See http://www.texasoutside.com/parks.htm for the official web page of Texas State Parks and for more information about the individual state parks (some of the park pages have trail maps online).
Texas Pictures (16 pictures)
Cedar Ridge Preserve (formerly the Dallas Nature Center) http://www.audubondallas.org/cedarridge.html [has trail map] Directions: I67 to Cedar Hill area. Take the exit for Danieldale Road (a couple of miles south of I20). Take a right on to Danieldale and go for several miles. Shortly after the road narrows, there will be a sign for Cedar Ridge Preserve on the right. Restrooms and water at the start. Free. Trails: There are a number of small (2 miles or less) loop or semi-loop trails that can be combined for a longer hike and they range from very easy to up and down some large hills. The park is well used and, thus, the trails are well defined. Depending on the trails you chose, you can have either a good, hard workout or a short mild outing. Trail Length: Little Bluestem .25 miles (wheelchair accessible) Bluebonnet 1.25 miles (some up and down) Possumhaw .75 miles Cattail Pond 1.25 miles (connector trail) Cedar Brake 2 miles (good climbs/descents at beginning and end) Fossil Valley 1.25 miles (big climb) Escarpment Road 1.5 miles (mild, wider trail) Red Oak Cutoff .5 miles [note: I felt (just a feeling) that the mileage was a little generous] Area: Forest, open areas, large hills When I did the hike: Several times. Most recently: February 2008 Recommendation: This is a great place to go near Dallas (and unlike some other Dallas area trails, it is hikers only). It's also a good place to take the family as you can do mild hikes. There is some annoying car noise around the Cattail Pond area.
Windmill Hill Preserve http://www.dorba.org/trails/trail_guide/windmill.html [has trail map] Directions: I67 to Cedar Hill area. Take the exit for Main Street (a couple of miles south of I20). Take a left on to Main Street and go a little bit. The dirt parking area with a sign indicating the park is on the left just after Wintergreen Road (on the left - the right part of Wintergreen road is a little before the left; it's not a cross intersection). No facilities. Trails: It is a maze of paths with no true circuit. It is a small park in a forest area. One site said that there were 4 miles worth of trails, but it was much less and I lasted less than 45 minutes with doing a figure-8 on the east side and the outer loop on the west side before heading to Cedar Ridge Preserve. Note that it is a combo trail and bikes use the trail as well. There is also lots of car noise, more so on the west side than the east. Trail Length: less than 4 miles Area: Forest, open areas, large hills When I did the hike: March 2005 Recommendation: Na, go to the near by Cedar Ridge Preserve.
Cedar Hill State Park Directions: I35 south to Hwy 67 to FM1382 in Cedar Hills to Cedar Hill State Park entrance to the left. After paying the entrance fee, take a left at the junction and park in front of which ever trail you wish to hike. Get a park map _and_ a DORBA Trail map when you pay. About 45 miles, 45 minutes from Allen. $5 Trails: There are 3 trails in Cedar Hills State Park. The Duck Pond Trail is a short loop trail (guestimate 1 mile) and the Talala Trail is a little longer loop (guestimate 2 miles) and there is a trail that connects the 2. Both are wide, dirt hiking trails (basically one-person width, but the trees and brush has been cleared next to the trail) - there are not views of Joe Pool Lake, except for one view point. Occasionally the bikers use these trails, so you do have to keep an eye for them. It took me about 1 3/4 hours to do a figure eight hike of the 2 trails, including the 2 scenic side trips. The gem of this park is the DORBA trail system - this is a biking trail system that consists of 3 loops trails of 2.5 miles (green trail - can be extended by .7 miles with the Shoreline Loop), 7 miles (yellow trail), and 10.5 miles. Hikers are allowed on the trails and travel counter- clock wise (while the bikers go the other way). The trails are a one person-width, narrow trail (not as wide as the hiking trails) and are heavily used by bikers. You have to keep an eye out for bikers and get out of their way (most are not expecting to see hikers). I hiked the 7 mile loop. Once you get past branch for the green trail (all the trails start/end with the same stretch), the number of bikers decrease. The first half of the trail is fairly level (with some small increases and decreased in elevation) and goes mostly along the shore of Joe Pool Lake with long stretches of prairie to cross. The back part of the trail has steeper ups and downs (hill steep, not mountain). Trail Length: 1 mile - 10.5 miles Area: Wide spaced trees - not very shady, grass prairies When I did the hike: 7 mile loop Saturday, September 28, 2002; 10.5 mile loop Sunday, June 29, 2003 (got eaten alive by the bugs) Recommendation: It's not the most scenic trail system and you have to keep a very alert eye out for bikers, but it is nice and a good conditioning trail and close to Dallas. Be aware that you are in the sun most of the time, so you probably don't want to hike this trail on an overly warm day (like I did).
Cleburne State Park Directions: Park in the biking lot in front of the restrooms. $3 per person Trails: One to two person width trails that go around the lake. Use the trail map and follow the basic trail around the lake. Once you reach the picnic area, turn around and a short ways back on the trail veer left on what looks to be a trail heading that way. This trail will go on a ways before seeming to end at a road. Turn around and head back to the main trail. On the main trail at the foot of the big hill, there is a trail that goes straight behind the hill, take that route. It eventually comes out at a dirt road and walk the road to the park entrance road and walk that road back to your car. I got a nice little 2 hour work out hiking the trails in this park. Area: Rocky, woodsy area around a small lake. Watch out for bikers. When I did the hike: Spring 2000 Recommendation: Nice for a shorter outing and not too far from Dallas.
