Equestrian Trails and Campgrounds

Category: Texas Trails (Page 1 of 11)

Barnhart Ranch, Berclair TX

Wilfred Korth and Claire Barnhart Korth with their herd of Mediterranean miniature donkeys.
  • Location: Berclair, TX (near Goliad, TX)
  • Mailing address: P.O. Box 626, Berclair, TX 78107
  • Physical address: 8212 FM 883, Berclair, TX 78107
  • Website: http://www.barnhartranchretreat.com/index.html
  • Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/BQ5RANCH/?tn-str=k*F
  • Contact/Reservations: Claire 361.542.0348 or barnhartranchretreat@gmail.com
  • Overnight horse boarding facilities with barn, paddock, and pasture $25 a night per horse
  • Three unique rental cottages ranging from $100 to $350 a night, contact Claire for up to date rates and specials
  • Pets welcome, no more than two dogs per cottage and a $10 cleaning fee per stay
  • Approximately 18 miles of trails sectioned off in several pastures; 706 acres total
  • No trailer/RV hookups yet, but plans are in the works to have them by 2020
Right to left, Doris on my Angel, Carol on Kizy, Caroline on Jack, and Kerri on Savannah. I’m on Midnight and taking the photo.

Five of us visited the family owned and run Barnhart Q5 Ranch and Nature Retreat a few years back. I have been meaning for a while to get a trail info page up on this great little piece of Texas in Goliad County. This is an eco-tourism working ranch and nature preserve. Claire and her family raise Mediterranean Miniature donkeys along with about 30 or so head of cattle and have many other animals and projects underway on their family owned ranch. Saved from demolition and moved to the ranch in 2005, the charming 1877 Maetze-von Dohlen House was our lovely retreat for the weekend. The Maetze home sleeps up to ten with a total capacity of 14. For this trip five was a perfect number! We prepared great meals in the fully equipped kitchen. Enjoyed a wonderful camp fire, which Barnhart set up for us behind the house. Rocked on the back porch enjoying the big and bright Texas stars while savoring Kerri’s homemade goat cheese and sipping wine. The home was so charming and such a happy and relaxing respite was had by all. But, I have not reached the best part yet, we brought our horses with us and hit the trails!

Road between the cottages and the barn.

Getting to the horses from Maetze House was a pleasant walk down to the barn and pasture. There is a covered barn, about a four acre pasture and a paddock closer to the main road, FM 883, where you will enter the ranch if you are traveling with horses. Contact Claire for specific directions. There was more than enough room for our five horses. Our equine friends loved being able to roam freely in the pasture and graze.

A herd of adorable mini donkeys are just behind us.

On trail we got to enjoy seeing the miniature donkeys, cattle, and wildlife. Trails are not marked but easy enough to follow as they kept them well mowed down and wide. Several ponds and tanks to water your horse were easily discovered along the trail. The Ranch is kept in a state of natural beauty. Before we rode out Claire gave us a tour of the ranch from her ATV which was lots of fun, especially when the cattle came barreling through, running past us.

I must apologize for the brief info on this wonderful ranch, as I waited way too long to enter this little gem on WTTA. There are about 18 miles of trails but you will need to be prepared to open and close several gates, great practice if you are wanting to perfect your horseback gate opening/closing skills. There were no mounting blocks when I last visited.

This is a great place to relax; very peaceful and secluded. If you are a Texas History lover then you must also make the short drive to visit Goliad. This is also a very popular birding location.

Lots of Pictures from our visit to Barnhart Ranch and Nature Retreat Q5.

I will have to ask Claire about the history behind the Q5 name/brand for this Ranch.
Maetze House where we stayed and my favorite of the three cottages, it is also the largest.
The room I stayed in.
My favorite room in the Maetze House.
The barn.
Horses enjoying stretching their legs and grazing in the pasture.
Angel enjoying her large paddock.
On the trail.

My favorite activity at Barnhart; donkey loving!

T bar S Horse Camp, Kennard TX

T bar S Horse Camp in the Davy Crockett National Forest
6387 FM2781
Kennard, TX 75847

Website: https://tbarshorsecamp.com

Directions: from Huntsville, travel on TX-19 approximately 20 miles to Trinity. In Trinity turn RIGHT on TX-94 (the 2nd traffic signal) towards Groveton. Travel 16 miles and TX-94 ends/merges with Hwy 287, turn LEFT towards Crockett. Go approximately 8 miles to Pennington and turn RIGHT on FM2781, there is a Spitfire Grill/Gas Station at the intersection. In Pennington make the RIGHT (just past the Church) and then a LEFT (just past Avery’s Welding & Feed) to stay on FM2781 towards Kennard. T bar S is then 6 miles ahead, just past Baker Springs, on the RIGHT.


From Crockett or Nacogdoches, travel on TX-7 to Kennard, turn SOUTH at the flashing yellow light which is FM2781. Go approximately 6 miles and T bar S is on the LEFT.

If you accidentally pass T bar S, you can continue on to either Kennard or Pennington to get turned back around.

Tom & Stephanie Hanslik
(936) 655-3328 office
(832) 928-9584 cel / txt

Reservations: online at https://tbarshorsecamp.com/reservations

Hours: Open daily from 8am to 8pm

Overnight camping:
Equestrian overnight camping is allowed, with parking space available for day riders if camp is not full.

Restrooms and showers were recently added! 16 sites with 30 amp electric and water hookups, and 2 horse pens per site. Several of the pens are covered. Horse pens are 12×12’, and most can be opened to 12×24 for those camping with one horse.

Camp for $35/night with 2 pens included in that price, reservations required. Day Riders are welcome (if space available) at $10 per trailer. Includes secured parking and access to potable water & facilities. Contact camp in advance. There is no fee to ride the trails.

Policies: listed on website.

  • Proof of Negative Coggins Required.
  • Check-in time is 1pm, check-out time is 12 noon. For later departure check with owners if site is reserved by anyone else. If so, can move to day rider spot or another site if want to ride before heading home.
  • No Stallions.
  • Dogs welcome but MUST be kept on a leash. It is a working farm with cats, chickens, and ducks.
  • Do not tie horses to pens or trees, tie to side of trailer only please.
  • Horse pens must be cleaned of all manure and hay upon departure.
  • Shavings are permitted, but not provided.
  • Campfires allowed in above-ground rings or community fire ring only.
  • No discharging of any waste or gray water.
  • Quiet hours begin at 10pm.
  • Maximum 4 persons per site
  • Maximum 2 horses per site. If more than 2 horses please contact owners, additional pens (if available) are $10/horse per night.

This is a brand new horse camp, which opened in 2019. Future improvements are planned and include a pavilion with bathroom & shower facilities. Currently there is a very clean porta-toilet for campers. A dumpster for trash is provided. Manure is to be cleaned out of the pens and campsites and then deposited in the manure spreader, there are limited muck buckets so if camp is busy be sure to bring your own muck bucket and manure fork to make the job easier. There are two areas where multiple pens are grouped together, a water spigot and hose is supplied for those. But be sure and bring your own water hose for your campsite. Camp and horse pens are very shady, pens that would otherwise be in full sun are covered! Some of the sites are pull-through. Camp is located right off a paved farm-to-market road, very easy to find and no rough dirt or gravel roads to negotiate with your trailer.
Direct access to the 50+ miles of marked and mapped trails in the Davy Crockett National Forest.

The Trails:
The Piney Creek Horse Trail is a system of horse trails that meanders approximately 53 miles through the East Texas piney woods in the Davy Crockett National Forest.

The trail is primitive; its path cleared through the forest which follows Forest Service roads, tram roads, pipeline right-of-ways, game trails, and in some places it was established by clearing brush and trees through the forest. Primarily, it is on National Forest land, but there are crossings on private property and along public road right-of-ways. In general, the route is well cleared. Trails are very well marked, and all road crossings are well signed. Different colored triangular markers indicate the route. Trails are easy with gently rolling terrain. It is also very shady, making it a great place for summer riding. There are no motorized vehicles / atv / utv / dirt bikes allowed in the forest.

The trail is barefoot-friendly, though there may be short gravelly sections that could bother very sensitive hooves.

Additional Info:
There is hunting allowed in the forest, so it is best avoided Nov 1st through the end of gun season. The forest is commonly too wet to ride in these months anyway.

AT&T and Straight-Talk cel service is very good; Sprint, Verizon etc. is very poor.

San Angelo State Park, San Angelo TX

Carol Grosvenor on Bug and Caroline Moody on Jack at Cougar Lookout Trail in San Angelo State Park.

San Angelo State Park SASP

Location: Central West Texas
Business Address: 3900-2 Mercedes Road, San Angelo TX 76901

GPS Coordinates (main park entrance – not the equestrian entrance):
Latitude: 31.463922
Longitude: -100.508038

San Angelo State Park, North Shore Entrance. This is where you check in with your horses.

Contact: Park 325.949.4757 Reservations 512.389.8900


FaceBook page:

Directions to North Shore Gatehouse entrance for Equestrian use: You must go through this gatehouse first to check in, pay fees, and have your Coggins checked. You will get a map, directions to where you are camping or the day use area, and the gate code. There is more than one way to get there; here is one, from US 87 turn south on FM 2288 (also known as Grape Creek Road and near the little town of Grape Creek north of San Angelo, TX). Just before the bridge crossing / river, turn left (see park signs) to the San Angelo State Park North Shore Gatehouse entrance. There is enough room to get your rig turned around easily once you get checked in.

Hours for the North Shore Gatehouse:
Spring/Summer Monday – Thursday 9am – 6pm and Friday – Saturday 9am – 7pm
Fall/Winter Monday – Thursday 9am – 5pm and Friday – Saturday 9am – 6pm

Day Use – First, check in at the North Shore Gatehouse (pay fees, have Coggins check, get the gate code, and be sure to get a map). Turn around and head back out of the gate entrance, go left on FM 2288, cross the river, and take the first left. Pass the North Concho Camping area and continue to the end of the road where there is a large parking lot area. This area is basically a concrete parking lot. At the backside of the parking lot is the main trail access entrance called, Bells’s Trailhead (point #7 on the maps) with a brick metal archway, posted map, hitching rail, and two benches (which can be used as mounting blocks). From here continue straight for a beautifully shaded stroll next to the river on Shady Trail or go right through the gate to get to the main trailhead to trailhead route and/or Dinosaur Trail.

