Texas Has Some Spectacular Options for Getting Away From It All
NEED TO UNWIND from the stresses of modern American living? A trip to the wilderness is the best way to purge the negativity and get things back into focus.
But are there true wilderness areas in Texas? You bet there are.
Here are a few sites that qualify as wild—along with some requirements for primitive camping there:
Big Bend Ranch State Park
This is one of the Trans Pecos region’s most beautiful properties, but this is not Big Bend National Park. Instead, it’s a property operated by the state.
Highway-access camping areas are located along River Road (FM 170) at Arenosa, Lower and Upper Madera (Monilla) Canyon, and at Grassy Banks River Access. One campground is on the north side of FM 170 at the Contrabando West Trailhead, but this one does not have river access or a toilet facility. Self-composting toilets are at Colorado Canyon, Madera Canyon, Grassy Banks, and the Contrabando Movie Set site.
State officials say visitors must place tents in designated areas only. Desert resources are fragile, you must haul out both your human waste and trash. You can buy a portable privy at all permit-issuing stations. Downed wood is critical to desert ecology. Gathering firewood is prohibited; you must bring your own. Charcoal cooking fires and containerized fuel stoves are allowed. Pack out your ashes or deposit them in the fire ring. The maximum stay per permit is 14 nights.
Individual campsites have an eight-person and three-vehicle limit. Group campsites have a 12-person and five-vehicle limit. Equestrian staging campsites have a 24-person and 12-vehicle limit. There are no other facilities, water/electrical hookups, or dump stations available.
Due to road conditions, motor homes and large recreational vehicles may not be able to enter backcountry park areas. Shower and restroom facilities are available at the Visitor’s Center at Sauceda Headquarters.
Davis Mountains State Park
An equally beautiful piece of property, this state park has primitive campsites that require a four-mile (minimum) hike up a mountain with an elevation change of 800 feet. No ground fires are allowed here.
An equestrian site in the park has non-potable water (in a horse trough) and is located in the Limpia Canyon Primitive Area.
“The 11 miles of trails take riders from 4,900 feet high at Limpia Creek to over 5,700 feet high at a scenic overlook,” says a Park Information source. “Cross-rugged terrain and enjoy views of the Davis Mountains. To camp, choose from one of six equestrian or six primitive campsites in this area.”
Big Thicket National Preserve
Backpacking is permitted year-round in the Turkey Creek Unit and along the Woodlands Trail. It is permitted throughout the Big Sandy Creek Unit, Beech Creek Unit, and Neches Bottom and Jack Gore Baygall Unit outside of hunting season, which generally runs October through February.
Camping is prohibited in some areas of the preserve. This includes:
• Kirby Nature Trail and all areas south of the bridge over Village Creek in the Turkey Creek Unit;
• Hickory Creek Savannah Unit, including the Sundew Trail;
• Sites posted as Day Use Areas; and areas open to hunting during hunting season.
There are no developed campgrounds or designated campsites in the preserve. However, people may backpack into certain areas or camp on sandbars along the Neches River and Village Creek. There is no road or hiking access to sandbars. These are accessible only by boat.
Check out these locations and consider a wilderness expedition to get away from it all. You’ll see the best of what Texas wild lands have to offer.
STATE PARK RULES
TEXAS STATE PARKS HAVE adopted rules and regulations to protect park areas for future generations as well as for the convenience and safety of current visitors. Please note this is a partial listing of state park rules and regulations. Visit the DETAILED PARK RULES & REGULATIONS page for a complete list. Know these before you go!
To make your visit is a pleasant one, please observe the following:
Public display or consumption of alcohol is prohibited. All outdoor areas within the park are public.
Arms and firearms
Refer to the DETAILED PARK RULES & REGULATIONS for definitions and rules. If you have a valid Handgun License, you may carry your handgun in many state parks. But even with a HL, handguns are not allowed in parks that are leased from the federal government. Check with the park before you go.
Campfires are permitted only in designated rings to avoid ground scarring and wildfires.