Cross Timbers Trail (Lake Texoma) Directions: I75 (or I35) north to Hwy 82 in Sherman (or Gainesville) west (or east) to FM 377 at Whiteboro north to Juniper Point Campground just before the bridge going over Lake Texoma. Take a left off of FM 377 and go to the left as far as the road will take you. At the loop at the end of the road, there is a loop for a picnic area and the trail is at the top of that area with a sign. About 70 miles, 70 minutes from Allen. Free. Trails: The Cross Timbers Trail is a 14 mile, one person width, one-way trail along the shore of Lake Texoma. The trail starts off fairly level with some small ups and downs. After getting past the first major inlet, there are some steeper ups and downs. After a couple of miles, the trail intersects with the Cedar Bayou Marina area and you have roads before the trail continues (there a couple of small trails between the roads, but if you don't see them, just stay close to the shore). After the marina and gate, there is a picnic area and the trail continues at the far end of the picnic area. I turned around after crossing the trail bridge right after the picnic area as there was [yet another] downed tree across the path and I didn't feel like fight my way around it - about 1 1/2 hours after I started. Trail Length: About 14 miles Area: Woodys area with some elevation along the shore of Lake Texoma. When I did the hike: Saturday, September 21, 2002; Sunday, April 4, 2004 Recommendation: No, the condition of the trail is too frustrating. This is a trail in desperate need of being adopted by a group willing to give it some love and care and maintenance. There a number of down trees across the trail with no clear paths around them and one spot where the trail was crumbling away along a small cliff. I was amazed that the trail was in such poor shape considering the usage it gets (boy scouts and backpackers use it for practicing/conditioning for out of state trips). I decided to give this trail another shot (after my attempt to go to Oklahoma was shot by a blown tire) and was pleased to see that some maintenance had been done on the trail and there were no down trees and alternate routes had been made where the trail was crumbling along the cliffs. But there was another unpleasantness as the mosquitos and worms were out like crazy. Off kept the mosquitos away, but did nothing about the little green inch worms that were hanging from the trees everywhere. So, I did not enjoy my 2nd trip to this trail and turned around at the same place I did the first time (and forced myself to go that far).
Dinosaur Valley State Park Directions: Take I-35 South (either Dallas or Fort Worth branch of I-35) to I-67 heading west. Stay on I-67 past Glen Rose. A few miles past Glen Rose, you'll see a sign saying Dinosaur Valley State Park this way. Follow the signs to the park entrance. Park in the first big picnic area (there is a restroom in front). Walk through the picnic area to the steps down to the river. Or drive a tad further and take a left (where the amphitheater is to the right) and parking in the parking area at the end. Walk down the steps to the river and, if the water is not too high, you may be able to rock-hop across the river. There are dinosaur tracks right there. For the trail, go left and head up the hill and then hook a right. $5 per person Trails: Very good, but trails not well marked. Wander around and take ways that look to be a trail. The trail map won't help you much. We came across a good route the last time I went - cross the river, take the main trail to the tip of the large hill (where it looks like there are trails going in 20 different directions) and head left along the ridge of the hill. Around the apex of the hill, there is a trail that heads off to the right. At the junction, take a right and the trail meanders, often along the border of the park. The trail comes out near the junction of the Blue and White trails - a short bit on the White trails brings you to a nice resting spot along the creek (I always take a break there). For here, you can either head back via the Blue trail or continue your hike by taking a left on the White trail. After a few hours of hiking, I enjoy changing into my water shoes and walking in and along side the river for the way back - it is flash flood area, so stay out of the water if the weather is poor. Depending on the routes you take, you can hike for 2 to 5 hours in the park on different trails. Area: Hilly, wet water crossing to get to the trails. Watch out for bikers. Picture When I did the hike: Many times. Last went: Winter 2008 Recommendation: Best place close to Dallas. I've been there a couple of times. Nice, hard workout.
Erwin Park Trail Directions: I75 to Hwy 380 in McKinney, go West about 2.5 miles to State Road 1461 (sign saying Erwin Park this way). Go North about 2.1 to CR 162 (again sign) and then right after that short road on to CR 164. Go to the end of the pavement for CR 164 and take a left on to CR 1006 (CR 164 continues as dirt, CR 1006 is paved). The entrance is to the right less than 1/2 a mile ahead. Take a left at the road split and park in the 2nd parking area - the trail starts on the right at the end of the parking area. No facilities (bathrooms now permanently closed). Free. Trails: The Erwin Park Trail is a thin, level, packed dirt loop trail that goes for about 8 miles. It is a DORBA trail (Dallas Off-Road Biking Association), so you'll likely encounter bikers (they go the opposite direction of hikers) and the trail is narrow so that you will have to stop and move off the trail to let them pass (unless you are in a meadow). The trail loops back near itself many times to make the distance longer. Trail Length: About 8 miles (can do it shorter) Area: Thin woods, open meadows When I did the hike: Many, many times (it's less than 15 minutes from home and work). Most recent: Spring 2012 Recommendation: Na. Go to Grapevine Lake (prettier, wider trail, and more ups and downs).
Sister Grove Park http://www.dorba.org/trails/trail_guide/sisgrove.html [has trail map] Directions: I75 to Hwy 380 in McKinney, go East about 14 miles to CR 559 - it's the bridge that branches off to the left as Hwy 380 goes over Lake Lavon (really easy to find). Take a left and follow the signs to Sister Grove Park (after crossing the bridge, the road curves left and then a short ways ahead will be a small brown sign saying Sister Grove Parker with an arrow to the left and turn on to the road and the park is a short bit ahead on the left). Bathroom, water, and picnic pavilions at the parking area. The DORBA site warns that the gate is locked at sunset and people have been known to get locked in. Trails: There are 2 loops of thin, fairly level, packed dirt trails in the park. The one person width trails go through woods and fields. The Sister Grove Loop is 3.2 miles and the Lake Loop is 3 miles and does have some pretty views of the lake. It is a DORBA trail, so you'll have to keep alert for bikers [though I didn't encounter any on a beautiful Sunday morning]. Trail Length: Sister Grove Loop: 3.2 miles Lake Loop: 3 miles Area: Thin woods, open fields When I did the hike: March 2005 Recommendation: It's a nice workout trail in a pretty area.
