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Sam Houston National Forest: All You Need to Know

Sam Houston National Forest All You Need to Know

Are you tired of the hustle and bustle of city life? Do you crave a getaway to a place where you can connect with nature and rejuvenate your soul? Look no further than the Sam Houston National Forest!

Located in the heart of Texas, this pristine forest is home to majestic pines that soar high into the sky, creating a picturesque landscape that is a sight to behold. 

The forest also has serene lakes for fishing and boating, swimming and kayaking. For the adventurous souls, you can go on a thrilling zip line adventure, test your skills on the mountain biking trails, or go horseback riding through the forest. 

What Is the Sam Houston National Forest? 

What Is the Sam Houston National Forest
Image Source: 365 Things to do in Houston

The Sam Houston National Forest is a 160,000-acre green haven for all nature enthusiasts living in or visiting Houston. The massive forest is located in East Texas and is home to breathtaking beauty and diverse ecosystems.

This natural gem was named after the legendary Texas hero, Sam Houston. To this day, it’s still managed by the United States Forest Service and remains one of four national forests in Texas. 

It has such a rich history that goes all the way back to the early 19th century when European-American settlers first arrived in the area. 

Unfortunately, a lot of the forest was heavily logged by the early 20th century, which led to the destruction of many of its trees. It was established as a national forest in 1936 to preserve what was left and provide a recreational area for the public to enjoy. 

Library of Congress
Image Source: Library of Congress

During World War II, the forest played a really important role as a training ground for soldiers. Although it was closed to the public during that time, it was still a valuable resource for the war effort.

But after the war, the Sam Houston National Forest was reopened and expanded with even more land acquisitions and new recreational facilities. 

Since then, the forest has really flourished and visitors like you have been able to appreciate all the natural beauty it has to offer. With its towering trees, babbling brooks, and amazing activities,  it’s a must-see for anyone who loves the great outdoors.

The Nature Conservancy
Image Source: The Nature Conservancy

Aside from the mystique and general awe the place exudes, the Sam Houston National Forest is also home to a wide range of plant and animal species. From towering eastern hardwoods to fragrant loblolly pines, the forest is a home to a variety of trees. 

And it’s not just the flora that’s impressive – the forest is also home to a lot of wildlife, including white-tailed deer, feral hogs, coyotes, and bobcats. 

For those looking to spot rare animals, keep your eyes peeled for the red-cockaded woodpeckers that make their homes in some of the forest’s trees!

Things to do in the Sam Houston National Forest 

Things to do in the Sam Houston National Forest
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If you want an adventure, look no further than the Sam Houston National Forest! With over 160,000 acres of wilderness, there’s no shortage of outdoor activities for you to enjoy. 

It doesn’t matter if you’re hanging out with friends, spending time with family, or flying solo, this forest has something for everyone.

Here are some of the most popular things to do in the forest, along with some helpful tips and tricks to ensure you have the best time possible:


Hiking's Homepage
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Lone Star Hiking Trail

This 128-mile trail is the most well-known and longest trail in the forest. It passes through the heart of the forest and is divided into several sections, each offering its own unique scenery and challenges. 

You can hike just a portion of it if you’re a beginner, but we really recommend trying the whole trail for the complete experience!  

USDA Forest Service
Image Source: USDA Forest Service 

Double Lake Recreation Area

If you’re looking for a shorter hike, the Double Lake Recreation Area is a great place to start. There are several trails to choose from, ranging from 1 to 6 miles in length. 

The Double Lake Trail is a 6-mile loop that offers stunning views of the forest’s scenic lakes and towering pines. We suggest packing some insect repellent since the watery area tends to attract mosquitoes! 

Double Lake Recreation Area' Homepage
Image Source: East Texas Outdoors

Caney Creek Wilderness Trail 

If you’re up for a challenge, you should definitely check out the Caney Creek Wilderness Trail. This 6.7-mile loop trail will take you through the forest’s dense hardwoods and give you some amazing views of Caney Creek. 

