The U.S. Forest Service manages approximately 675,000 acres of public land in Texas. This land is divided into four National Forests in east Texas and the Caddo-Lyndon B. Johnson National Grasslands in northeast Texas. These public lands are administered under multiple-use management to protect and obtain the greatest benefit from all forest resources: recreation, timber, range, fish and wildlife, soil and water and minerals.
The National Forests in Texas provide a variety of outdoor recreation opportunities! There are dozens of developed recreation areas and trailheads, offering camping experiences ranging from highly developed to primitive. Camping is offered on a first-come, first-served basis in developed recreation areas, and some larger or more popular areas (Ratcliff Lake, Cagle, Double Lake), offer reservations through recreation.gov. There is a day-use fee at highly developed areas with swimming or boating facilities. Campground facilities generally include tent pads, picnic tables, parking spurs for trailers, lantern posts, grills, potable water and toilets.
Some campgrounds have showers, swimming beaches, boat ramps, trails and concession stand services. Sewage disposal stations are located at Ratcliff Lake and Red Hill Lake, while Cagle Recreation Area offers full hookups including sewage. Electric hookups are available at Cagle, Double Lake, Ratcliff Lake, Boles Field and Red Hill Lake.
All general forest areas are open to dispersed recreation activities including hunting and fishing. There are trails for a variety of outdoor pursuits including: nearly 200 miles of hiking trails, 85 miles of off-road vehicle trails, 145 miles of horse trails and 11 miles of bicycle trail. Trailheads located at equestrian trails allow camping with horses including: The Bois D'Arc Trail on the Caddo Grasslands, Piney Creek Horse Trail in the Davy Crockett National Forest, and TADRA Trail on the Lyndon B. Johnson Grasslands.
There are four scenic areas: Big Creek and Winters Bayou in the Sam Houston National Forest and Beech Ravines and Upper Colorow Creek in the Sabine National Forest. The Lone Star Hiking Trail meanders through the Scenic Areas in the Sam Houston National Forest. Five Congressionally designated wilderness areas offer opportunities for backcountry challenge, unconfined recreation experiences, and solitude; no motorized vehicles or wheeled vehicles are allowed in wilderness areas.
The National Forests and Grasslands in Texas provide excellent opportunities for bird watching and wildlife viewing. East Texas lies in the path of warblers, vireos, and other species of neotropical migrants, so spring migration can be great. The Davy Crockett and Sam Houston National Forests are located where the pine forests of the southeastern United States join the blackland prairies of central Texas. The result is a marvelous mix of eastern and western species of birds and other wildlife found nowhere else in the state.
Other attractions include the Big Thicket National Preserve, managed by the Department of Interior, with its unique mixture of ecosystems, Lake Sam Rayburn, Toledo Bend Reservoir, and Lake Conroe are renowned for their scenic beauty and trophy black bass fishing. The southeast Texas area has an abundant array of recreational opportunities available from the Gulf Coast Region including U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Management Areas to the Big Thicket National Biological Preserve, State Parks, Alabama Coushatta Indian Reservation, the East Texas Lakes Region, and the "Piney Woods" Forests of east Texas.
Primitive camping is allowed anywhere in the general forest area, except during deer hunting season or unless posted otherwise. All campers are encouraged to practice "leave no trace" camping, leaving an area in the same natural condition in which it was found.
The Interagency Senior Pass for those 62 years of age and older and the Interagency Access Pass for blind or permanently disabled persons are valid on all Forest Service recreation areas, and are available at the Forest Supervisor's Office in Lufkin and at District Ranger Offices.
Two of the five hiking trails in the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas are National Recreation Trails. Hikers may enjoy the trails year round, but the weather is usually more pleasant during the spring and fall. Trail maps are available at the District Ranger's and Forest Supervisor's Offices.
Hunting and fishing are permitted on the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas in accordance with State laws.
The wildlife management areas on the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas were established in cooperation with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in an effort to develop and maintain population levels of various game species to provide improved hunting opportunities.
The Sabine and Angelina National Forests are located on the shores of Toledo Bend and Sam Rayburn Reservoirs, two large east Texas lakes featuring fishing and other water sports. Lake Conroe and Lake Livingston offer water-related outdoor recreation opportunities on or near the Sam Houston National Forest.
The Forest Service is charged by Congress to manage the National Forests for a variety of public benefits - "Multiple Use" is the key phrase. During your visit to the National Forests in Texas, you might encounter evidence of many management activities such as wildlife habitat projects, management of threatened and endangered species, controlled burning, insect control activities, grazing, regeneration cutting, and recreation site developments.
Whether you take a pleasant drive through these East Texas forests, relax by a campfire or hike down an inviting trail, we hope you will visit your National Forests and Grasslands in Texas soon!