Grapevine Lake - Northshore Trail Directions: Hwy 121 to Grapevine Miles Blvd (turn West from 121) to first light and take a right onto International Parkway/Hwy 2499. Go several miles. Rockledge Park access: After the Entering Flower Mound sign, look for a 2-turn lane on the left that goes onto a road (no road sign, but it is Long Prairie Road - there are a couple of left turn lanes from Hwy 2499 that don't have a road). Take the road to the loop at the end and go left. The turn in for Rockledge Park is just ahead on the right. Follow the park road to the right as far as it goes and park where you can. The trail starts at the end of the road, but there will likely be lots of cars. There are facilities and water fountains. Note: there are reports that that there will soon be a fee for Rockledge Park (April 2009). Murrell Park access: Go further on Hwy 2499 to Flower Mound Rd (light) and take a left. Take another left (light) on the first turn off on to Merrimack Lane and take that to the end. Turn left on to Simmons Road and go a little ways to the entrance to Murrell Park. Follow the signs for the restaurant - after the trail crosses the road, turn right and the access point is at the corner. No facilities or water fountains at the access points, but facilities are in the park. [Not as many people as at Rockledge Park] Twin Coves Park access: Go further on Hwy 2499 to Flower Mound Rd (light) and take a left. Take another left (light) on the first turn off one to Merrimack Lane and take that to the end. Turn right on to Simmons Road and go a couple of blocks to Winding Oaks Dr (stop sign). Turn left and go a ways and then take a left on to Twin Coves Park Rd and park at the small area in front of the gate. The trail starts just up the road inside the entrance and there is no parking area at the start. [This is now where I always start my hike.] About 40 minutes from my home in Allen, Texas. Free. Trails: The Northshore Trail is a one-way, 9 mile mostly packed dirt trail. There are some points where it is rocky or rooty and a section that is an old road. The trail is mostly 1 1/2 person width, but wider and narrower at points. It does not have much elevation change, but there are enough small ups and downs to give you a workout. The section after the Murrell Park access has some bigger (but still not big) ups and downs. It's close to Dallas, which is a big plus, but it has some major downs. a) it's a very popular trail. You won't be alone. b) it's well used by bikers. The trail is wide enough most of the time that you just have to move to the side and can continue hiking while they pass, but you do have to keep alert for bikers. c) it's near DFW airport. The airplane noise isn't as bad as you would think, but there is no illusion that you are off in nature. Trail Length: about 9 miles, one-way Area: Thin woods along Grapevine Lake. Note that there isn't much shade between the Rockledge and Murrell Parks section. When I did the hike: Many, many times. Most recent: April 2009 Recommendation: It is a really nice trail and a good place to go when you don't have enough time to really get away and/or want something better than the treadmill. But not a place to go for the scenery or to get lost in nature.
Lake Ray Roberts State Park - Isle du Bois http://www.dorba.org/trails/trail_guide/idb.html [has trail map - print it out, the park does not supply a map for the trail] Directions: From I75: take I75 to 380 and go west for a long, long ways. Take a right on US377 heading towards Pilot Point. Shortly after entering the Pilot Point city limits, take a left on to FM455 and a few miles ahead will be a sign for the entrance to Isle du Bois park. From I30: take I30 to FM455, near Sanger, and head east towards Pilot Point. Take a left into the park where the entrance sign for Isle du Bois is. After stopping and paying the entrance fee, continue on the main park road until near the beach area where you will see a dirt parking area on the right with a small DORBA parking sign. Bathroom, water, and picnic pavilions at the beach area. $5 fee. Trails: There are 5 loops of packed dirt trails, one right after the other, that can be combined for over 9 miles of hiking. The trails are almost completely in the woods, with only a few passes through a field. The only views of the lake are from the last loop, Loop E. It is a one person width trail, but not too narrow, and the trail does have some ups and downs, but nothing too strenuous. There is car/boat noise where the trail goes near the road/lake. It is a DORBA trail, so you'll have to keep alert for bikers. When starting a loop, start on the trail to the right and go counter-clockwise so that you are going the opposite direction of the bikers. There is also a 2.2 mile paved trail and horse trails in the park. Trail Length: (not exact) Loop A: .3 miles Loop B: .45 miles Loop C: 3.75 miles Loop D: 3 miles Loop E: 1.5 miles Area: Woods next to Lake Ray Roberts When I did the hike: March 2005 Recommendation: A really nice trail system - thank you DORBA! Even with the car and boat noise, you feel like you are in nature, unlike some of the other trails close to Dallas.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park Directions: 90 miles from Plano. West of Fort Worth, easy to find, take I-20 to US 180 about 15 miles to Park Road 71. $3 per person. Trails: There are a couple of trails in the park. The one that I went there for and hiked was the Primitive Trail - a 2.5 mile one-way trail. The trail started very well and I was hopeful that I had found a good trail somewhat close to home. It is a one-man width trail. The first about mile is rocky and has some change in elevation. Unfortunately, it is very flat after that and goes through several fields and some tree areas. Bored with the trail, I walked branches of the Main Trail back to part of the primitive trail I liked. I did enjoy the hike on the primitive trail back to my car, but was also saddened that the trail's potential was not fulfilled. The Main Trail is the big trail in the park. Horses, bikes, and people are allowed on the trail, but it is designed for horses and they have the right of way. The trail is a loop, but has several branches, and is reported as 8 miles round trip. The trail's width ranges from 1 foot to about 5 feet and is sandy in parts - not much fun to hike. There is also a 2 to 3 mile one-way trail that goes along the west shore of the lake. and an about 1 mile one-way trail along the east shore. I did go to Penitentiary Hollow rock climbing area, which is at the tail of the east shore trail, and walked around there for about 20 minutes. It was a nice area, but there were a lot of people in the rock climbing area (so it wasn't a quite area). The trails are not well marked, but there are a couple of spots on the Main trail with "You Are Here" maps. Area: I went early June and the temperature was in the 80s (a cool front had come through). It was very green and pretty. Recommendation: Na, it's really not worth the drive, unless you happen to be in the area. For a short hike, do the primitive trail until it intersects with the main trail and turn around and then go to the Penitentiary Hollow area and hike around for a bit.
Bonham State Park Directions: Trails: Combination bike and hiking trails. Area: Recommendation: Blah, don't go.
