The Austin Chronicle

Day Trips: W.G. Jones State Forest

By Gerald McLeod, April 22, 2016, Columns

W. Goodrich Jones State Forest south of Conroe hides its uniqueness behind a wall of towering pines.

When the state purchased the 1,722 acres of clear-cut forestland 90 years ago, they had no idea that the outdoor classroom for forest management would become a wildlife oasis surrounded by urban sprawl.

Originally called State Forest #2, the site was a pine seedling nursery at first. During the Great Depression, crews from the Civilian Conservation Corps replanted native pines, which explains the forest's grid of straight trails.

An unintended consequence of the experimental area was, as the pines matured, the forest became home to a cluster of the red-cockaded woodpecker, one of 98 endangered species in Texas. The shy and elusive black-and-white birds nest in cavities they excavate in old-growth live pine trees.

Although the forest is primarily an educational and study area, it is open for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Fishing is allowed in the two ponds.

The preserve's Sweetleaf Nature Trail tunnels through a mostly hardwood forest along a meandering creek. The one-mile-long trail is an easy hike that visits the state champion sweetleaf tree and a swinging bridge over the creek.

W. Goodrich Jones State Forest is south of Conroe on FM 1488, a mile west of I-45. Visitors should get a free permit at the Texas Forest Service Office at 1328 FM 1488. For more information, call 936/273-2261 or go to

1,291st in a series. Collect them all. Day Trips, Vol. 2, a book of "Day Trips," is available for $8.95, plus $3.05 for shipping, handling, and tax. Mail to: Day Trips, PO Box 40312, South Austin, TX, 78704.

Follow "Day Trips & Beyond," a weekly travel blog, at

Copyright © 2020 Austin Chronicle Corporation. All rights reserved.