Keep in mind that it’s rated as moderate to difficult with some steep inclines and rocky terrain. But, with caution it should be a piece of cake for you hardcore hikers out there and just the view is just as sweet.

Caney Creek Wilderness Trail's Homepage
Image Source: Josh Willink on Pexels 

Little Lake Creek Wilderness Trail 

The Little Lake Creek Wilderness Trail is another popular hiking trail for you to try! It offers a 17.6-mile loop trail through the forest’s scenic waterways and dense hardwood forests.

The length of the track allows you ample time and space to really immerse yourself into the greenery and come back one with nature or at least with a new appreciation for it. 

The length of the trail is partly why it’s rated as moderate to difficult, but trust us, it’s worth it! Apart from the plant life, the trail also gives hikers the opportunity to observe the forest’s diverse wildlife. So, keep an eye out for deer antlers here and there!

Little Lake Creek Wilderness Trail's Homepage
Image Source: Leor Pantilat’s Adventures

Keith-Wiess Park Hiking Trail 

If you’re an absolute beginner and you’re looking for something a bit easier, the Keith-Wiess Park Hiking Trail is a great choice. This 4.4-mile loop trail winds through the forest’s wetlands and grasslands and is rated as easy to moderate. 

The slope is not that steep and the trail is more defined than the others, so it’ll be easier for you to make your way around the tall trees and shrubbery in the forest. Plus, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to spot some of the forest’s many bird species!


Camping's Homepage
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Double Lake Recreation Area

Double Lake Recreation Area's Homepage
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If you’re looking for a convenient camping destination in the Sam Houston National Forest, you might want to consider the Double Lake Recreation Area located in the southern part of the forest. 

The campground offers 65 campsites, each equipped with water and electric hookups, picnic tables, and fire rings. The campground also has modern restrooms and showers, making it a perfect choice for families and those who prefer a little more comfort.

That’s all the perks of a beautiful landscape without giving up the access to modern day conveniences. That’s a win-win in our book!

One of the highlights of the Double Lake Recreation Area  is the 23-acre lake that offers plenty of opportunities for fishing, boating, and swimming. 

The park also has several hiking trails, including the 6-mile Double Lake Trail, which takes you around the lake and offers stunning views of the surrounding forest.

With its perfect blend of natural beauty and modern amenities, the Double Lake Recreation Area is an excellent choice for families and outdoor enthusiasts alike.

Cagle Recreation Area

Cagle Recreation Area's Homepage
Image Source: Lake Conroe

If you’re a waterbug like us and you’re looking for a scenic spot to camp while you can enjoy some water activities, the Cagle Recreation Area is definitely worth checking out. 

Located in the northern part of the forest, this campground offers a variety of camping options, from full-service sites to primitive tent camping. That means it’s a great place for you even if you prefer glamping or the rugged experience of camping in a tent! 

One of the best things about the Cagle Recreation Area is its location right on the shores of Lake Conroe. This means you can easily spend your days swimming, boating, or fishing in the beautiful lake.

And when you’re ready for some hiking, there are several trails to choose from, including the Lone Star Hiking Trail that passes right through the campground. 

The park also features a boat ramp for easy access to the lake, making it a great choice for boaters and anglers.

Stubblefield Recreation Area

Stubblefield Recreation Area's Homepage
Image Source: Lake Conroe 

If you’re looking for a camping experience that’s a little more at one with nature, you might want to check out the Stubblefield Recreation Area. 

This hidden gem is tucked away in the eastern part of the forest and offers 21 primitive campsites with picnic tables and fire rings. And by primitive, we mean it’s just you, nature, and maybe that battery-powered fan you brought because who’s perfect?

While you won’t have access to modern amenities, it’s the perfect place to escape the hustle and bustle of daily life and enjoy some peace and quiet.

The best part? Like many other campgrounds in the forest, Stubblefield Recreation Area is located right on the shores of Lake Conroe, so you can enjoy a range of water activities like fishing and boating. 

