Best Hikes in National Forests of Texas (TX)

National Forests of Texas Overview

The U.S. Forest Service manages approximately 675,000 acres of public land in Texas. This land is divided into four National Forests in east Texas and the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in northeast Texas. These public lands are administered under multiple-use management to protect and obtain the greatest benefit from all forest resources: recreation, timber, range, fish and wildlife, soil and water and minerals.

Angelina National Forest

Located in the heart of east Texas, the 153,179-acre Angelina National Forest is located in Angelina, Nacogdoches, San Augustine and Jasper counties. The forest lies in the Neches River Basin and on the north and south shores of Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a 114,500-acre lake on the Angelina River formed by the construction of Sam Rayburn Dam in the early 1960’s.

Davy Crockett National Forest

The Davy Crockett National Forest, named for the legendary pioneer, contains more than 160,000 acres of East Texas woodlands, streams, recreation areas, and wildlife habitat. Located in Houston and Trinity Counties, the forest is centrally located within the Neches and Trinity River basins.

Sabine National Forest

Located in the piney woods of east Texas, the 160,656-acre Sabine National Forest is the easternmost of the four national forests of Texas and forms part of the boundary between Texas and Louisiana. The forest is situated on the western slopes of the Sabine River watershed within Sabine, San Augustine, Shelby, Jasper, and Newton counties.

Sam Houston National Forest

Sam Houston National Forest, one of four National Forests of Texas, is located 50 miles north of Houston. The forest contains 163,037 acres between Huntsville, Conroe, Cleveland and Richards. Several of the hikes in Sam Houston National Forest are either uneventful or too short to mention. The main hiking attraction is the 129-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail that runs west to east from Richards, TX to Cleveland, TX. Thru-hiking would take 7-10 days or you can tackle it in sections based on what part of the trail you would like to explore.

Nearest Metro AreaHouston, TX
Area Size637,743 miles
EstablishedOctober 13, 1936
Hiking Trails182 miles

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Trailhead Traveler’s Recommended Best Hikes in the National Forests of Texas

(*** = best hikes in National Forests of Texas)

Four C National Recreation Trail – 20.1 miles one-way (Davy Crockett)***
4 C Trailhead, Photo by US Department of Agriculture

This 20-mile-long trail begins at Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area and ends at the Neches Bluff Overlook. Named for the Central Coal and Coke Company, which logged virgin timber in the area, the Four C Trail follows some abandoned tramways built by that company. The area around the trail is a forest that grew after the company completed its logging operation in the early 1920s. The sawmill was located at Ratcliff Lake, which served as a log pond. The northern trailhead is located at Neches Bluff Overlook which offers a panoramic view of pine-hardwood forests in the Neches River bottomlands with picnic and primitive camping facilities.

Lone Star Hiking Trail – 129.0 miles one-way (Sam Houston)***
Lone Star Hiking Trail, Photo by US Department of Agriculture

This 129-mile National Recreation Trail meanders the breadth of the Sam Houston National Forest passing through the eastern edge of the forest near Montague Church on FM 1725 close to Cleveland, Texas to the extreme western edge near Richards, Texas. Sections of the trail cross private property and public road rights-of-way. The terrain is relatively flat with some wet areas; and bridges allow for easy creek crossings. The southern portion of the trail follows an old railroad tramway.

Trailhead parking areas are at the main access points, but because the trail is intended to be primitive, there are no restroom facilities. See below for some of the more popular sections that are on the western half of the trail. If you do not wish to do an ‘out and back’, try setting up a multi-car shuttle at the various trailheads! Popular sections include:

Section 1 – 17.7 miles out and back

Near Richards, parking off of FS 219

Kelly / Caney Creek Section 2 – 14.2 miles out and back

Parking off of Bethel Road, FS 211

Stubblefield Section 3 – 25.8 miles out and back

Parking on gravel road off Highway 1375

Four Notch Loop Section 6 – 9.8 mile loop

Parking near Four Notch Camp

Sawmill Hiking Trail – 5.4 miles out and back (Angelina)

The Sawmill Hiking Trail winds between Bouton Lake and Boykin Springs recreation areas. There is a 3/4-mile spur near the middle portion of the trail leading to the abandoned Aldridge Sawmill site. Part of the trail follows an old tramway, used until 1920 to haul logs to the sawmills. Portions of old bridges and sawmill ruins can be seen at various points along the trail. A trail map is available at the District Ranger’s office and at the trailhead at Boykin Springs.

Trail Tamers + Tall Pines Trails – 2.4 mile loop (Davy Crockett)***
Ratcliff Lake, Photo by US Forest Service – Southern Region

This is a combination of 2 short trails near Ratcliff Lake. Interpretive panels along the boardwalk describe some of the valuable natural resources protected within Davy Crockett National Forest.

Trail Between the Lakes – 28.0 miles one-way (Sabine)

The 28-mile Trail Between the Lakes hiking trail extends from Lakeview Recreation Area on Toledo Bend Reservoir to Highway 96 near Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The trail is easy to follow. It is marked with 2″ x 4″ aluminum, rectangular-shaped tags which are attached to trees at a height of 5 feet above the ground in both directions. 

Featured Image: Swamp in Sam Houston National Forest, Photo by Fredlyfish4

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