Davy Crockett - Four C National Recreation Trail Directions: Trails: 20-mile trail from Ratcliff Lake to Neches Overlook. After finally finding the place, I started off from the Neches Overlook. I was thoroughly disappointed in the trail. It was an old dirt service road that followed a phone/power line. I stopped after a mile or two and turnaround (it was a little muddy, it was late after all the time it took me to find it, and I was disappointed with the trail). I went sometime in the early fall. Area: Recommendation: Blah, don't go. Hard to find.
Bastrop State Park Directions: I35 to SH 71 (exit in South Austin) East to Bastrop. Take a left on SH 21 and take 21 about 1/2 mile to Bastrop State Park (follow the signs). From Plano, a little under 4 hours, 255 miles. $3 per person Note: Bastrop State park was devastated by wildfires in the summer of 2011. Check on the status of the park and trail before planning a visit. Trails: The Lost Pines Hiking Trail is an 8.5 mile, 1.5 person width trail that meanders through pine woods. The trail is well defined and marked with aluminum markers on the trees. There are also some smaller trails inside the road loop (as well as camping areas). I parked at the scenic overlook, hiked the trail, and finished the loop with the interior red trail for an about a 10 mile hike. The trail wasn't crowded - only encountered a handful of people. Area: Small hills and pine woods. When I did the hike: September 30, 2000 Recommendation: A really nice place to hike - not too hard, nice for a relaxing hike. There was a little bit of road noise at the beginning and end, but it wasn't not too bad. Too bad it's so far from my house - worth the drive once for a new trail, but not for repeating.
Colorado Bend State Park Directions: I35 to Temple/Belton - at the south end of Belton take the exit for 190 West (Killeen/Fort Hood). Go on 190 for about 40 miles to Lampasas. In Lampasas, 190 hits a stoplight with various road signs (183/190/...) - take a right heading north. Go for a few blocks and keep an eye out for the left turn for FM580, there is also a brown "Colorado Bend SP" sign at the junction; the turn is at a stoplight. Head west on FM580 for 24 miles to the small town of Bend (no gas). At the stop sign (T-junction), take a left. The road is paved for 2 miles and then it is 2 miles of graded dirt road (there are also two junctions along the way, bend right at both). You finally reach the park, but it is 6 miles along the graded dirt road to the headquarters, where you pay the daily fee (and the Gorman Falls trailhead is near the park entrance). Note that the road is subject to flooding, so don't go if rain is in the forecast. For river trail: At the park headquarters, turn left and head through the campground to the parking area at the end of the road. Chemical toilet. For Gorman Falls, take the short dirt road on the north side of the road just past/before the park boundary [there not a sign for the turn when you come in to the park, but there is a sign going the other direction] to the gate and parking area (limited parking). No facilities. $4 per person. Trails: Colorado River trail: Since we had to drive all the way to the headquarters first, we decided to go ahead and do the river trail first. The mild, level trail is wide for the first mile as it heads alongside the Colorado River. [To clarify, this Colorado River is purely in Texas and not a branch of the more well known Colorado River that goes through the Grand Canyon.] There are some nice views of the river and there likely will be people fishing in the river. Midway through the backcountry campground area, the trail narrows to one-person width and continues for a bit - either go to the end or turn around when you feel like it. You can make your way riverside at points and find a nice lunch spot sitting on rocks alongside or in the river - it is a fairly wide river, but not deep. There are a number of houses on the other side of the river, so I never felt like I really got away from it all. Gorman Falls: It is really a blah hike through Texas scrub (short (less than 10 feet) widely spaced trees, some small cacti) to the falls. The trail starts wide and heads a mild up for a little while. The rocky trail narrows some and then starts heading down. It starts as a mild down and then gets to be a little more steep. At the trail junction, take a left for the falls - not much further. A little bit after the junction, the trail starts heading a harder down. It's a sharp down right at the falls, but there are metal rope and posts to help you down. If you'll stop looking at your feet, you'll start seeing the falls to the right. About 2/3rds of the way down is a spot to the left that is the best picture taking spot of the pretty falls. At the bottom is a viewing platform in front of the falls. The falls are right next to the river. They are about 40-feet tall and are spring-fed. They were very pretty when I was there with the green moss behind them. The falls can dry up in low water times. [Note, it used to be that you could only go to the falls with a guided hike, but that is no longer the case.] Note: I was very disappointed that there were no wild flowers in the park (did see patches of blueblonnets on the drive before Lampasas, but nothing in the park besides 2 types of blooming trees along the river). Trail Length: 2.3 miles one-way, Colorado River trail 2.7 miles one-way, Gorman Falls trail (there are a couple of other trails in the park) Area: Texas scrub, river, pretty falls Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, March 21, 2009 Recommendation: Unless you are somewhat in the area, no.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Directions: I35 South to 29 (Georgetown) West to 16 South (Llano). After about 15 miles is Farm Road 965 to the right and a sign saying how far to Enchanted Rock right after the turn. Note: Farm Road 965 feeds directly into Fredricksburg (towards the end of town) and does not cross 16. $5 Trails: No real defined trails - just hiking on and climbing over large pink granite rocks. Okay, there is a basic flat trail around the base of the rocks, but that is boring. Area: _Big_ rocks. Enchanted Rock is over 400 feet tall and covers 640 acres. I'm talking a big rock. There are also a couple of smaller mounds to the left and don't forget to climb to the top of Eagle's Nest for another view of the Rock. They do have areas for true rock climbers (equipment), but you don't need equipment to have fun. Warning: I've heard it gets really crowd (I haven't experienced that as I've gone on weekdays in the winter) and they restrict admission according to capacity. Picture When I did the hike: late February 1999, late January 2001 Recommendation: Awesome!
