjoy the fall colors, as many of the beautiful leaves of deciduous trees turn yellow, red, orange, and purple.
The Texas Department of Parks and Wildlife website offers many details. It’s also easy to get to a park by car and visit the park headquarters or visitor center where the friendly staff can direct hikers to a good starting point and answer any questions.
State parks have well marked hiking trails for visitors who hike up to three or four miles. Shorter trails are available for those new to hiking or disabled, or for young children. From the detailed park and trail maps provided, novices can choose smaller portions of the longer trails to keep the distance manageable.
Points of interest are marked along the trails and on trail maps, such as scenic lookouts and viewing blinds, fields of wildflowers, beaver dams, especially old or unique trees , waterfalls and good fishing spots. The Lake Tawakoni State Park trail marks the site of one of the largest cobwebs on record.
Signs along the hiking trails identify trees and flowers, and the cards identify the different species of birds, fish and other wildlife found in each park.
An easy starting trail for beginners is the Lakeview Loop at Lake Bob Sandlin State Park. This 0.6 mile loop has parking near the trail entrance and takes the hiker over fairly easy terrain with some pretty lake views. There is a wildlife viewing station on the loop for bird watching and a wooden blind for watching birds and other animals that visit a small pond next to the trail.
Rather than staying on the short loop, more adventurous hikers or those looking to cover more terrain can take a fork in the trail to continue on a much longer hiking and mountain biking trail.
Some state parks offer accommodations and trails for horseback riding. The Southern Sulfur Unit of Cooper Lake State Park has the 10.5-mile Buggy Whip Riding Trail that traverses nearly 600 acres of shady forest and thick vegetation. The trail descends hills and crosses ravines of streams and has some difficult parts. At the edge of the trail is an equestrian camping area where horses and their humans can camp.
There are also regular hiking trails at Cooper Lake State Park, including a short, fifth-mile circular trail surrounding a wooden amphitheater where hikers can rest while youngsters or outgoing hikers can take a hike. spectacle.
Another state park with great trails is Caddo Lake State Park. Along with the traditional hiking trails, this park also has a more wooded Caddo Forest Trail, a quarter-mile of which is accessible by ADA.
The most unique trails in this region are the paddle trails. Visitors can explore the twists and turns of Caddo Lake by paddling in a rented canoe in the park, in their own canoe or kayak, or by sitting back and enjoying a guided boat tour. Tall bald cypress trees covered in Spanish moss line the water paths, leaving a labyrinth of open waterways that are laid out like city streets. There are even signs in the waters marking the trails to help people find their way around.
Alligators live in and around Caddo Lake State Park, so check out the park’s alligator safety tips before you go.
Texas State Parks also offer virtual tours with interactive trail maps. To access it, download the trail data in a Keyhole Markup Language – or KMZ – zipped file and open it with Geographic Information Systems (GIS) compatible software such as Google Earth, ESRI ArcGIS, or a similar application with mapping capabilities. With these, one can click on a trail segment to get information about that trail.
Dogs are allowed on hiking trails in most state parks with leashes six feet or less. Check before going for specific park restrictions on pets on trails or pristine areas.
In addition to hiking, state parks offer fishing, swimming, picnics, boating, paddleboarding, water skiing, biking, nature study, playgrounds, stargazing, geocaching, etc. Many have lodges, cabins, and shelters that can be rented for family or group events.
Park and trail maps are given to park visitors upon check-in and can also be viewed online. For more information and a complete list of parks on the Upper East Side of Texas, visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks.