Note From Tim: Can you believe, I lived in Texas for 6-months and never went hiking? Of course, I didn’t have a car but still. Enjoy this guest post from Marie at Ardent Camper about the longest hiking trail in Texas.
It may not compare to the 15 longest hikes in the United States, but the Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT) runs through the heart of Sam Houston National Forest like a meandering artery, tracing ecologically-rich bayous, rivers and forests all the way from Richards to Cleveland. At 129 miles, the LSHT is Texas’ longest continuous trail.
The LSHT boasts none of the scenic views hikers may be accustomed to finding elsewhere, as the elevation doesn’t change more than a few dozen feet, but it remains a Texas gem for other reasons.
“Over the course of your journey, you will cross through several ecosystems and natural features, including swamps, hardwood forests and lakes.” – Marie
About the Lone Star Hiking Trail
Part of the trail’s draw is undeniably its proximity to Houston, the nation’s fourth largest city. But with fifteen car-accessible trailheads, the LSHT is well suited for day and overnight treks, and it manages to remain peaceful, pristine and unpopulated. This makes it an attractive trail for hikers, campers and nature aficionados alike.
Nearing its 50th year, the LSHT is lovingly maintained by the Lone Star Hiking Trail Club, which publishes a free guide to nearly every twist and turn.
Tips for Hiking the Lone Star Hiking Trail
When to Go
Considering Southeast Texas’ enduring summer temperatures that can soar into the 100s, the LSHT is best hiked in the spring and fall. The winter is generally mild, but camping options are limited at this time of year due to deer hunting season. From February 2 through September 14, you’ll have great flexibility in selecting your campsite; anywhere along the trail is permitted. With free entry and overnight use, you won’t find a better deal any time of year.
What You’ll See
Over the course of your journey, you will cross through several ecosystems and natural features, including swamps, hardwood forests and lakes. A huge variety of wildlife lives in Sam Houston National Forest, such as bald eagles, woodpeckers, hares, squirrels, deer, snakes and turtles. Surrounded by a dense cover of mature pines, you’ll catch yourself imagining you’re walking among natural air fresheners.
Bear in mind that, except for a few established car camping areas, bathrooms and electricity are unavailable. The LSHT is a multi-use trail for primitive camping and backpacking, as well as horseback riding and bicycling.
What to Bring
Don’t expect to find much water along the trail unless the weather has been wet. If you’re planning on hiking for multiple days, you should drop off drinking water at trailhead waypoints and refill as you go.
As always, make sure to bring a map and compass. A multitude of maps are available and should be printed or accessed via smartphone.
Unfortunately, plenty of mosquitos will share the trail with you too, so packing insect repellent is a good idea.
How to Stay Safe
Hikers can sign in at many of the trailheads—just as they do on many long hikes throughout the nation—to ensure they can be found in the event of an emergency.
If it has been raining, use caution; the trail is prone to flash flooding. I have been caught waist-deep in water along the LSHT before (and have never been so frightened!), so it’s always best to check the weather reports first.
Lately, Sam Houston National Forest has been affected by drought and controlled burns, so be sure to touch base with the park headquarters before embarking on your adventure to make sure all sections you want to hike are open and that your gear is appropriate for the current conditions.
If you’re looking for more activities nearby, explore Sam Houston National Forest’s Double Lake Recreation Area, which was built by the Depression-era Civilian Conservation Corps. There you’ll find scenic picnic areas and a concession stand where you can rent canoes and paddleboats. It’s also a great place to fish for bass and catfish.
Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston are a short drive away, providing plenty of opportunities for swimming, boating and fishing. Lake Conroe, in particular, is a popular destination for dining and shopping.
Should your thirst for outdoor fun not yet be sated, take a drive up Highway 45 towards the Texas Hill Country, which is the state’s most popular and scenic hiking and camping area.
If you appreciate the journey even more than the destination, consider hiking Texas’ longest trail: the Lone Star Hiking Trail. The LSHT is a quiet adventure in an easily accessible and surprisingly peaceful section of wilderness, and with so many activities available nearby, it’s a great fit for anyone.
Note From Tim: If you’re looking for more fun in Texas, check out Marie’s trip to Longhorn Cavern State Park.