Inks Lake State Park Directions: Take I-35 South to SH 29 West (exit is in Georgetown). Take SH 29 to about 9 miles past Burnet to Park Road 4 South (left) about 3 miles to park headquarters. From Plano, about 240 miles/3:45 hours $3 per person Trails: Not too much elevation, but there is some. You can tell you are on a trail, but you might not be sure which one relative to the map. There are a number of large rocks/rock mounds that will tempt you along the trail. Give in every once and a while and deviate from the trail to conquer a rock. There about 7.5 miles of trails in the park. Wander around the trails on the campsite side of the road for an hour or two and then cross the road and hit the rest of the trails. Area: I went in the spring of 2000 and the flowers were in full bloom. It was very pretty. I even got up close to 2 deer (and they patiently waited while I got my camera out and snapped pictures of them). You do get some road noise along the trails. The park is a rose granite rocky area around Inks Lake. Picture When I did the hike: Spring 2000 Recommendation: Go in the spring when the flowers are in bloom and take a nice leisurely hike and enjoy the pretty views of fields of bluebonnets and other flowers.
Hill Country State Natural Area http://www.texasoutside.com/centraltexas/HillCountryStateNaturalArea.htm [has trail map] Directions: I35 to San Antonio, Loop 410 or Anderson Loop west to Hwy 16 [exit for 16 is a couple of miles past the I10 exit], west on 16 to Bandera. Take 16 all the way to the T intersection in the middle of Bandera. Turn left at the T on to Hwy 173 for just a short ways. After crossing the river, take a right on to Ranch Road 1077 (there is a sign saying Hill Country State Natural Area that way). Go on the road for 10 miles. It turns gravel for the last mile (but maintained) to the headquarters. Stop at the headquarters and pay the fee and pick up a trail map. The parking area is a short ways ahead. There are 2 port-a-potties near the parking area, but no drinking water. About 1 1/2 hours from I35 and Loop 410 (and over 4 1/2 hours from north Dallas to San Antonio) $5 day use fee. Trails: There are a number of trails in the park - all are multi-use trails, and multi-use includes horses as well as bikes. I didn't encounter any bikes and didn't encounter (but saw) horses while I was hiking. I stuck mostly to the single track trails, which are one-person width trails. The double-track trails are much wider (and more likely to be used by horseback riders), often old roads, and indicated on the map by with double-dashes. I made a meandering loop in one area of the park for my hike. The trails are numbered on the map and there are numbered posts indicating which numbered trail goes which way at each trail start or intersection. From the parking lot as you face the road, take the road to the left a short ways to the trailhead for trail 6. I did a loop of 6, with a short side trip up (first big climb) 5b, to 6b over to 7 to 1 to 1b (1b has two big climbs) back to 1 and took a right on 1 a short ways to 6 then up and down 5c (big climb) to 5 (a smaller climb) all the way back to the road. I was going to take 2 back to the parking area, but there were horseback riders approaching on that wide, flat trail, so I elected to walk the road back. It's about an 8 mile loop that took me a little over 4 hours to hike (and I was taking my time). Trail Length: Lots of trails that intersect on each other so you can make it as long or short of a hike as you'd like. The trails are well defined. Area: Hill Country. And these are big hills (some are more like small mountains), so be prepared to go up and down. The ground cover is Texas shrub - brown bushes, small trees, and some cactus. Which also means not too much shade. You may want to wear some light pants as there is this one type of plant that over hangs the trail a number of places and has small pricks that will scratch your legs as you go through them (only broke my skin 2 or 3 times) - though if I went back I'd still wear shorts. When I did the hike: Saturday, March 6, 2004 Recommendation: It's a pretty area and a good workout. It wasn't too crowded on the beautiful Saturday I went (very few people before noon, more people in the early afternoon). If you are in San Antonio, it would be a nice side trip, though probably not some where you'd want to hike during a hot day.
Kerrville-Schreiner State Park Directions: I35 to 290 (Austin) West to Fredricksburg [or to 29 West to Llano] to 16 South to Kerrville to Loop 534 (follow Kerrville-Schreiner SP signs) to 173. After taking a left on 173, the park headquarters is on the left about a quarter of a mile ahead. Pay the fee at the headquarters and get the combination to enter the park (which is on the right on 173 just after the loop 534 traffic light). From Plano, about 325 miles, almost 5 hours $3 per person Trails: There is a half a mile pure hiking trail that isn't much and the rest of the true trails are combo hiker-bike trails. There is one good climb up a small mountain (in Texas, these are mountains), but the rest doesn't have much kick to it. There is about 4 miles worth of trails. Area: Woodsy area with one big hill. Saw lots of deer, though. When I did the hike: January 2001 Recommendation: Na. Way too much city/construction noise and not enough trail. Go to Enchanted Rock.
Lost Maples Natural Area Directions: Trails: Area: Picture When I did the hike: Spring 1999 Recommendation: Na. Trail far too wide.
Meridian State Park Directions: About 130 miles (2 hours) from Plano. About 40 miles west of Hillsboro off of state Highway 22. $2 per person. Trails: There are four trails in the park, and I hit all of them. The 1.64 Shinnery Ridge Trail is more of a nature trail than a hiking trail. It was a nice, pretty, easy loop trail as there was little change in elevation. A small portion of one end of the trail is paved for handicap access. Though nice and relaxing, it wasn't the type of trail I was looking for. At one point of the trail I could see over to the other side of the lake and there seemed to be a ridge over there. So I got in my car and drove to the start of the Bosque Hiking Trail - a 2.33 mile one-way trail that goes around 3/4ths of the lake. It was a nice trail that did have a couple of ups and downs over small hills. I turned around at camp site 26 (the rest of the trail looked like it was going to be low level along the edge of the lake) and hiked the other two shorter trails. They were like the first trail. The Little Forest Junior Trail is .7 miles and the Little Springs Trail is .4 miles. The trails are not well marked with signs or indications, but it is obvious that you are on a trail (a couple of the branches dead-ended suddenly) and there are benches in a couple of places (more on the Shinnery Ridge trail than the others). Area: I went in early June (probably my last Texas hike of the summer) and it was hot and muggy even with the overcast (though not as bad as I thought it was going to be). The area was pretty and green. There were some bugs, but they weren't bad enough for me to put some Off on. There were a lot of red cardinals in the area. Recommendation: Pretty and good for one trip, but not enough of a challenge (elevation change) for me to return. For a good, continuous hike, park at the area at the start of the Bosque trail, walk a short ways up the road towards the group camp to the start of the Little Forest Junior trail, hike the trail to the Bosque trail (it branches down), hike that trail to camp site 26 and walk the road to the Shinnery Ridge trail.
