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Website: Davis Mountains State Park
Contact: Park phone number #432/426-3337 Reservation phone #512/389-8900 or Texas Reserve World
Location: Fort Davis, TX – southwest of Fort Stockton
Mailing Address: P.O. Box 1707, Fort Davis, TX 79734
Directions: The Davis Mountains Park Headquarters directions: Coming from Fort Davis on State Highway 17 take State Highway 118N, and then west on State Highway 118N for three miles to the Park Road entrance on the left. Latitude (degrees, minutes, seconds) N: 30° 35′ 56.83″ Longitude (degrees, minutes, seconds) W: 103° 55′ 46.09″
Equestrian Day Use and Camping area is called, Limpia Canyon Primitive Area , and is located on north side of Texas 118 about two miles outside of Fort Davis. The entrance has a brown metal gate locked with a chain and combination lock. You can get the combination from headquarters or call before 5pm if you will be getting there after 5pm to get the code. The entrance is short, so if you have a long rig, more than 30 feet and the gate is closed the backend of your rig will be sticking out in the road while you are opening the gate. Park headquarters is located on the opposite side of TX 118 from the equestrian use area. If you are coming from Fort Davis, the entrance is on the right just before you get to the park headquarters entrance. If you are coming from IH 10 going south and then east on TX 118, then you will pass the park headquarters on your right and the equestrian area will be the next entrance on the left.
Camping: Horse camping is allowed at Limpia Canyon Primitive Area.
Fees: (Fees are subject to change – check directly with the park for the most up to date information) Primitive Equestrian Camping at Limpia Canyon $10.00 a day -8 people are allowed per site and total number of sites is 6. The sites are not numbered or marked. Day Use $6.00 daily per person / ages 12 and under free
Facilities: Horse day use and camping is allowed in a cabled off section at Limpia Canyon Primitive area. This is an open field with one water trough. Nothing else is located in this field. There are no horse pens, no shade trees, no mounting blocks, no picnic tables, no electricity, and no porta potty. There are two large rocks which could be used as mounting blocks. The area is cabled off on 0ne side with three foot wood posts and a wire cable running through them. On the back side is a brush tree line and decline leading to Limpia Creek. I was able to lead and ride my horse to the creek to drink. The surface of the equestrian area is fairly flat/level terrain, but bumpy due to mole’s digging up the ground. The area is slightly narrow but long, sort of like a rectangel. This area would be easy for a truck and averaged sized two horse trailer to maneuver but a little more difficult for a larger rig or living quarter trailer. The entrance is fairly narrow but manageable if not crowded.
You can tie your horses to the trailer, high tie between trailers, bring panels, or use an electric fence. There are really no suitable trees to tie to. For this trip my husband, Chris, put together an electric pen. This was the first time I’ve used an electric pen for camping. We do have electro braid fences at home so my horse is used to it. The ground was cooperative in some areas and uncooperative in other areas in accepting the step in posts and grounding rod. In the end it all worked out great and Angel respected the fence. Thanks Chris! Davis Mountains SP also offers RV camping with water/electric hook ups, a hotel (Indian Lodge) with swimming pool, and restaurant on the south side of TX 118. However, horses are not allowed on that side of the park. There are also restrooms and shower facilities on the south side of the park.
Cell Phone Service: poor to no cell service in most areas.
Pets/Dogs: Pets/dogs are allowed but must be on leash and not left unattended.
Trail Users: Equestrians, hikers, and mountain cyclists. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trail.
Trail Markers: I only saw two or three trail markers at most, the trails are very poorly marked. However, the park does have new trail signs they plan on installing soon. On the upper loop the location of the water well and primitive dry tent campsites numbered 94 – 100 are also marked on the map below and can be used as well as the views of the MacDonald Observatory center, Indian Lodge, Limpia Canyon campsite, and park headquarters to help navigate.
