Located only 50 miles north of Houston, Sam Houston National Forest is a great place to explore. The 128-mile-long Lone Star Hiking Trail runs through this park. You can go swimming and play on the beach in the Double Lake Recreation Area within this forest. There are numerous places to launch a boat, including on Lake Conroe, and you will find primitive camping and designated campgrounds aplenty. You can visit this national forest year-round, but be forewarned that summers are often hot and humid.
You can access the Lone Star Hiking Trail at many different points. One of the easiest to reach is Lone Star Hiking Trail #2 Trailhead, located off Farm to Market Road 1097, which is near Richards and ends near Cleveland, Texas. This well-marked east-west trail accessible only to hikers has limited drinking water along the way, so you may want to stock up at the Double Lake and Stubblefield recreation areas in Sam Houston National Forest.
Length: 128 miles
The Big Creek/Double Lake Trail follows a section of the Lone Star Hiking Trail. It starts off Farm to Market Road 2666 and runs northwest to the Big Creek Scenic Area. This hilly trail passes the Double Lake Campground and runs to Double Lake where you can rent boats or go for a swim. This trail is a fantastic place to go birdwatching.
Length: 8.5 miles
Like most hikes in Sam Houston National Forest, the Winters Bayou Trail is part of the Lone Star Hiking Trail. This segment starts off Farm to Market Road 1725, immediately south of Montaque Church near Cleveland. See palmettos eight to ten feet tall along this trail before reaching the Rivers Creek. You can also see cherry laurel oak trees along this out-and-back trail.
Length: 8.4 miles
Park in the Marcel Commons Parking Lot off Farm to Market Road 1488 to begin this trail in the W.G. Jones State Forest. Then, walk up the dirt road to this trail’s starting point. Along this 2.5-mile trail, you will cross several bridges over small streams, one of which is a swinging bridge. This trail that runs through a loblolly pine forest has benches along its length, making for great places to rest while watching butterflies.
Length: 2.5 miles
Kelly’s Pond Trail is near Kelly’s Campground outside of New Waverly. This is a mixed-use trail that runs through a beautiful wooded area until it reaches the pond. Then, it returns to its starting point.
Length: 2.8 miles
There are several places to go fishing in the Sam Houston National Forest. Lake Livingston is a fantastic place to go white bass fishing, and you can also catch largemouth bass, catfish, and bluegill. This lake that covers more than 90,000 acres has a maximum depth of 77 feet. Another excellent place to fish is Lake Conroe. As of 2021, the largest largemouth bass ever caught in Texas came from this lake. It weighed 14.1 pounds and was caught under the dam.
Traditional geocaches have been hidden along the trails in the Double Lake and Kelly’s Pond Recreational Areas.
Many people come to Sam Houston National Forest to go birdwatching. Waterfowl, wading birds, songbirds, and woodpeckers can often be spotted. The endangered red-cockaded woodpecker is often seen in this forest. Whenever one is sighted, special care is taken to protect its habitat. Bald eagles often use this national forest during the winter months. In addition to birds, you can see various wildlife, including deer and squirrels.
Stargazing at Sam Houston National Forest can be tricky because of light pollution from Houston and its northern suburbs. Consider heading to Cut and Shoot and taking some of the Farm to Market Roads out in the country for better viewing conditions.
Address: 394 FM 1375, New Waverly, Texas 77358
Fee: Entry fee $0
At Sam Houston National Forest, you can fish, swim, hike, waterski, and more. While you are only 50 miles from Houston, you will find yourself reconnecting with nature as you explore this location. Bring your RV so that you can take advantage of the many different areas within the forest.