Lost Mine Trail - Big Bend National Park Directions: In Big Bend, drive 3 miles west of the Park Headquarters Visitor Center and head south (signed turn) for the Chisos Basin area. After rounding the bend, look for road mile #5 and the parking area to the south for the Lost Mine Trail (signed). No facilities. $10 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail starts paved, but that ends shortly and it is a dirt and rock trail the rest of the way - well defined. A mile in (nature marker #10) is a good view back of the valley and of the next valley over (though better views to come). About 1/2 mile further, the switchbacks start and continue to the top of the ridge. The trail continues along the ridge and eventually peters out - make your way as far as you feel like it. Along this hike, I saw a roadrunner (unintentionally chased it a bit as it kept running down the trail instead of getting off the trail) and some neat looking prickly pear cactus. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.4 miles, 1100 feet one-way Area: Mountains, trees, pickly pear cactus and other desert flora Pictures When I did the hike: Thursday, October 25, 2007 Recommendation: A nice trail with some pretty valley views along the way. Worth doing.
Emory Peak - Big Bend National Park Directions: In Big Bend, drive 3 miles west of the Park Headquarters Visitor Center and head south (signed turn) for the Chisos Basin area. Take the road all the way to the end and park near the store. Flush toilets. $10 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail starts to the left of the store (as you face it) - follow the path next to the store to the billboard sign for the trails in the area. To the left of the sign a short ways is the trail junction for Emory Peak and the Pinnacles (signed junction) - take a left onto that trail. The well defined trail goes at a mild up for a ways. Don't worry when the trail becomes a gravel road - that only lasts a short bit (road is to the water container). After a climb that ends at a campsite to the right and a bench to the left, the trail is mild for a ways with only a couple of short ups and downs. There are many good views of the Pinnacles (the big rocks rising up above) and the Case Grande Mountain (the distinct mountain of the basin) along the way. After going up for a while, the trail is mild as it goes through a backcountry camping area. The harder ups start when you see the "Don't shortcut switchbacks" sign - guess what's ahead: switchbacks. It is a combination of long and short switchbacks all the way to the ridge (the trail goes amongst some of the Pinnacles). At the top is a nice resting spot on the rocks (no shade) with a view of the basin area - if you are not going up to Emory Peak, this is your turning around point. The trail then drops slightly and a short ways ahead is the junction for Emory Peak (on the right). The Emory Peak trail is a much, much more rugged and steeper trail (a friend, who goes to Big Bend once or twice a year, says he'll never do that hike again until the park re-does the trail due to its roughness). The trail is still easy to follow, though. The rocky trail starts with a steep up with short switchbacks to immediately give you a taste of what the trail is like. It is a little milder after that first climb, but still an up. There is another hard up near the top. There are few views along the way until the top. The trail comes out at a gap between two big rock mounds - the peak is to the right. At the gap is a pretty view of the south valley. The last 25 feet to the peak is a rock climb (no trail). The best way up looked to be to the far right where the tree is - a good view of the basin area, so go there even if you aren't going up. I got to that spot and couldn't find a way up that I was comfortable with (I can be agrophobic at times and, thus, rock climbing isn't for me) and settled for the gap as my destination (there were a number of people on the peak and they didn't have climbing equipment, so you can get up there if you really want to). [Which also brings me to a disagreement I have with the park services, who call it a rock scramble. To me a scramble is not as vertical as this was and with a scramble you may have to use your hands for balance but not to actually pull yourself up. To me it becomes a rock climb if you can't get up (such as here) without using your arms to pull yourself up.] Return the way you came (could do the loop, but I'm told that it is a lot of up and down so it's not simply the reasonable distance it looks like on the map). Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.7 miles, 2400 feet one-way total 3.5 miles, 1400 feet to the Pinnacles ridge 1.2 miles, 1000 feet the Pinnacles ridge to Emory Peak Area: Mountains, trees, pickly pear cactus and other desert flora Picture When I did the hike: Friday, October 26, 2007 Recommendation: A harder hike, but pretty views heading up and at the peak area.
The Window - Big Bend National Park Directions: In Big Bend, drive 3 miles west of the Park Headquarters Visitor Center and head south (signed turn) for the Chisos Basin area. Take the road all the way to the end. For the shorter path, turn into the campground area and look for campsite #52 (in the campground area itself, take left turns or go straight when presented with options). There is a bathroom near #52 that has a couple of parking spaces. For the longer way, take the road all the way to the end and park in front of the store. Flush toilets. $10 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass Trails: From the store: Follow the path to the left (as you face it) of the store to the billboard sign for the trails in the area. Take a right and continue straight for the Window trail. The trail drops 480 feet over .6 miles (which means it's a climb out on the way back) to the junction with the Window trail from the campground. Note there is a short (.3 miles) paved loop called the Window View Trail around the top of the mound to the left of the store (starting at the Billboard) - it has a far view of the Window, but no where near as impressive as the close view. From the campground: Go through campsite #52 and the trail starts there and heads a mild down to the junction (store trail). From the junction, the trail is mild (slight down) most of the way to the canyon. The trail winds its way through the narrow canyon, with several bends, along the creek (crossing over the creek twice - no bridge, just rock jumping). There are some cement steps along the way. The Window is a gap in the wall of the mountains where the creek runs of - you can get right up to the gap - with a view of the valley beyond. Don't go if it is raining or had rained recently. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length + Elevation: 2.2 miles, 500 feet one-way from campground 2.8 miles, 980 feet one-way from store Area: Mountains, trees, pickly pear cactus and other desert flora, creek, canyon Picture When I did the hike: Friday, October 26, 2007 Recommendation: One of the "to do" things in the park. The canyon area is pretty.