Mileage: North of state highway TX 118 Davis Mountains SP has approximately 11-12 miles of multiuse trails to include equestrians. Horses are not allowed on the other side of the park, south of TX 118. The trail from Limpia Canyon Primitive Area up to the loop is about 2.5 miles one way and the outer loop on top of the mountain is about 6 miles. There are also some jeep trails on the top which are not included in this mileage.
Map: A map of the facility (posted above) can be found on line but does not show much detail regarding the equestrian trail. You can ask for a slightly more detailed map at park headquarters showing the multiuse equestrian trail and it is also posted here below. According to park staff they are in the process of creating a new trail map. So be sure to ask at headquarters for their most up to date map.
Terrain: The terrain is rugged, hilly, and of course rocky. Shoes/boots for your horse are a must. To get up to the loop, one section of the trail consist of switch backs to decrease the incline and another short section of the trail on the way up and back down has a drop off on one side. The park states they plan to eventually widen this section of the trail. There is no shade or cover on the trail so bring along your hat and sunblock.
Difficulty Level: The trail is challenging in areas and I’d recommend riders to be at least moderately experienced.
At Camp –
There is a non-potable water trough located in the horse camping area at Limpia Canyon Primitive campsite. When we arrived this trough was empty but the park later turned it on. Also at the back of the camp is Limpia Creek. During our visit the creek was small but my horse was happy to drink from it. There is no other water sources at the campsite.
On the lower part of the main trail (leaving Limpia Canyon) you cross Limpia Creek three times. At the first crossing there was a great watering hole to the south but the other two crossings were dry. However, I’m sure this varies depending on how much it has rained. From the looks of the old bank boundaries carved out by high waters, Limpia creek has been more than a creek in the past and is even prone to flooding in the right conditions.
Once on the upper part of the trail, Sheep Pen Canyon Loop, I only saw one water source, the well, which is marked on the map.
Solor powered well on Sheep Pen Loop coordinates: 30°37’16.0″N 103°56’09.4″W Well location on Google Maps
Description: Ride high in Davis Mountains State Park just a few miles west of the highest town in Texas. At 5,050 feet, the mile high west Texas city of Fort Davis is the most elevated city in the state. Davis Mountains SP encompasses approximately 2,700 acres. The park opened in 1933 and was one of the Civilian Conservation Corps earliest projects. Texas Highway 118 runs right through the state park cutting it into north and south sections. The north section is on approximately 1,500 acres and has eleven miles of designated rugged multiuse trail for equestrians, hikers, and mountain bicyclists waiting to be explored. Six miles of this trail was most recently completed in 2015. The new trail makes a loop at the top of the mountain and is named Sheep Pen Canyon Loop. Starting at 4,900 feet in Limpia Canyon Primitive Area the rocky trail winds up 800 feet to the top of the mountain reaching 5,700 feet in elevation. Once on top, you can see for miles and miles!
I decided to visit Davis Mountains State Park for two reasons; to combine two delightful tasks in one. Number one, to visit a life long high school friend, Karen, and her family who reside in Fort Davis. Number two, to ride my horse in a park which I’ve never visited before for a write up on Where The Trails Are. Arriving in early March made for perfect weather. Although due to the higher altitude, it was a bit cooler during the evenings than I had expected. I’ve heard the Texas Summer heat is much milder here and there really is not much humidity in this location. Since we were due to arrive after 5pm I called the park before 5 to determine the check in procedures for late arrivals. We were given the go ahead to drive directly to our camp site, the combination lock for the gate was provided, and we were to check in and show proof of negative Coggins at the main office the following morning. A few RV non-equestrian campers came over from the other side of the park. Evidently they were all full on the South side due to spring break. We were the only equestrian overnight campers during our stay. Our new non-horsey friends enjoyed petting Angel and taking a few pictures of her. They were also curious about our living quarters horse trailer. Chris made camp and set up the electric pen for Angel. We enjoyed a tasty taco dinner made by Karen’s husband Tim. The skies were clear and night fall brought on a whole new perspective. Dense unpolluted darkness made for a spectacularly brilliant star studded night. Each time I woke up to check on Angel the skies capture my eyes and filled my heart with wonder. You can’t visit Fort Davis without also making a trip to the MacDonald Observatory, as this is some of the best country for star gazing. Karen had made reservations for us to visit the observatory the day before our departure!
The following day my good friend Karen joined me for a short ride to try out her new horse, Kitty. It was like old times when we used to ride together as teenagers! After our ride Karen enjoyed the peace and tranquil views of Limpia Canyon while visitng with Chris. Before riding back out on Angel to explore the mountaim trails a day rider arrived from Alpine. I was excited to make some new friends and have someone to share the trail with. Pilar with her BLM Mustang, Ute, and her friend Travis with his rescued Doberman Pinscher were happy to have me join them on the trail. This was also their first trip to the park. Travis is a cross country runner and had no trouble keeping up with us on foot.
Setting out from Limpia Canyon Primitive area, the trail was initially flat and took us across Limpia creek three times. At the first crossing there was a great watering hole to the south but the other two crossings were dry. From the looks of the old bank boundaries carved out by high waters, Limpia creek has been more than a creek in the past and is even prone to flooding in the right conditions. The creek was mostly dry on this day exposing tons of rocks made smooth from years of water streaming over them. The first trail sign steered us to the right and gradually zig zigged north up the mountain. The trail straightened out following the side of a hill before starting up again. We passed over the base through a two trunked tree growing up out of the ground in a V shape. On our return Angel felt she had to snort at this odd tree before stepping through it again. The trail did narrow some with a short section having a drop off on one side. Once on top we took Sheep Pen Canyon Loop to the left. Views of the mountain range, ranches, MacDonald Observatory, Indian Lodge, and Fort Davis stretched out for miles before our eyes. Angel seemed to enjoy looking out at the horizon as much as I did. However, she did grow impatient with my constant picture taking.
Along the trail we came upon an unusual looking stone well with a water trough at it’s base. “Abirel 8 1948″ was etched in cement at the base of the well. I could not help but wonder if that was the Spanish word for April (Abril) misspelled or if it is someone’s name? An old rusty windmill base rested on the ground with it’s twisted wheel a few feet away. At one point I’m sure this old windmill ran the well, but now it was laid to rest on top of the mountain. Sunrays soaked up by solar panels now keep this well running strong. Angel was a little hesitant to drink from the well but soon realized there was no harm. Take time here to really encourage your horse to drink, as I saw no other water sources at the top on Sheep Pen Canyon Loop.
From the well, we followed a two track jeep trail going north. Pilar saw a more interesting one track trail to the left just to the outside of the jeep trail. She followed that trail and I stayed on the jeep path for a while. We were able to keep each other in sight most of the time. Angel called out to Ute a few times. The Jeep trail ended up going down into a shallow ravine and disappeared. Pilar rode over and we went back to the one track trail which was most likely the Sheep Pen Canyon loop. The jeep trail seems to run north and south of the well to the primitive mountain campsites and is the only path on top of the mountain which has a fairly level surface with less rocks. We continued on Sheep Pen Canyon Loop and eventually came to the primitive tent campsites numbered 94 – 100. This gave us a good idea where we where when looking at the map, as this is also marked on the map. Currently there are hardly no trail markers. Instead of circling around to the right which would eventually take us back down the mountain and back out the way we came in, we headed to the left / southwest and were going up an incline. There is a section of trail that heads that way and just dead ends, according to the map. I think that is what we were on. Since we were ready to head back, Pilar scouted out a bit to pick up our return trail and we ended up back tracking to the primitive campsite area to pick up the correct trail and head back. On our way back we had a great view into Limpia Canyon Primitive Area campsite. I wanted to yell out hello to Chris who was down below, but decided against it as I did not want him to think I was yelling for help. On our way out of the loop the sweet fragrance of Mountain Laurels were strong as we passed a few of them on the verge of blooming. The treck back down the mountain went smoothly and we were back to camp in no time. Although we had only covered about 11-12 miles of trail we were out for about four hours as we stopped often to admire the views and for me to get a few pictures. Due to the rocky terrain a walk was the gate we maintained most of the time.