There are also plenty of hiking trails to explore, including the 17.6-mile Little Lake Creek Wilderness Trail, which winds through the forest’s scenic waterways and dense hardwood forests. So grab your gear and get ready for an adventure!


Fishing's Homepage
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Lake Conroe Recreation Area

Lake Conroe Recreation Area's Homepage
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If you’re planning a fishing trip in the Sam Houston National Forest, the Lake Conroe Recreation Area in the north is one of the most popular spots! 

With a huge 22,000-acre lake, you’ll find plenty of fish species such as largemouth bass, catfish, crappie, and bluegill. And don’t worry about timing, the lake is stocked regularly so you’ll have chances to catch fish year-round!

 If you prefer fishing by boat, there are several ramps located around the lake for easy access.

Double Lake Recreation Area 

Brett Sayles on Pexels
Image Source: Brett Sayles on Pexels 

The Double Lake Recreation Area, located in the forest’s southern region, is a real gem for fishing enthusiasts!

The 23-acre lake here is home to plenty of fish species, including largemouth bass, catfish, and sunfish, and in the winter, rainbow trout are stocked in the lake for extra excitement. 

Plus, you can rent kayaks and canoes to explore the lake and its surroundings from a different angle.

And if you’re up for exploring, there are several hiking trails in the area that will take you to small streams and creeks that are teeming with fish. Pro tip from us is to wear non-slip shoes to avoid any unwanted slip and slides on the rocks!

Little Lake Creek 

Little Lake Creek's Homepage
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If you’ve never fished before and you dread people seeing your line come up empty or you’re looking for a more secluded fishing experience, you’ll love exploring the small streams and creeks throughout the Sam Houston National Forest. 

In the eastern part of the forest, the Little Lake Creek Wilderness Area is a great spot to fish, with several miles of streams and small creeks home to native species like Guadalupe bass and Rio Grande perch.

We recommend bringing your own chair as the ground here can get a little moist at times especially during the colder months. 


Hunting's Homepage
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If you’re a hunter, you’ll be happy to know that the Sam Houston National Forest is a wildlife management area under an agreement between the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and the U.S. Forest Service. 

This means that both you and the wildlife that inhabit the forest benefit from the management programs in place.

When you hunt in the forest, you pay extra fees towards an Annual Hunting
Permit that go directly to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. 

Don’t worry! The fees won’t break the bank and cost about $50 per year. And it’s well worth it for the experience of hunting in such a vast forest. 

They use these funds to support various programs, such as improving wildlife habitat, restoring wild turkey populations, creating wildlife openings, and enforcing laws. The funds can also be used to gather and analyze data to enhance wildlife habitat.

Pixabay on Pexels
Image Source: Pixabay on Pexels

If you’re planning to hunt in the Sam Houston National Forest, you need to know the rules and regulations for hunting, which are different from those on private property. But don’t worry, it’s easy to follow. 

You just need to have a valid hunting license and the Annual Public Hunting Permit mentioned before. If you’re under 16, you don’t need a hunting permit but you must be supervised by an adult who has a license and a permit. 

When hunting for any species except turkeys, waterfowl, and dove, both hunters and non-hunters must wear hunter orange during daylight hours.

You can find more details on hunting rules and regulations on the WMA’s website, the Outdoor Annual, and the Public Hunting Lands Map Booklet

Water Activities

Water Activities' Homepage
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Kayaking's Homepage
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The forest has several lakes and waterways that are perfect for kayaking. You can rent a kayak and explore the scenic surroundings while paddling through the calm waters or bring your own and enjoy the waters for free. 

Lake Conroe is a popular spot for kayaking. We suggest just renting kayaks from the several rental companies to avoid the hassle of packing it on your trip so you can fully enjoy the relaxing vibe of the calming waters. 


Boating's Homepage
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Boating is another popular water sport in Sam Houston National Forest. Lake Conroe is a great spot for boating and offers plenty of space for water skiing, wakeboarding, and other water sports activities. 