Santa Elena Canyon - Big Bend National Park Directions: In Big Bend, 13 miles west of the Park Headquarters Visitor Center (and 13 miles east of the Study Butte entrance), head south on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for Santa Elena (signed junction). Take the road all the way to the end (and enjoy the views along the way) - 30 miles. As you near the canyon, first pull into the short turnoff at the ridge for a good above view of Santa Elena Canyon before continuing on to the end of the road and the trail parking area. Chemical toilets. $10 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass Trails: The trail heads down to Terlingua Creek then it is either a rock-hop (if the creek is low) or wet water crossing (no bridge) across the creek. Look for a trail (a bit to the right of the Rio Grande) heading up on the other side of the creek. The sandy trail goes a short ways through the brush to a cement trail that switchbacks up. At almost the trail peak, the cement ends. The trail goes down at a much milder grade on the other side all the way down to a narrow valley along the Rio Grande in the canyon. The trail continues through the tall riverbed brush to a little bit past the bend in the canyon. There are a couple of options for the sandy/packed sand trail in the valley - take whichever feels right; you can easily switch to a different branch if you don't like the one you are on. The best view/resting spot is the big rock that extends into the river near the trail's end - very peaceful. I had to share the trail with a tarantula on the way back. It is a flash flood area, so don't go if it is raining in the area. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length: .8 miles one-way Area: Mountains, trees, pickly pear cactus and other desert flora, huge canyon, Rio Grande river Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, October 27, 2007 Recommendation: Gem of the park.
Burro Mesa Pouroff - Big Bend National Park Directions: In Big Bend, 13 miles west of the Park Headquarters Visitor Center (and 13 miles east of the Study Butte entrance), head south on Ross Maxwell Scenic Drive for Santa Elena (signed junction). A mile or two past the switchback down (Sotol Vista), look for a paved road to the right and take that short road to the parking area at the end. No facilities. $10 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass Trails: The gravelish level trail leads into the canyon area and then hooks a right into the Javeline Wash. The trail/route is through the wash (so don't go if it is raining) for a bit. What looks like it is going to be a curve in the canyon is actually the pouroff. Lots of neat cactus in the area. It is mountain lion area (lots of scat when I was there), so if you have kids with you, keep them nearby. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length + Elevation: .5 miles, level one-way Area: Mountains, trees, pickly pear cactus and other desert flora Picture When I did the hike: Saturday, October 27, 2007 Recommendation: Worth the extra little time for this short trail.
Guadalupe Peak - Guadalupe Mountains National Park Directions: Hwy 180/62 to the park headquarters/main entrance. Shortly after turning into the park, turn left for the campground area and continue straight for the RV area. Park in the parking spaces at the north end of the area. Flush toilets. $5 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass [stop at nearby visitor center to pay]. Trails: The trail starts to the right end of the parking area, near the billboard sign. Look for signs at the junctions early on to tell you which way to go for the peak trail. At the unsigned junction (except "No stock" sign) take a left and continue on up. The trail is very rocky the whole way (not smooth). The trail is exposed for the starting valley (very few trees). There is a pretty area right before the trail rounds the bend. A little bit after the bend, the trail is in the trees most of the way to the backcountry campground area. The trail is mild as it approaches, goes through, and a little ways past the campground area - find a nice spot in the shade and sit for a moment to rest and catch your breath. The trail is exposed the rest of the way and there are some switchbacks as the trail heads up the white rock to the peak. There are 360 degree views at the top, including the backside of the distinctive El Capitan mountain to the south and the salt basin to the west. There is a metal pyramid monument commemorating American Airlines airmen and the postal service at the peak. The 8,749 foot peak is the highest in Texas. It took me 2 1/2 hours to reach the top. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length + Elevation: 4.2 miles, 2930 feet one-way Area: Mountains, trees Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, October 28, 2007 Recommendation: More of "I hiked to the top of the tallest peak in Texas" hike than a trail to go to for grand views (the views are nice, but not stunning).
McKittrick Canyon - Guadalupe Mountains National Park Directions: Hwy 180/62 to about 9 miles past the park headquarters/main entrance - look for the left/north turn for McKittrick Canyon (signed junction). Take that road all the way to the end. Flush toilets. $5 per car for a 7 day pass or National Parks Pass [stop at nearby visitor center to pay]. Trails: The mostly 2-person width gravel trail heads along the wide canyon floor - it's mostly level with a couple of small downs. I was just able to reach Pratts Cabin before running out of time (okay, I was a minute too late, but the rangers let me run ahead the very short ways and take a look) - not a log cabin, built like a house (nothing exciting). The area is supposed to be pretty when the leaves are changing colors in the fall, but I didn't have any of that and it was a completely unexciting area, except for a couple of tarantulas I encountered along the trail. They start clearing the trail at 5 pm (Mountain time) and lock the road gate at 6 pm. Keep in mind that it is desert country - you don't want to go in the summer. Trail Length: 2.3 miles, 200 feet one-way, to Pratts Cabin 1.1 miles, 200 feet one-way, Pratts Cabin to Grotto Area: Mountains, trees, canyon, creek When I did the hike: Sunday, October 28, 2007 Recommendation: Nothing exciting, but if you are in the area gives you something extra and not hard for the Guadalupe park.
CC trail - Palo Duro Canyon Directions: From Amarllo, head south on I27 to Rt 217 (2nd town of Canyon exit) and head east on Rt 217 to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. After entering the park, either park at the Visitor Center parking lot or continue on the road a little further and there are 2 small pulloffs right next to each other on the right side of the road - the 2nd pulloff is in front of the signed trailhead. Toilets at the Visitor Center. $4. Trails: From the Visitor Center: The trail starts to the left of the information area (before the walk down to the Visitor Center itself) and heads immediately down for a ways (which means a climb out on the way back). Then it is mild as it rounds a bend and then a small up to T-junction with the trail from the pulloff. From the pulloff: A short ways in to the trail is the T-junction with the trail from the Visitor Center - continue straight. [This is the way I did the hike, with a sidetrip for part of the way to the Visitor Center, but not all the way up.] From the junction, the packed dirt trail is mild, but there is a small rock mound/hill that you might be tempted to climb on the way going or on the way back. The wide trail goes across an open saddle and rounds the hill to the left. Where you reach an unsigned trail junction, take a right for a short, steep up with some log steps (to go straight soon starts heading down and comes out at the amphitheater on the canyon floor). At the top, the narrow trail is mild out to the tablerock (a small rock formation with a flat top) and the views of the entire canyon are grand. Trail Length: 1.5 miles from the Visitor Center 1 mile from the pulloff Area: Texas scrub desert. Large, wide canyon - the 2nd largest in the US. Almost no shade - avoid going in the hot summer. Picture When I did the hike: Sunday, Septmeber 21, 2008 Recommendation: Absolutely. Only trail in the park with a view of the canyon from above.
