Sam Houston National Forest and the Lone Star Hiking Trail
On Christmas Day 2017, we meandered our way north to the Sam Houston National Forest. I had been studying the area on satellite maps for quite some time, but realized I would have to do a fair amount of detective work to understand how to make use of the forest. It’s not like a state park, where you arrive at park headquarters, pay or show your pass, get a map of the trails and away you go.
The 163 acre Sam Houston National Forest is bordered by Huntsville to the north, Conroe to the south, Richards to the west and Cleveland to the east. The majority of the park lies east of I-45.
There are several campgrounds within the forest and, as in all national forests, dispersed camping is allowed. I’d never heard the term dispersed camping before, but it means that if you would like to wander through the forest and set up camp in an area of your liking, you’re free to do that. As long as you follow a few reasonable rules. Sounds like a wonderful option for those with the requisite skill set.
I have a special affinity for bodies of water—the natural result of an interest in photography. Any visit to the National Forest was going to have to include water, so we decided to aim for the northern end of Lake Conroe, more specifically, Stubblefield Lake Recreation Area.
Now I had water, but of course, more was needed in order to keep the rest of our group happy. As it happens, the Lone Star Hiking Trail passes right alongside the Stubblefield campground. The trail is an impressive 128 miles long, 40 miles of which lies on the western side of Lake Conroe.
The trail is narrow, so you have to walk single file along the winding path. Changes in elevation are slight. The forest is not dense, which allows you some nice views through the trees and the assurance that you won’t lose your way if you step off the trail for a bit.
I estimate we walked a mile and a half before an unexpectedly large puddle blocked any farther progress. It wasn’t altogether unexpected as I had discovered complaints to that effect in some of the online forums I had scrolled through before visiting. It seems quite common for hikers to come across obstructions when walking the trail. It doesn’t have to mean that you abandon the effort to continue. We could easily have walked inland and made it around the water, but we decided instead to step off the trail and walk through the trees to reach the lake. This, of course, is something you can do in the wintertime, when snakes are less of a worry. I’m not sure I would have risked tromping through the underbrush otherwise.
We chose to return home by way of FM 1375, which crosses Lake Conroe. On the east side of the lake, we passed the entrance to Cagle Recreation Area. I think the trails and the fishing pier there will make the perfect destination for our next visit to Sam Houston National Forest.