5 Must Do Things Around Davy Crockett National Forest

A portion of the El Camino Real de los Tejas National Historic Trail that passes through Mission Tejas State Park | Courtesy of National Park Services

In our Must Do Things Around Greater Houston series, we take a look at Houston’s vast array of communities, neighborhoods and destinations to bring you five fun, tasty, surprising and enticing reasons you should give each one a visit.

Around a two-hour drive from downtown Houston, the 160,000-acre Davy Crockett National Forest was proclaimed a National Forest by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1936.

The East Texas woodlands are part of the Piney Woods ecoregion, edged by the Neches River to the northeast and featuring the 45-acre Ratcliff Lake.

Here are five fun, tasty and exciting reasons you should give the area around Davy Crockett National Forest a visit:

5 Must Do Things Around Davy Crockett National Forest 

  1. Get out on the water at Ratcliff Lake Once a log pond for the Central Coal and Coke Company Sawmill in the early 1900s, the 45-acre lake offers visitors the chance to swim, boat, fish, and kayak in a beautiful forest setting. Be sure to check for current conditions prior to your visit.
  2. Camp out under the stars at the Ratcliff Recreation AreaSurrounding the lake, the park’s recreation area rocks an amphitheater, showers, swimming beach and bathhouse, concession stand, serene picnic spots, and camping opportunities. Dispersed camping is also permitted in most parts of the National Forest year-round (during fall deer season, there are 20 designated hunter camps to provide a safer hunting experience). Reservations can be made two days in advance online or by calling 1-877-444-6777.
  3. Hike the park’s serene trailsBeginning at Ratcliff Lake, the 20-mile-long Four C National Recreation Trail winds its way through towering pines, bottomland hardwoods, boggy sloughs, and upland forests, with the Neches Bluff Overlook offering panoramic views at the north end of the trail and the quiet Big Slough Wilderness Area located along the Neches River about 5 miles north of Ratcliff. Horseback riders can check out the Piney Creek Horse Trail, offering over 50 miles of developed horse trails.
  4. Explore Mission Tejas State ParkLocated in the north end of Davy Crockett National Forest, Mission Tejas State Park offers even more hiking, fishing, camping, nature-watching opportunities, plus the chance to explore history. Take the one-mile Nabedache Loop past remnants of the El Camino Real, which dates back to the 1690s, or find the nearby Rice Log Home built by pioneers in the early 1800s.
  5. Check out the nearby town of LufkinThe East Texas town of Lufkin may sound sleepy, but it’s full of fun. Highlights include the Ellen Trout Zoo, which houses 800 species of animals from hippos and monkeys to jaguars and giraffes; the Naranjo Museum of Natural History, where you’ll find a 26-foot tall Hadrosaur and unhatched dinosaur eggs; and the the beautiful Lufkin Azalea Trail.
The Rice Family Cabin in Mission Tejas State Park | Courtesy of Texas Parks & Wildlife

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Brooke Viggiano is a food and lifestyle writer residing in Houston. When she's not contributing to publications like 365 Things to Do in Houston, Thrillist Houston and the Houston Press, she's on the hunt for the coolest happenings in the city. You can follow her musings on Twitter @BrookeViggiano .

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