The following day before leaving I took Angel on a short last ride in the park. Because I saw a serious looking mountain cyclist heading up the mountain I stuck to the lower trails. I did not want to be heading up some of the narrow sections of trail while the cyclist was coming down. Chris walked LB (our sweet little brindle Pit Bull mix) along with me part of the time and we got some good pictures by the first watering whole. I also explored a very short spur of trail which leads out of camp and curves back around to the main trail. This trail was a little hard to follow near the creek but we were able to pick it back up. Angel did a great job crossing the creek where it deepened and narrowed with thick sand on both sides.
For the rest of our time in Fort Davis we camped out at my friend, Karen’s place and had a blast with them visiting the fort and observatory. We also were invited to get a quick look at the Davis Mountains Preserve (DMP), part of The Nature Conservancy. The DMP is opened a handful of times a year to equestrians, campers, hikers, and cyclist. The horse pens were in great shape and this looks like another great place to ride in the Fort Davis area. I’ll definitely be back to explore these trails.
Nearby Places to Visit: There is so much to do in Fort Davis making the drive well worth the trip. Here is a small list of places to visit in the area:
Fort Davis Historical Site, a very well restored frontier period military fort which often has reenactments and educational activities. McDonald Observatory, an astronomical research center that also has many public education programs and activities.
- >Overland Trail Museum, displaying exhibits of local history, culture, and records. #432/426-3404
Balmorhea State Park, the world’s largest spring fed swimming pool.
- Fort Davis is also not far too far from Big Bend State and National Parks.
Additional Trail Photos: View the Davis Mountains SP album on our Facebook page for more photos.
512/473-3366 or 800/776-LCRA ext. 3366
Call 855/392-7638 or visit – reserveamerica.com
Location: Northwest of Austin, TX
706 County Road 343A, Marble Falls, TX 78654
In Marble Falls, at the intersection of 281 and 1431 – take 1431 east for approximately 9 miles, then turn right on County Road 343A and go approximately one mile on 343A which takes you to the park headquarters/entrance.
Overnight Equestrian Camping is allowed.
Dogs are allowed but must be kept on a leash.
Cell Phone Service:
The cell phone service was fair to good.
Fees: (fees may change so please be sure to check with the park for exact pricing)
$5.00 per adult
$10.00 per night for camping
There is one restroom at the park entrance. There are a total of 26 designated campsites. Most of these sites can be used for equine camping but some are more suited for horses than others. Each site has one or two picnic tables, a fire ring, and a grill. The sites do not have gravel pads or concrete pads to park on, so they will get muddy when it rains. There are no water or electrical hookups. All sites are primitive camping.
The group campsites #25 – 26 are the only sites with horse pens. There are a total of four uncovered 12 x 12 pipe pens at these sites, picnic tables, at least two very large trees, a fire ring, and a deluxe grill for barbequing. The pens have wide openings between the bottom and top rails and I was sure my little bay mustang would be able to step right through the middle of the pipe fence and then go whereever the grass was the greenest.
We stayed at site #15 which was perfect for a large rig and we high tied the horses to the trees using tree savers.
Sites 15 – 26 are the farthest from the park entrance, about 2.7 miles from the entrance on a mostly gravel road. There is one portable toilet located in the center of these sites.
Mileage: Shaffer Bend has approximately 7-8 miles of trails. I rode most of the trails on the outer boundaries of the park, taking Lakeview to Cara Cara, to Dagger, to Equine, and then to Homestead Trail. I skipped most of the middle trails on this ride, which totaled just 5.39 miles according to my MotionX app.
Map: The map below can be requested at the park entrance.
