Day Trips

National Trails Day launched in 1993 and has become a rallying cry to get Americans outdoors

Day Trips
Photo by Gerald E. Mcleod

National Trails Day launched in 1993 and has become a rallying cry to get Americans outdoors. It's officially celebrated on the first Saturday of June, but there is no reason why any day can't be your own personal trails day. Just strap on the walking shoes and find a wilderness path near you that is begging to be explored.

Texas has hundreds of miles of hiking paths ranging from paved sidewalks to rocky climbs over rugged hills. Whether you're taking a walk through the soggy coastal wetlands or across the dry desert, being outdoors frees the mind and gets the heart pumping. Please remember to go prepared, know your limits, be aware of your surroundings, take only photographs, leave only footprints, and have fun.

The longest continuous hiking trail in the state is the 128-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail through the Sam Houston National Forest in East Texas. The moderate-to-easy path runs from near Richards to Cleveland, Texas. No bikes, off-road vehicles, or horses are allowed, but dogs and primitive camping are welcome. The trail is well-marked, but a map is essential, even if you do the journey in stages.

Lake Somerville Trailway covers 13 miles between the Nails Creek and Birch Creek units of Lake Somerville State Park east of Giddings, with another 8.6 miles of side trails. Although the landscape is not particularly spectacular, your chances of seeing wildlife are excellent. The trail is popular with mountain bikers, horseback riders, pets, and hikers.

The Good Water Trail traverses more than 28 miles around Lake Georgetown. The trail varies from single-lane footpaths to old farm roads, and portions can be very rugged. There are trailheads at the parks on the lake and the San Gabriel River that allow access for bicyclists, campers, and hikers.

Every good Texan has to hike at least a portion of the 5.2-mile Window Trail in Big Bend National Park. Moderately steep, it offers a beautiful view of the park. There are at least 19 other trails in the park worth exploring.

In 1974, the Big Thicket National Preserve north of Beaumont became the other "Big" in Texas. Although the preserve is scattered in nine land units covering 105,684 acres, it has nearly 40 miles of trails through some of the most biologically diverse public land in Texas.

A beautiful and easy hike is the 4.5-mile round-trip Lighthouse Trail in Palo Duro Canyon State Park, outside of Amarillo. The park has other hiking trails that are all surrounded by the colorful walls of the canyon.

Brazos Bend State Park, southwest of Houston, offers a unique hiking experience as the trail crosses marshes, coastal prairie, and wooded bottomland. The trail system includes nine miles of smooth hike-and-bike lanes and 12 miles of hiking trails. What makes this park extra special is the abundance of wildlife, including the resident alligators.

987th 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.

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