We’ve all heard how everything is bigger in Texas. This is certainly true of the Sam Houston National Forest.
And with over 136,000 acres of forests, you’re bound to find your next hiking adventure in this humongous Texas treasure.
It doesn’t matter what type of hiker you consider yourself to be, whether you are only starting out or have been hiking for years. Sam Houston National Forest offers something for everyone.
Whether you have several family members in tow, your four-legged friends or it’s just you and a buddy. Keep reading to find out what makes the Sam Houston National Forest one of the country’s best-hiking spots.
Facts about Hiking Sam Houston National Forest
Like it was previously mentioned, the Sam Houston National Forest is quite large. And since the forest area is so expansive, it means there are going to be a ton of options when it comes to hiking.
With over 128 miles of hiking trails, there is something for the beginner, intermediate or advanced hiker.
The trail is divided up into three major sections – Lake Conroe section, the Central area, and the Winters Bayou/Tarkington Creek area.
The Lake Conroe section of the trail is 40 miles long, while the Central area is over 60 miles long. The Winters Bayou section is shorter, measuring about 27 miles long. Within each section there are smaller loops, making it even easier to break up the trails. Depending on your schedule, you could devote only one day to hiking or plan an entire trip for up to 10 days.
You’ll know you’re on the hiking trail because you’ll see the aluminum markers to help guide your way. Each marker is a 2 inches x 4 inches plate to identify that you are still on a hiking trail.
The trails do not pose much of an issue as far as elevation is concerned. Since the elevation is relatively flat, it makes several areas appropriate for families and those traveling with dogs.
The scenery is a different experience with these hiking trails, compared to other hiking trails across the country. You might not have lots of waterfalls or giant rock formations, but there are many other attributes of these hiking trails that offer a hiker a very unique experience.
Why Hike the Sam Houston National Forest?
If you need a little convincing about planning a trip to the Sam Houston National Forest, we have put together several reasons it’s worth the trip. Let’s take a look at what makes these hiking trails so distinctive.
1. It’s a Perfect Day Trip
Located 50 miles north of Houston, Sam Houston National Forest is one of four national forests in Texas. Since it’s only about 3.5 hours from Austin, it makes this a perfect day destination for many people living in or visiting the area.
Since there are 128 miles of trails to choose from, you can easily hike a small section in one day, such as around the Cagle Recreational Area. Decide how many miles you want to hike and you will be able to easily find a trail that suits your needs.
2. Hiking Is an Option All Year Long
With the summers in Texas being very hot and humid, the spring, fall and winter are excellent times to plan a visit to Sam Houston National Forest. Don’t worry – if you can only go in the summer then you can still experience a great hike. But be sure to plan accordingly for the heat and humidity and pack ample water.
Most hikers find the spring, fall and winter to be the best times to enjoy the trails because of the weather. A word of caution though – if you hike in November and December, hikers need to wear highly visible clothing due to the deer hunting. The trails are mixed use and that means that hunting nearby could potentially be allowed.
3. The Trees and Flowers
The trees and flowers make this forest even more special. With the varieties of species, it’s a true tree-lovers paradise. Many hikers are mesmerized by the beautiful tall Texas Pine trees alone.
But look around and soon you will discover how much more there is in addition to the pine trees.
You will see the hardwood trees such as sweetgum and water oak. There are also dogwoods and wildflowers blooming in the spring.
4. The Wildlife
The wildlife is as beautiful and varied as the plants and trees. The wildlife alone is worth the trip to hike these trails. The forest is home to quite the variety of small and large animals.
It’s not uncommon to see white-tailed deer all along the trails. The forest is also home to squirrels, rabbits, feral hogs, wild turkey to name a few.
If you consider yourself a birding enthusiast, then the trails will provide you with a number of opportunities to watch for birds.
250 species of birds to be exact.
There are many varieties of woodpeckers, including the rare red-cockaded woodpecker, and bluebirds among others. There are species of owls, dove, quail, crows and many others nestled among the trees. You may even be fortunate enough to spot a Bald Eagle soaring over Lake Conroe.
5. The History and Heritage
The heritage of the trails can provide you with a really unique hiking adventure. While hiking, you could come across historic structures, cemeteries and possibly even artifacts from inhabitants and animals long ago. Even though you might be tempted to get as close as possible, make sure not to disturb any of the structures!
6. Many Activities in Addition to Hiking
Either while you’re hiking or afterwards, there are so many other activities for you to take part in. Sam Houston National Forest has a treasure trove of activities waiting to be discovered. As a matter of fact, there are so many different things you can do that you would have to plan multiple trips to even scratch the surface.
Camping is quite popular in addition to the hiking trails. There are three campgrounds for you to choose from: Cagle, Stubblefield and the Double Lake Recreational Areas.
Each of these three recreational areas offers an amazing assortment of things to do. For instance, at the Cagle Recreation Area, after a day of hiking the trails, you can boat, kayak, fish, picnic, or go mountain biking just to name a few things. Since you are located on the shoreline of Lake Conroe, you can hike right there around the lakeshore.
The Stubblefield Recreational Area offers lots of fun activities for you to enjoy. Not only is it a fantastic area for hiking, but you can fish, hunt, or just relax and take in all the wildlife and scenery.
The Double Lake Recreational Area offers many things to do besides hiking and camping. It’s a great place to go picnicking since there are multiple tables and a picnic shelter available for use. If you love to go canoeing, swimming or go out on paddleboats then you’re in luck. Since there’s a 24-acre lake, there are plenty of water sports to take advantage of.
Getting to the Sam Houston National Forest
The best way to get to Sam Houston and start your hiking journey is to follow the signs to the Sam Houston National Forest Ranger Station.
If you’re coming from Houston, you will take I-45 North to Exit 102 and then start to look for the brown signs for the entrance. The Ranger Station is located off FM1375, a few miles west of I-45 in the town of New Waverly, Texas.
Plan Your Hiking Adventure to the Sam Houston National Forest
Now that you know how much this area offers for all you hikers out there, the only thing left to do is for you to start planning.
These hiking trails are loved by tens of thousands of Texans and visitors alike every year. There are a multitude of activities to choose from and an even greater number of trails to hike. The hardest part of your hiking adventure will be deciding which trail to choose first.