Trails / Terrain: The terrain varies from sandy flat and low when closer to the lake and hilly/rocky when further away from the lake. Dagger and Equine Trail are especially hilly, rocky, and have some nice overlook areas. Dagger Trail has a good size rocky hill incline and leads to a beautiful overlook. Several areas on the Equine Trail are rocky and somewhat hilly. This trail follows parts of the park fence line / boundary and so you will be riding behind some houses which are on the other side of the fence. One house has a barn type of structure with several animals (which can’t be seen but can be heard) that my horse got just a little nervous about. There was a length of purple tape along the fence marking this spot, so be ready for a possible spook when you pass this area. Lakeview Trail is sandy, flat, and offers lake access and great views of the lake. The Homestead Trail will take you from camping sites 25 – 26 to the park entrance. Most of this trail is free of rocks but it is rocky in places and has a few small rolling hills. Cara Cara, Sleeping Doe, Creek, and Turkey Trail are mostly flat and rock free trails. The trails are well marked and easy to navigate.
Shaffer Bend Recreation Area is one of several Lower Colorado River Authority parks located off of Lake Travis which is horse friendly. This park consists of 532 acres of lakeside and Texas Hill Country trails. Shaffer Bend is perfect for a day trail ride or a short one or two night camping trip; it won’t take long to traverse the 7 to 8 miles of trail. Although it is a smaller sized park, it is beautiful. There were several campers during our visit in October. At the campsites a few children enjoyed riding their bikes around but we saw no bikes on the trail during our one night stay in the park. We did not see any other horseback riders either. I did pass two groups of hikers while riding on the trails. We also saw a few boats and kayaks in the lake. When you want to get away but can’t be gone for long, this is an ideal spot to visit. Other activities in the park include hiking, biking, swimming, fishing, and boating. Dogs are also welcome as long as you keep them on leash. Be sure to haul in your own water since there is no running water available.
We also took the horses a short walk down from our site to the lake. As you will see from the pictures, they really enjoyed playing in the soft sand and water and munching on the lush lakeside grass.
On The Trail –
At the Campsite –
Fun Pictures –
Website: Mineola Nature Preserve
Facebook Page: Mineola Nature Preserve Facebook Page
Location: East Texas just on the southern outskirts of Mineola, TX
Directions: From U.S. 69, turn east on Loop 564. To go to the Equestrian Trailhead/Campsite also known as The Derby, take your first right (this is not the main entrance to the park). Look for a sign that says Wastewater Treatment Plant. This road goes up a hill and you will see a small building where the fees are paid on the left and the pens and electric hook ups to the right of the road.
To reserve a campsite please call Lori at 903.569.6183
For information about the trails, trail condition, facilities, etc… call the trail boss, George “Buster” Green at 903.780.1942
Equestrian Camping: Allowed!
Fees: Use the door slot to the small building at the entrance of the Equestrian Campsite to deposit your fees. Fees are subject to change so please get confirmation on the most current fee requirements from the park.
$5.00 for day riders
$5.00 for primitive camping
$5.00 for use of a pen
$30.00 for a water/electric campsite (the $5.00 day use riding fee is included in this)
$75.00 for daily rental of the Derby Pavillion ($50.00 deposit required)
Facilities: 14 electric & water hook up sites with fire rings, picnic tables, and two side by side 12 x 12 metal panel pens per each site are provided at the Equestrian Trailhead/campsite. There is no shade in the electric/water campsites. These sites are separated by wooden posts and ropes. The parking pads are gravel. At this time none of the pens are covered, but the park is hoping to raise funds through ACTHA and TETRA rides to eventually get the pens covered. A water trough and two horse stocks, handy for bathing your horse, are also provided. The horse stocks were funded by TETRA. There is a large covered pavilion (The Derby Pavilion) with picnic tables, a bar, gas grill (bring your own propane tank), and a men’s and women’s bathroom which includes one toilet and shower each. The Derby Pavilion can be used at any time free of charge, or for a fee it can be reserved for a special occasion or event. The men’s & women’s restroom/shower can be used by day riders or campers. On the side of the pavilion is a large and sturdy wheelchair ramp to be used for mounting. Mineola Nature Preserve is one of the very few places we’ve visited that has a wheelchair ramp for physically challenged riders. Bravo!
