Gretchen N.

Bryan, TX

Joined June 2016

Dino Explore

This is such a great place for kids to explore! There's only about 50 camp spots but plenty of primitive area if you're willing to hike a bit. Check out the fiberglass dinos and look for tracks down by the river. Plenty of trails to venture down, and be sure to see the Blue Hole.

Abilene Yurts

There's not much to the park, but its claim to fame is that there are yurts! Stay in one of the canvas tents for the night or pick a tent spot at Cedar Grove to be centrally located. While not a huge area, there's a decent 3.5 mile hike/bike trail around the lake and back.

Ranger Review: Smith Colette Sunglasses at Smokemont Campground

Smokemont is a nice option for camping deep into the Smokies. There's still good proximity to area towns if you need something, and you're right around the corner from Mingo Falls - a must-see spot. The area view just cannot be beat, and the facility is kept up well.

Gear Review: I had the opportunity to take along my new Smith Sunglasses on this adventure, and they did not disappoint. I actually had not heard of this brand before and am pretty sure I only took them off in the shade for 5 straight days. Best feature: the nose piece. They rest nicely on my head without getting caught in my hair and don't pinch my nose. The ear piece ends were a little tight the first few times I put them on but loosened up quickly. I love the look and color and everything about these!

Ranger Review: Stanley Mug at Elkmont Campground

Elkmont is a nice little 200-site park right on the edge of the Smokies. It's seasonal, and if you're looking to go during the summertime or October when the leaves are changing, be sure to make plans way in advance. If you can snag one of the few walk-in sites, you'll get away a bit from other people. What makes this camp spot great is the proximity to area places to explore. Head north to Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area or journey south a bit to Newfound Gap or on out to Clingman's Dome, one of the most popular places in the park on the state line.

Gear review: I took along my new Stanley Vacuum Insulated Switchback Mug from last month's Cairn subscription box. I was most impressed with the grit guard keeping the drinking surface clean, but was actually pleasantly surprised at the insulation as well. I tested both ice water and coffee on the trip and would certainly recommend it for either. At 12 oz, it was a bit small for me on a hike longer than a few hours - in areas where there's not a refill spot. But with a filter and water access, it would be perfect for an all-day or overnight excursion. Doesn't weigh a lot and fits nicely in the outside pocket of my backpack or clipped on with a carabiner. Oh, and zero leaks!

Cedar Hill Primitive

Cedar Hill packs a multitude of sites into a small space, so the best bet is to hike your gear into the primitive area for the night. Two primitive areas are offered and can sometimes be overgrown, so be prepared. Outside of those areas, there's not much trail space offered, so this park is better used for daytrips and fishing/swimming zones.

Palo Duro Lighthouse

If you don't mind a little red dirt, Palo Duro is an outstanding place to explore. It's large enough to spend several days and not feel like you've exhausted the area. Catch the overlook as you enter, and then camp as far into the park as you can. Don't miss the ~3 mile trail out to the iconic Lighthouse and the big cave all the way in by the equestrian area.

Caprock Equestrian Camp

Caprock Canyons is as good as it gets for equestrian sites in Texas. Stay away from summer temps, but go in late fall or early spring and plan to stay awhile. Lots of trails to explore in the area and plenty of pen space at Wild Horse. Take the Wild Horse Trail from there for the scenic windmill tour.

Mustang Beach Camp

This spot gets 4 stars based on location, though it does have limited sites. If you prefer your space, book in advance and secure one of the few beach primitive spots where you can pick your tent pitch locale. Great location for sunset/sunrise with fun adventures close by: walk the jetty, ride a horse along the beach, or visit the Sea Turtle Rescue site further down the coast.

Lake Bryan

While the camp spots are few, this area gets extra points for its walking/running/biking trails. The park is open 365 days of the year and is first-come, first-serve on sites. Only $10 for the night. Check out the Lakeside Icehouse for events and live music throughout the year. Now the trails: ~20 miles through the trees with well-marked signs to guide you. Maps can be found here: Several local triathletes train in open water here as well. Outside of peak concert/event times, this is an ideal area for a quiet getaway.

Lake Whitney

This park is a great go-to if you live in Texas – centrally located and quick to access from most major cities. It can get crowded on high weekends in the spring/fall, but there are ample campsites if you plan ahead a bit. Sites 39-46 in the Horseshoe Loop are ideal for quiet spots away from people, but if you want space along the water, Lakeview and Sunset Ridge are the best picks. There are a few short trails in the park but exploring the waterfront can't be beat!

Fort Parker: rest and relax

This park is a bit of a hidden spot in that if you go in an off season, you may have the place to yourself. The best sites are down by the water with a decent amount of trees and growth to give privacy from other campers; just don't forget the bug spray! There's not a lot in the hiking department but a nice Navasota River Trail that parallels both the lake and the main road. Great spots down by the picnic/swim area. This would be a prime place to hang a hammock and relax, but don't plan to trail walk/run far.

Isle du Bois: the place to be

Best park to visit in the Metroplex area! A dozen trips, and it's still a favorite. If you want to avoid crowds, stay in the Hawthorne "primitive" area. The sites vary from being 20 feet from the parking lot to half a mile out or so, but most people flock to the more formal campsites and miss out thinking they'll have to hike in at Hawthorne. Nice restrooms right by the parking lot. Scenic trails vary in distance but are easy to connect for longer hikes – or walk the shoreline for a nice lakeside view. Lots to explore and see here!

Huntsville: trail mecca

Huntsville is a great spot to visit, whether you're looking for a day trip or overnight. People are certainly catching on to the charm of the park so going during the week or a school year weekend (non-holiday) is the best bet to avoid crowds. Lots of good camp and RV space. The gem of Huntsville is its well-marked trail system. Whether a casual walker or ultrarunner, there are trails of every ability and distance to be found. They are color-coded with posted maps that are easy to follow. Prepare to take on a few hills and rocky/rooted areas, but well worth escaping the city for a bit in the nicely shaded woods.

Enchanted Rock: exploring excursion

Spent a fun day trip to Enchanted Rock area. For Texas, it was a really great place to explore and enjoy a picnic and hiking. The area was a bit crowded, but there was certainly enough interest and area to explore to warrant a return trip. Be sure to look for the highest point marker at the top of the Summit Trail! Best time to visit is early spring or late fall when the leaves are changing and temps are cooler.

Lake Somerville: great day trip

Great spot to visit in the Spring! Wildflowers are plentiful and the trails offer miles of exploration; great for trail running as well. Hang a hammock down by the lake and enjoy the fresh air!

Jack's Creek: excellent mountain visit

Spent a few night exploring the Pecos Wilderness via Jack's Creek. Great overnight spot to use as a "home base" with lots of trail access. Multiple units of corrals and plenty of parking and turnaround space for large trailers. Would be a nice area for group trail exploration. Nice bathrooms there at the camp, and a beautiful view of the mountains. We explored Cave Creek Trail in one direction as well as rode up to Round Mountain in the other direction. Round Mountain offers superb views and a nice trail through the aspens. Highly recommend and will be back!

Fairfield Lake: spring favorite

Fairfield offers a great weekend getaway location! The park boasts a large selection of shaded camp spots (i.e. lots of space for hammocks!) that offer privacy from one another. Visited on a holiday weekend, and it didn't feel crowded at all. Walk down to the lake or explore several miles of walking trails. Perfect night out! As a bonus, visit the Cooper Farms store right across the highway (exit 198) for the best fresh peaches and peach ice cream you've ever tasted!