Texas Nature September 04, 2020
Texas Has Four Lush National Forests And You’ll Want To Explore Them All
Texas really has it all in terms of terrain: mountains, beaches, plains, and greenery so lush, it looks like something out of a fairytale. Not everyone knows the Lone Star State is home to four national forests, and you’ll want to explore each and every one.
1. Angelina National Forest
Tucked away in the heart of Piney Woods country, Angelina National Forest spans over 150,000 acres of wooded landscape. Home to the vast Sam Rayburn Reservoir, the forest is a popular destination for fishing, boating, camping, and picnicking. Shortleaf and loblolly pines dominate the terrain, and several hiking trails meander through the trees.
In addition to the reservoir, two additional bodies of water -- Bouton Lake and Boykin Springs -- are just teeming with recreation opportunities. Swimming is allowed at Boykin Springs, so make sure to bring your suit!
You can also traverse the 5.5-mile Sawmill Hiking Trail, which winds between the two lakes. Parts of the trail follow a defunct tramway that was used to haul logs to the sawmills until 1920. Expect to see plenty of old bridges and sawmill ruins, including the abandoned Aldridge Sawmill site (so creepy!) More information
2. Sam Houston National Forest
Just 50 miles north of Houston lies an enchanting place that couldn't be more different from the chaos of city life. Sam Houston National Forest boasts the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail, which is broken up into three major sections. It's essentially a choose-your-own-adventure type of experience, with lakeside trails, incredible ecological diversity, a vast array of wildlife, and towering pines all throughout.
Two lakes, Livingston and Conroe, offer year-round fishing and other water recreation activities. Hunters also frequent the forest, and a multiple-use trail is open to OHVs (a perk no other National Forest in Texas can boast!)
The fall foliage is second to none, adding pockets of vibrancy to your stroll through the forest. To extend your stay overnight, choose one of three developed campgrounds. Off-trail primitive camping is also available outside of deer season. More information
3. Sabine National Forest
In far East Texas, the Sabine National Forest is situated along the border with Louisiana. People flock here no matter the season to fish, hunt, camp, hike, cycle, and ride on horseback. The 28-mile Between the Lakes Trail stretches from Lakeview Recreation Area to Highway 96 near Sam Rayburn Reservoir, boasting a plethora of gorgeous natural scenery. There's also the 12,369-acre Indian Mounds Wilderness Area, access to which is restricted to pedestrian and horse traffic only.
Here, you'll also find Toledo Bend, the fifth-largest man-made reservoir in the U.S. Known nationwide, this bucket-list-worthy destination boasts everything from fish camps with marinas and primitive campsites to full-blown lodges and motels.
Red Hills Lake offers picnic facilities and a swimming beach, campgrounds are plentiful, and the wildlife is amazingly varied. Plus, just take a look at that deep blue water! More information
4. Davy Crockett National Forest
Within the Neches and Trinity River basins, Davy Crockett National Forest sits on over 160 acres of heavily forested East Texas terrain. Set off on the Four C National Recreation Trail to get up close and personal with the pines, hardwoods, bogs, and upland forests that make up this incredible landscape. There's also a horse trail and wilderness area free of modern encroachment.
The 45-acre Ratcliff Lake features a swimming beach, picnic and campsites, a concession stand, an interpretive forest trail, showers, boating, and fishing. Visit in autumn for striking views as the woods erupt in a spectacle of bright red, orange, and yellow hues.
Camping is permitted year-round for the most part, restricted only during deer season to make for a safe hunting experience. More information
How many of Texas’ national forests have you visited? Which one is your favorite? Let us know, and check out our previous article to learn more about a little-known state park in the Piney Woods:
Martin Dies, Jr. State Park In Texas Is So Hidden Most Locals Don’t Even Know About It. Address: 5050 TX-21, Hemphill, TX 75948, USA Address: Angelina National Forest, Texas 75964, USA Address: 18551 Texas 7, Kennard, TX 75847, USA Address: New Waverly, TX 77358, USA