Between the primitive camping area and the electric/water hook up sites is a large open gravel open parking space. The primitive side of this area has several trees and is more scenic. There is a round pen in this area made of metal panels. There are a few pens which are constructed differently than the pens in the LQ/RV campsites. The couple of pens in the primitive campsites are made of wooden posts, guard rails, and rope.
Pets/Dogs: Allowed, just keep them on a leash.
Cell Phone Service: Fair to good.
Hunting: The Mineola Nature Preserve trails close a few times a year for organized youth hunts. Outside of that hunting is not allowed.
Trail Users: Trails are shared by equestrians, hikers, Boy Scouts, bicycles, and of course wildlife. No motorized vehicles are allowed on the trails, however, the trail boss does check and work on the trails via an ATV. Equestrians are instructed to stay off of the railroad bed path (gravel walkway).Tthey may cross over it, but not ride along on top of it.
Mileage: Approximately 24 miles of equestrian/multiuse trails.
Map: Available on the parks’ website: Mineola Nature Preserve Maps Link
Be sure to print out the map before leaving for your trip, as they may not be available at the park.
Terrain: Mostly sandy with only a few rocky areas; most horses will not require shoes/boots. Most of the trails are flat with some hills on the northeast side of the park.
Water on Trail: Several creek crossings allow for multiple opportunities to water your horse while on the trail.
Consisting of 2,911 acres in Wood County and along the Sabine River, Mineola Nature Preserve (owned and managed by the City of Mineola, TX) has over 20 miles of riding trails and is a great place for overnight equine camping. When arriving to the equestrian campsite at The Derby we were greeted by the park’s trail boss, Buster and his wife Ginny Green. They kindly introduced us to the preserve by taking us for a ride on their mule. When they asked if we wanted to ride on their mule my equine mind was thinking the four legged kind of course, but it was the four wheeled kind. Thanks to the Greens I was able to see some parts of the park where equestrians can’t go, like along the Railbed walking trail and the really muddy lower south trails that we opted not to ride on for this trip. Buster and Ginny shared a wealth of history and tales about the area, unfortunately I could not hear every word due to the loud purr of their mule’s engine. Remnants of the I&GN (International and Great Northern) and T&P (Texas and Pacific) railways which emerged in the 1870s are still evident today. Remaining metal and wood railway support beams spurred on my curiosity of what it must have been like to travel these railways in the late 19th century. The preserve has also installed educational signs detailing information about the land’s history along the trails. The Greens were excited to show off the beauty of the Preserve and highlighted how important the equestrian users are to the park. One of my highlights on this mule ride was seeing a resident alligator just before sunset, not a sight this south Texas gal often sees. Buster also took us up to Greer Hill which we later rode to on horseback as well. This area along with a few other spots in the Preserve have rest stops with a porta-potty, picnic table, and hitching post, which came in handy.
Our early April trip to the Preserve was perfect timing to see the dogwoods and pear trees just beginning to bud. We met up with one of our favorite trail riding groups, NETASA, to explore the park in the company of friends who especially enjoy riding Spanish Mustangs / Indian Horses. Due to lots of rain this year, the lower south trails were just too muddy to be safe. We still ran into some pretty boggy areas but the north trails were usable. The Preserve trails wind in and out of East Texas forests, over bridges, through creeks, beside beautiful ponds, and into wide open fields. Part of the Appaloosa Trail travels beside a fenced pasture containing a few buffalo and longhorns. If you ride to the main park pavilion (not the Derby Pavilion) then you have a great view of the luscious grass filled senderos and beautiful ponds. I was curious as to what is a sendero and why were they created. So I just had to Google it.
Here is the best definition of sendero I found by Arturo Longoria, “A sendero is a cleared pathway (always a straight line) through the woods or brushlands of south Texas and Mexico, often several miles long. Not until bulldozers were used for oil and gas exploration did senderos become common place. Most senderos are from twenty to fifty feet wide, though some are as much as fifty yards across. Hunters often set up blinds along senderos to harvest deer as the animals cross.” Then Arturo goes on to note a quote from A Vaquero of the Brush Country by John D. Young and Frank Dobie, who said a sendero is “a clearing that will allow people to behold some of the secrets that the brush has hidden.” Oh how I love Google, now I know what a sendero is! Even if you don’t ride, be sure to visit the park just to look down on the beautiful ponds and senderos from the backside of the main pavilion.