Lighthouse trail - Palo Duro Canyon Directions: From Amarllo, head south on I27 to Rt 217 (2nd town of Canyon exit) and head east on Rt 217 to Palo Duro Canyon State Park. After entering the park, continue on the road as it winds down into the canyon and then along the canyon floor to the signed Lighthouse Trail parking area, on the right side of the road, just before the road loop junction. No toilets at trailhead area, but flush toilets at various places along the road in the park, including one just down the road to the right/south of the Givens, Spicer, & Lowry trailhead. $4. Trails: I combined a few trails to make a longer loop than the usual one-way hike to the Lighthouse. The Lighthouse is a very large hoodoo (310 feet tall) [hoodoos are free standings sandstone formations]. Note that the Lighthouse can only been seen from the trail (not from the rim or road) - and the first long distance view of it isn't until 1.5 miles in. The trail to the Lighthouse is a wide, sandy and packed dirt trail that is multi-use - horses and bikes are allowed on it. The trail is fairly level, except for a few short ups and downs for dry gullies, until the big up at the end. The trail rounds the bottom of the distinctive Capitol Reef and then heads up the valley along the backside of the ridge. You'll see a number of smaller hoodoos along the way. After 1.5 miles you catch your first view of the Lighthouse in the distance - if you are tired or it's too hot, this is a good turning around point. The trail continues and passes the Givens, Spicer & Lowry trail junction. About a mile further is a picnic table under a tree (rare shade) - take a break. Up next is a huff-and-puff .2 miles of steep up. Wander around the base of the Lighthouse and take plenty of pictures. Then make your way up to the saddle (no true trail, but not too difficult to scramble up). Find a spot with some shade and enjoy the views. One the way back, I hooked a left on to the GS&L trail - still bikes allowed, but no horses. The trail is a mixture of packed and loose dirt and narrower - about 1-person width. The trail is fairly mild as it heads to the north side of the valley. There are some neat looking hoodoos along the way. Near the junction for the Little Fox Canyon Trail is a picnic table under some trees (rare shade). I headed along the side trail and enjoyed the pretty views of the canyon wall to the right, but turned around a short bit after that wall ended as the trail was over grown and the views from the loop didn't look like they'd be all that great. After taking a break at the picnic table, I continued along the GS&L trail. There are some ups and downs to the trail in the Red Star Ridge area as well as pretty canyon walls and a couple more hoodoos. After rounding a bend, the trail starts heading down to the road. At the trailhead, take a right and head along the road and hook a left just after the "low water crossing" on to the Passeo Del Rio Trail. The trail heads along the Prairie Dog Town River (more of a creek unless recent rain) for 2 miles to just before the Lighthouse parking lot. The Passeo Del Rio Trail is a wide, level trail that is mostly in the trees (which means no views) and fairly blah. [Note that there are 3 other river trails of 2 miles each. I hiked some on the Sunflower Trail and also found it blah and turned around after maybe .5 mile.] Trail Length: About 8.5 mile loop about 2.5 miles to Lighthouse 3 miles from Givens Spicer & Lowry trailhead to Lighthouse trail junction (and 1 mile from there to Lighthouse) 2 miles Passeo Del Rio Trail (connects Lighthouse trail and GS&L trail) Area: Texas scrub desert. Large, wide canyon - the 2nd largest in the US. Almost no shade most of the hike - avoid going in the hot summer. Pictures When I did the hike: Monday, Septmeber 22, 2008 Recommendation: THE hike of the park. If you are planning on hiking in Palo Duro, this is probably the trail you came for. The Lighthouse is an interesting hoodoo that's fun to climb around, but the trail itself is fairly blah. The GS&L trail is much more of a hiking trail and has a number of pretty views and more (smaller) hoodoos.
Caprock Canyons State Park Directions: From the west: I27 to Tulia and then head east on Hwy 86 to Quitaque. Follow the signs for the park. From the east: Hwy 287 to Estelline (north of Childress) and the west on Hwy 86 to Quitaque. Follow the signs for the park. Toilets at the visitor center and campground, but none at the trailhead. $3. Trails: I was going to do a loop hiking by combining a few trails, starting with the Canyon Loop Trail. The trail is a packed dirt road that heads along the foot flat-top large rock hill to the left. After a short up and then down, it is open prairie land to the right. At the T-junction, the Upper Canyon trail heads to the left, still an old dirt road. The trail heads up the canyon (on the floor, mild hiking) for a ways. The canyon walls are somewhat pretty and there are a couple of intersting rock formations. But the road was overgrown in spots and buggy at times. After about 2 miles, the trail becomes a (hopefully) dry creek bed and then switches in and out of the creek bed with a narrow, overgrown trail. With not much of a trail and the bugs, I quickly grew disgusted with the trail and eventually turned around and headed back. I went a short ways along the Haynes Ridge Overlook Trail (from the Canyon Loop Trail junction), but it was pretty obvious that it was also a very overgrown and narrow trail. Trail Length: 1.5 miles one-way Canyon Loop Trail 2.5 miles one-way Upper Canyon Trail Area: Texas scrub desert. Large, wide canyon - the 2nd largest in the US. Almost no shade most of the hike - avoid going in the hot summer. When I did the hike: Tuesday, September 23, 2008 Recommendation: Definitely not. I was so annoyed with the trail system that I simply took the long drive home instead of staying in the campground, for which I had already paid.