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Summer Loving in Texas

hiking familyIf your plans include hiking this summer, Texas has a variety of options for the outdoor trailblazers.  Texas takes pride in its trails and parks.  Whether you are looking for a short nature trail for a quick stroll or an adventurous, all-day endeavor through a park’s most remote stretches, you will find what you are looking for in the trails at a Texas State Park.

If you are looking for a children-friendly expedition, keep an eye out for “Nature Trails” and “Interpretive Trails,” which generally take less than an hour to hike. Extra snacks go a long way to keep the kiddos happy on the trail.  Pedernales Falls is a favorite for family hikes, with a duck pond, a quarter-mile nature trail leading to a scenic overlook of Twin Falls, and a wheelchair-friendly wildlife-viewing station. The easy, 7-mile Wolf Mountain Trail winds along small canyons that are created by the Mescal and Tobacco Creeks.  At Dinosaur Valley State Park, explore the Paluxy River Nature Trail to learn about the river and the flora and fauna of the park. In McKinney Falls State Park, a 3-mile paved hiking loop runs along pecan-shaded Onion Creek. Many parks have trails, fishing piers and nature centers. A highlight is the Creekfield Nature Trail, only 20 miles from Houston at Brazos Bend State Park. Amid the alligators and lily pads, visitors can enjoy tactile displays and interpretive information in braille; or enjoy scenic views from the George Observatory. At Davis Mountains State Park, you can climb the Skyline Trail to a high ridge above Limpia Creek for a superb view of Fort Davis and a breathtaking panorama of this kinder, gentler mountain range.  For a unique family adventure, Monahans Sandhills State Park near Odessa is a good choice.  Some of the dunes are more than 70 feet tall.

If you are into the wooded type hiking, Martin Dies, Jr. offers trails through the primeval Big Thicket.   At Huntsville State Park, the hiking trail around Lake Raven cuts through pine forest. You can hike through a beautiful pine forest past a picturesque lake at Tyler State Park, or experience the towering oak canopy and backcountry hiking loops. To take in some dazzling sights at sundown, try the Sunset View Trail in Franklin Mountains State Park, which offers a dramatic 360-degree view of the sunset and the lights of El Paso. The rolling hills surrounding Inks Lake State Park also make for some great sunset vistas over the lake. Late-afternoon hikes are a great time for wildlife watching, but don’t forget a flashlight to help get you back to the car in case night falls quickly.  The Lighthouse Trail takes its name from the Lighthouse Rock formation that has become the emblem for Palo Duro Canyon State Park. This trek offers an immersion in color-coded geology, with layers of rock ranging from bright red to yellow, pink and lavender. An abandoned railroad line that passes by Caprock Canyons State Park has been transformed into a scenic 64-mile trail that passes over trestles and through Clarity Tunnel, the state’s longest railroad tunnel.

Sometimes one day is not enough to explore the trails of your favorite park. An overnight backpacking trip is a perfect way to enjoy some solitude in the remote corners of a scenic park. The 19-mile Rancherias Backpacking Loop through Big Bend Ranch State Park leads backpackers from the narrow ribbon of the Rio Grande along Highway 170, also known as River Road, into timeless, rugged canyon terrain, across mesas, past springs and remnants of historic homesteads. Other popular overnight hikes can be found at Lost Maples State Natural Area, Hill Country State Natural Area and Dinosaur Valley State Park

If you are taking to the trails this summer, make sure to be prepared with the proper shoes, equipment, and apparel to help make your day — or night — excursion as effortless and enjoyable as possible. Just as it’s a good idea to have the proper gear for spring, hiking enthusiasts should also keep a stash of items suitable for summer hikes.  Make sure you bring supplies and equipment that will keep you cool, comfortable, and hydrated while trekking through different terrains.  It is a good idea to wear a synthetic short-sleeve shirt, lightweight synthetic shorts or trekking pants, synthetic undergarments, wool hiking socks, sunglasses, sun hat, and comfortable hiking boots.  In your backpack, you should have a midweight synthetic or fleece long-sleeve top for cooler evenings, waterproof jacket or shell, waterproof pants, extra socks, wool or fleece hat, lightweight gloves, sunscreen, map, GPS or compass, headlamp, extra food, water bottles and water treatment, first aid kit, and fire starting items, toiletries, and personal locator beacon. Of course, the equipment you bring will be determined by the type of trail you are blazing.  Happy hiking!!

Source: “Hikes & Nature Walks.” – Texas Parks & Wildlife Department. Web. 08 July 2013.

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