There are several bridges along the trails which are sturdy for crossing on horseback. Trails in the thick forest provide lots of shade, a welcomed respite from the hot Texas sun. Most of the trails are flat and sandy with some hills towards the northeast side of the park. Along the trails are great spots to stop and rest that have picnic tables and a port-a-potty. One of these spots is at the top of Greer Hill which is a lovely well-shaded area with picnic tables, hitching posts, and a portable restroom on the north side of the park.
The trails are shared by equestrians, hikers, bicyclists, and wildlife of course. We did run into a pack of feral hogs on trail, which was interesting. They sounded like gorillas. Our horses did not think highly of the situation but we managed well. The only motorized vehicle allowed is Buster’s mule as he uses it along with his horses to check and maintain the trials. Equestrians can ride just about everywhere except on the gravel Railbed Walking trail. You can ride next to this trail when it is dry enough and you can cross it if you need to.
The facilities are really nice and the pavilion at the Derby (equestrian campsite) is perfect for gatherings. We enjoyed several tasty meals and a few games of Chicken Foot under the covered pavilion. The large men’s and women’s bathroom/showers are amenites not often found when camping. The only down side for me is the lack of trees and shade for the electric/water campsites. However, there are plans to put shelters over the pens to give the horses some shade. I also was not crazy about the water treatment plant being just down the road from the campsite. Currently there is some construction going on near the camping area as well, but this is temporary. These are minor issues when looking at the whole picture. All and all, the Mineola Nature Preserve is a great place to enjoy and camp at with your horses and friends. I am thankful to have such a resource available for trail-riding equestrians.
Mineola Nature Preserve visitor, Dorene Scanlon-Gable wrote, “We’ve been to Mineola Nature Preserve many times in the past two years. We belong to N.E.T.A.S.A., a horseback riding club and find it to be a great place to bring our horses for a 3 or 4 hour ride, even on Texas summer days. After rains it can be less fun because of the mud! They have many trails which are very well marked and are well maintained. The facilities include corrals, clean rest rooms with showers, hoses for washing the sweat off the horses, water spigots for drinking water, a handicap mounting area, picnic tables and all for $5/horse! We heartily recommend the Preserve for riding.”
Along the Trail:
Cooper Lake State Park, South Sulphur Unit – Sulphur Springs, TX
Contributor: Trail review and pictures provided by contributor Ann Sides. Thank you Ann!
Contacts: Reservations for camping: 512-389-8900. Ranger Station: 903-945-5256 (open 8-5 daily). Reservations can also be made on-line at http://texas.reserveworld.com/
Directions: Two separate units comprise Cooper Lake: South Sulphur Unit and Doctors Creek. The South Sulphur Unit is closer to Sulphur Springs, and has the equestrian campground, Buggy Whip Equestrian Area. The address is 1690 FM 3505, Sulphur Springs, TX 75482. Latitude: 33.28772 Longitude: -95.65792
From Greenville, take I30 East toward Sulphur Springs. Take the Hwy 19 exit (Exit 122) and cross over I30 and go north. This is also called Loop 301. You will loop around Sulphur Springs, and will go through several stop signs. When you come to the intersection of Loop 301 and Hwy 19, go to the left (north). At Birthright, turn left on FM 71 and go 4 miles, then turn right on FM 3505. You’ll see signs that say Cooper Lake when you’re back on Hwy 19. After you go past the Rangers’ station, take the first left. This is a long winding road that will take you to Buggy Whip Equestrian Camping Area. The last sign for Buggy Whip Equestrian Camping is on the left side of the road. If you miss it you can keep going straight and easily turn around. The camping area is laid out in a large loop, with camp sites all around the loop. There is day parking along the center of the loop. You can also access the South Sulphur Unit from Commerce but the road is more narrow and twisty.