Take only memories and photographs. Federal and state laws prohibit collecting plants, animals and artifacts. Preserve the past for the future by leaving artifacts in place and reporting locations to park staff.
Downed dead wood offers food and shelter to wildlife and provides essential nutrients for the soil. Please do not gather firewood.
We need to know about your caches. Please check with park headquarters before placing geocaches within a park.
You can use hammocks under the following conditions:
• Check with park staff to ensure there are no site specific rules or requirements.
• No permanent anchors such as screws or eyebolts may be used.
• Trees must be at least 8” in diameter at the point of strap contact to ensure they are of sufficient strength to support the hammock.
• Straps must be at least two inches in width, preferably made of nylon or polypropylene.
• The use of padding underneath straps is recommended to enhance protection of tree bark.
• No more than 2 straps may be attached to a single tree.
• Pruning or cutting of vegetation to facilitate hammock is not allowed.
• Hammocks used for overnight camping must be hung within the bounds of the assigned campsite.
• Hammocks may not be attached to park structures such as shade shelters, lantern posts or buildings unless specifically authorized.
Please recycle appropriate litter and deposit trash in dumpsters. Leaving no trace of your visit helps the park remain beautiful and reduces the possibility of human/animal conflicts.
Park only in designated areas to protect the plants and soil.
Protect pets and wildlife by keeping pets on leashes, no longer than 6 feet, at all times. Please note: Pets are not permitted in any buildings at Texas State Parks. If you plan to take your pet hiking, see note under Trail Safety.
Quiet hours are 10 p.m. to 6 a.m. Respect your neighbors and celebrate nature’s night noises.
Protect all park users and wildlife by obeying speed limits. No passengers under 18 are permitted in truck beds.
Don’t be afraid of snakes, be aware! They are signs of a healthy environment. If you cross paths with a snake, back away slowly.
Swim in designated areas only; no lifeguards are on duty. We highly recommend that children and weak swimmers wear personal flotation devices. Pets and glass containers are not allowed in swimming areas. Pets can create unsanitary conditions and may feel threatened by strangers. Broken glass can cause serious injury. Read these tips on SWIMMING SAFETY.
Please camp only on designated camp pads or sites to protect fragile plants and minimize soil compaction.
Wastewater (both black and gray) can only be discharged at designated dump stations. Wastewater carries bacteria that can spread serious illnesses and food particles that can attract undesirable animals, including fire ants.
Keep wildlife wild. Do not feed or harass wildlife.
• Know your limits. Prepare for sun and heat. Wear sunscreen, hats, insect repellent and appropriate clothing and hiking shoes. Bring a first aid kit.
• Heatstroke and hypothermia can kill. Wear layers of clothing so you can adjust to temperature changes.
• Drink plenty of water. Your body loses fluid quickly when you’re on the trail. Bring a quart of water per hour of activity. Eat a salty snack with each drink to maintain energy and avoid illness.
• Weather changes quickly. Check forecasts and prepare for unexpected changes in the weather.
• Tell others where you’ll be. If possible, avoid exploring alone. Tell someone where you are going and when you plan to return.
• You may not be able to connect. It’s a good idea to take along a cell phone and GPS unit, but don’t count on them. In this environment, both may lose reception. Both depend on limited battery power.
• Check for trail closures. Certain trails may be closed during prescribed burns or for other resource management work. Check with park headquarters for current trail conditions and trail closures.
• Trails can be rough. Unpaved trails may have wet sections, loose rocks, thorny plants, tree roots and/or low-hanging limbs, and can be tough going for a stroller or wheelchair. Park staff can advise about the suitability of trails for your group.
• Be careful with pets. Carry water for your pets, as not all trails have water. Be aware of your pet’s limitations. Not all trails are suitable for pets, and pets are not allowed on some trails.
• Wear a helmet. When mountain-biking, check with park headquarters to match the trail to your skill level. Wear a helmet to protect yourself in case of a crash.
Visit the DETAILED PARK RULES & REGULATIONS page for a complete list.
—TF&G STAFF Report