The Cross Timbers Hiking Trail meanders along the south bank of Lake Texoma as if it were following a serpent's path
The Cross Timbers Hiking Trail meanders along the south bank of Lake Texoma as if it were following a serpent's path. The 14 miles of footpath follow the shoreline from rocky cliffs to damp lowlands through ruggedly beautiful country.
On the Texas-Oklahoma border, Lake Texoma is the 12th largest lake in the U.S. and is most popular with fishermen as one of the best lakes in the country for striped bass. On any given weekend, dozens of sailboats of all sizes and descriptions tack the long stretches of open water while anglers try to guess the best fishing spots.
The Cross Timbers Hiking Trail is barely noticeable unless you go looking for it among the mountain junipers, blackjack oaks, and canebrakes. Old wooden footbridges cross muddy streams in the valleys before the trail rises sharply to bluffs offering spectacular views of the lake. Hiking the trail is the best way to discover hidden coves that are otherwise inaccessible without a boat.
Rated as easy to moderate, the hiking path can lean more to the strenuous side in some areas. Groups often use the three primitive campgrounds near the middle of the trail for overnight trips. Motorized vehicles are not allowed on the trail, and bicycles are discouraged. Some brave cyclists have attempted the rugged trail, but the natural rock steps and numerous tree roots crossing the path, which aren't bad on foot, can trip two-wheelers.
The western end of the trail begins in the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers-maintained Juniper Point Park at TX 377, 12 miles north of Whitesboro. The park has showers and a boat ramp along with campsites with water and electricity. No permit is required to use the trail, but they do ask that you sign in at the trail heads. For information, call the Corps office at 903/523-4022. At the eastern end of the trail is Rock Creek Fishing Camp, a mixture of cabins and campers (903/523-4308) that offers solitude in a scenic setting.
One of the nice things about the trail is that you can sit on the front porch of a cabin and watch hikers, bent over from the weight of their backpacks, marching along the trail like an army of ants. The trail winds through three private resorts.
The important thing to remember about finding overnight accommodations on Lake Texoma is that the word "resort" can mean anything from an old mobile home to a luxury condo. Many of the resorts cater to fishermen who prefer to spend their time on the water and don't need much more than a bed and a shower.
Of the three resorts on the trail, Cedar Bayou Resort and Marina offers the nicest accommodations; though not palatial, they are comfortable. More marina than resort, Cedar Bayou rents two A-frame cabins that can sleep as many as eight in a large bedroom upstairs and a foldout bed downstairs. The kitchens have been stocked by previous guests with an array of spices, utensils, and other supplies. The full-service marina rents boats and offers fishing-guide services. For more information, call 877/523-4248 or go to www.cedarbayou.com.
If you don't bring your own food, the best place to eat is Gene's Hamburger Harbor on TX 377 between Cedar Bayou and Juniper Point. During the day, the little stand with a big beer garden offers excellent food at moderate prices. On weekend nights, the joint turns into an outdoor roadhouse, with top touring bands from Leon Russell to the Derailers performing. To get a list of upcoming acts, call 903/523-2509.
Lake Texoma has two other trails that offer a good workout along with scenic views. The Big Mineral Equestrian Trail winds along the shoreline west of TX 377 outside of Gordonville. The trail is wide and less rugged than the Cross Timbers Hiking Trail.
On the Oklahoma side of the lake, the Platter/Lakeside Equestrian Trail is open to bikes, horses, and hikers. The trail follows a deep cove in the red hills from one campground to another. For more information on parks on Lake Texoma, call the Corps of Engineers at 903/465-4990 or point your browser to www.swt.usace.army.mil/recreat. For information on cabins and resorts, call the Lake Texoma Association at 580/564-2334 or visit www.laketexomaonline.com.
680th in a series. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of Day Trips 101-200, is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 33284, South Austin, TX 78704.