You can rent boats from the marina, but this is a great place for all of you boat fanatics out there to take your babies out for a spin and glide along the crystal clear waters. 


Canoeing's Homepage
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Canoeing is a great way to explore the forest’s waterways and experience nature up close. You can rent a canoe and paddle down the scenic creeks and streams, enjoying the peaceful surroundings and spotting wildlife along the way.

Bonus Tip: Paddle all the way to the middle of the lake and stop. This is one of our favorite ways to really get lost in nature. With the warmth of the sun and the sounds of the water, it would be hard not to feel relaxed. 


Paddleboarding's Homepage
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Paddleboarding is a fun and relaxing way to explore the forest’s lakes and waterways. You can rent a paddleboard and glide over the calm waters, enjoying the scenic views and fresh air.

Just make sure you squat a little and lock your knees! Look straight ahead and paddle to keep your balance. It’s tricky at first, but trust us, the feeling after you stand is nothing short of absolute satisfaction. 

Where can I rent gear for water sports?

Where can I rent gear for water sports' Homepage
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If you’re looking to rent kayaks, boats, canoes, or paddle boards in Sam Houston National Forest, there are several rental companies and marinas available. Here are some of the best places to rent water sports equipment in the area.

Stow-A-Way Marina & RV Park
13988 Calvary Rd, Willis, TX 77318
+1 936-856-4531
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row boats, canoes and weight boards
life jackets, paddles, and other necessary equipment 
Lake Conroe Boat Rentals
14645 FM 1097 W, Willis, TX 77318
+1 936-900-7000
boats and jet skis, as well as kayaks and paddle boards. 
guided tours and fishing charters, and provide all necessary equipment and safety gear 
fueling station to gas up 
North Lake Conroe Paddling Co.14774 Calvary Rd, Willis, TX 77318
+1 936-203-2697
kayak and paddle board rentals
life jackets and paddles
guided tours and lesson
scan deliver equipment to your desired location within the forest
photography services
Double Lake Recreation Area
Double Lake Recreation Area, 301 FM 2025 Rd W, Coldspring, TX 77331
+1 936-653-3448
life jackets, paddles, and boating equipment
Cagle Recreation AreaCagle Recreation Area, 2800 Cagle Rd, New Waverly, TX 77358
+1 936-344-6205
bait, fishing wire, hooks, and other paraphernalia
fishing rods, buckets, and coolers


Sight-seeing's Homepage
Image Source: East Texas Outdoors

If you’re a nature lover or just looking for some outdoor adventure, you should definitely check out Sam Houston National Forest. 

With over 160,000 acres of lush forests, winding rivers, and diverse wildlife, there’s something for everyone here. Here are some must-visit spots for sightseeing in the forest:

Want to immerse yourself in the beauty of the forest? Head to the Big Creek Scenic Area and take a leisurely 1.7-mile hike through the forest. You’ll be rewarded with stunning views of the flora and fauna unique to this area.

Looking for some water sports? Winters Bayou is perfect for kayaking or canoeing, surrounded by towering trees and providing a peaceful escape from the city.

East Texas Outdoors
Image Source: East Texas Outdoors

For hikers, the Four Notch Loop Trail is a great choice, offering almost 8 miles of diverse terrain and well-marked trails suitable for hikers of all skill levels.

If you love fishing, bird watching, or just enjoying wildlife, Kelly’s Pond is a great destination. You can fish for catfish, bass, and bluegill or just enjoy the serene surroundings, watching the various birds that call the pond home.

And finally, don’t miss the Raven’s Nest Nature Sanctuary, a 15-acre sanctuary featuring a 1.5-mile hiking trail that winds through the forest and offers stunning views of the unique flora and fauna.

Address394 FM 1375 West, New Waverly, TX 77358, United States
Contact Information+1 936-344-6205
Social MediaFacebook, Instagram

FAQS about Sam Houston National Forest

Address394 FM 1375 West, New Waverly, TX 77358, United States
Contact Information+1 936-344-6205
Social MediaFacebook, Instagram
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