Park Spotlight: Sam Houston National Forest

Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service

In our Park Spotlight series, we take a closer look at Houston’s vast array of public recreational areas to shine a light on hidden and not so hidden gems. This week we’ll be spotlighting Sam Houston National Forest. Join us as we take a trip through Houston, park by park.

Located just 50 miles north of Downtown in New Waverly, Sam Houston National Forest offers park-goers expansive, wooded recreation, and wildlife areas—perfect for those looking to hike, hunt, camp and more.

One of four national forests in Texas, the park spans 163,037 acres between Huntsville, Conroe, Cleveland and Richards, Texas.

And with land in Montgomery, Walker, and San Jacinto counties, the Sam Houston National Forest is intermingled with privately owned timberlands, small farms, and the district ranger’s office located three miles west of New Waverly on FM 1375.

Photo courtesy of USDA Forest Service

The Great Outdoors 

Hiking is a popular way to enjoy the forest and its beauty. The 128-mile (206 km) Lone Star Hiking Trail, a portion of which has gained National Recreation Trail status, winds through the Sam Houston National Forest. The trail, marked with two-inch by four-inch aluminum markers to guide hikers, has recreation areas available at three different points.

If camping out is your thing, there are three developed campgrounds in the Sam Houston National Forest (Cagle, Double Lake and Stubblefield Recreation areas). Double Lake facilities are available by reservations or on a first-come, first-served basis if site has not been previously reserved. Cagle and Stubblefield are available on a first-come, first-served basis only. Reservations can be made online or by calling the National Recreation Service at 877-444-6777.

For those looking to get out on the water, canoes and paddleboats can be rented at the concession stand at Double Lake which also has groceries, ice, and other items for sale. Bass, bream, and catfish have been stocked in Double Lake, and fishing is permitted under applicable state laws. Only small electric motors are allowed on the lake. Double Lake Recreation Area also provides access to the Lone Star Hiking Trail.

Navigating the National Forest Service’s Website

The U.S. Forest Service’s website is of an older design and can be difficult to navigate, as it groups all Texas parks together and organizes information by activities, rather than by the individual forests and destinations.

When visiting it and looking for more detailed visitor information, select the activity that interests you in the menu on the left-hand side of the screen. Then once, you land on the page, scroll down towards the bottom for details specific to San Houston National Forest.

Sam Houston National Forest

  • Location: 394 FM 1375, New Waverly, TX 77358
  • Hours: The park is open 365 days a year. Park offices are open from Monday to Friday 8am to 4:30pm; closed Saturday and Sunday. The office’s phone number is 888-361-6908, but it is difficult to reach a person and they are not very helpful if you do.
  • Parking: Free lot parking is available at destinations inside the forest.
  • Admission: It’s free to visit the forest and explore the hiking trails. Some areas and activities have associated fees.
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Cody Swann is a writer and musician born and raised in Houston. When he isn't recording or touring the country with his band, Wild Moccasins, he can be found covering live music and arts events for 365 Things to Do in Houston.