Equestrian Camping: There are 15 concrete camp sites with water and electricity. Two of the sites are made for double trailers, which is really nice if you’re traveling with someone. The sites are spaced out with trees and bushes between the sites making them feel more private. Each site has a metal post picket system in the shape of an H with 20 ft cable across the top to tether horses. This camp doesn’t appear to be as busy as it was in past years, but reservations for camping are recommended.
A typical camp site; very shady with nice concrete pads.
Fees: $5.00 for day use. $20 per night plus day use fee for equestrian campsites with water and electricity.
Coggins: You will be asked to present a current Coggins at the Ranger Station prior to entering the park. They will inspect your horse to insure the papers match the horse.
Facilities: The road in camp is asphalt and is in the shape of a long oval. It’s also very flat, which makes it a great place for kid’s to ride bikes. The equestrian camp has a very nice bath house with men’s and women’s facilities with multiple showers, sinks, flushing toilets, and is heated in cold weather. It is always clean and well cared for. There are picnic tables and fire rings at each campsite. The park has many separate camp sites, some with shelters and others for camping or RVs. There are many hiking trails and nature talks are also offered at times. Check with the ranger station for non-horse related activities.
Facility Map Link to the South Sulphur Unit
Cell Phone Service: ATT has good service.
Buggy Whip Trail Users: Equines only
Mileage: The Buggy Whip Equestrian only trail is 10.55 miles.
Trail Map: The current trail map you receive at the front gate doesn’t have trail numbers marked on it. I’ve written them in on the new map using info from a previous map.
Terrain: Sandy clay with some rocks. Most horses are fine without shoes. The soil erodes very badly so when there is rain the trails are closed. If in doubt, call the ranger station before you haul.
Description: The Buggy Whip Equestrian trail is primarily in hard wood forest with some ups and downs. There is access to the lake on one portion of the trail. Be prepared to see deer and possibly wild hogs. There is no hunting in the park and the deer certainly seem to know that! The park has really worked hard in the recent years to alleviate erosion by rerouting trails and adding supports in the trails.
Buggy Whip Equestrian Trail: There are basically 3 areas of trails. On the new map the area closest to the camp is called “Novice area”. These are easy trails and are comprised of 3 large long loops. From these trails there is a single crossing over into the next area. This crossing is a low bridge in a creek, but it is good footing with mild slopes on either side. Some inexperienced horses/riders may have problems with this crossing. This creek crossing was very dangerous for many years with an open bridge and steep slopes. Hats off to the park for changing this crossing and making it very safe.
The 2nd area is called “Challenging” on the new map. After you cross the bridge the trail will fork and the trail to the right has some steep inclines. If you have small children or inexperienced riders, I’d definitely recommend avoiding this section of trail. On the map the trails that fork are BOTH called 2A so if you want mild riding go to the left. The pond near the north end of Trail 2A is very boggy.
The 3rd area is across a white rock road. The majority of these trails are relatively flat and wind through trees.
Please note, the numbering on the trails can be somewhat confusing. The far trail is called 3A on both the north, west and south loops. If you’re one of those folks who like to know where they are, it’s a good idea to orient yourself with the sun before you take off.
Ann Sides, WTTA’s newest contributor, lives near Greenville, TX with husband, J.Paul, who is head of security and composting, 5 horses, and 3 dogs. Ann works at L-3 in Greenville and hopes to retire in a couple of years. But until then she’ll keep riding and camping every weekend she gets the chance. She and J.Paul have one daughter, Lauren, son-in-law Clint, and one adorable grandchild, Ryan Moore, who live close by in Royse City. It doesn’t get any better than this!!!
Photo shot by Donna Taker. Ann and Scout, her long time, much loved, trail companion.
Ann has contributed posts on the following locations:
Trace Trails in Athens, TX, Caddo National Grasslands near Telephone, TX, and Cooper Lake State Park in Sulphur Springs, TX.