North Concho Camping Area – is the main equestrian camping area. First check in at the North Shore Gatehouse (pay fees, have Coggins check, get the gate code, and be sure to get a map). Turn around and head back out of the gate entrance, go left on FM 2288, cross the river, and take the first left (gated entrance ). When riding to the trails you can just cross over the main park road and go through the gate or you can follow the park road south to Bell’s Trailhead (point #7 on the maps).

At North Concho, there are 23 well maintained camp sites, all are primitive except for sites 1-10. Sites 1-10 have water, electric, a covered picnic table, grill, two metal paneled horse pens that share a center panel and are about 10 by 10, three tethering posts to high tie your horses, a level asphalt parking pad, and large oak trees. Some of the sites are pull through. There are no mounting blocks. The campsites are beautiful and well kept. On my visit in March we had no issues with the electric hookups but in November of 2017 they were working on some of the electric hooks ups and was able to get mine going just in time. However, my microwave did end up shorting out and I was not sure if that was due to it’s age or problems with the electricity. There is lots of shade and grass on the campsites and you can set up your own pens (to include electric) if you want your horse to have more space and grazing time. Park hosts told us we could spread our manure in the field.

I loved the extra option of the tethering posts and used them to high tie my horses to give them a break from the small stalls while I cleaned the stalls, or tied them to tack up. I also high tied my younger mare using the tethering posts when I rode off on her buddy and left her behind. This was the safest way to contain her, as she most likely would have reared up on the stall panels and possibly caught a hoof in between the panels. She does not like being left behind. The stall would not have been safe for her while in a state of emotional abandonment. My husband stayed behind and kept a close watch on her as well.

The primitive sites vary with some (not all) having one larger paneled horse pen and/or three tethering posts, covered picnic tables, grill and/or fire ring, and some had paved parking pads while others are only dirt. There are no mounting blocks.

There is an enclosed men’s/women’s restroom (chemical toilets) but no showers. There are showers in the Bald Eagle Camping Area which is located by way of the North Shore Gatehouse entrance.

Firewood: is provided and located by the restroom area; donations are encouraged.

A dumpster for trash is also located near the restroom area.

An RV dump station is located on the way out of the North Concho Camping Area.

Bald Eagle Camping Area – This area has water/electric sites as well as primitive sites. Horses are sometimes allowed here, with permission from park staff, but there are no pens or tying posts. You are allowed to bring your own portable pens to the park. There is a shower house and restroom located in this area. This area can be reached by going through the North Shore Gatehouse.

Other non-equestrian camping areas are located throughout the park and on the south side of the park. There are also primitive camping areas within the park that you can ride, hike, or bike to.

On our way to SASP!

Pets: Pets are allowed but must be contained or remain on a leash. In addition to our two horses we brought along our two dogs and one cat. Yes, one cat! This was my first time to camp with a cat and it actually went well and saved us $$ on boarding fees!. Itsy Bitsy had her own little pop up cat playpen, harness & leash, and she stayed in the trailer with us at night.

Park residents: When entering SASP we saw a rafter of turkeys taking flight. At our campsite we also saw owls and hawks. Our shady site seemed to also be the social hang out for all the park owls who were enjoying teasing our dog all night long. We received several warnings about rattle snakes but luckily I saw none on our trips there so far. We did see deer, javelina, and a wide variety of birds. Longhorns roam throughout the park. San Angelo State park is the home of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd. I frequently came across these beautiful residents while on trail and learned that you go around them, not the other way around. It was really exciting when we were on a trail leading to a large water trough and the Longhorns were running from behind us, evidently to get to the water. They were thirsty and we had to get our spooked horses out of their way fast. Quick note on trail etiquette for San Angelo State Park; everyone yields to the Longhorns! After we all settled down one of my riding friends, Kathy, took this great picture (above) of me on Angel with the Longhorns. On the south side of the park there is a herd of buffalo (they have their own section in the park and do not roam on the park multiuse trails). Check with the Park for Buffalo or Longhorn educational tours/events.

Everyone yields to the Longhorns, go around!

Cell Phone Service: My service with AT&T was good at this park.

The bikers at SASP were very polite and quick to yield to our horses.

Trails Users: The trail is shared and divided between equestrians, hikers, and bicyclist. Everyone is to yield for the horse (except for the Longhorns and wildlife of course). No motorized vehicles allowed on trails. I saw several bicyclists on trail during both my visits to SASP in 2017. They were very courteous and careful around the horses.

Mileage: SASP has approximately 50 miles of multiuse trails. Now that’s a lot of riding!

The park has two official trail maps (North and South Unit maps) and a facility park map which you can ask for at the gate and which is also listed on their website; see links below:

SASP North Unit Trail Map

SASP South Unit Trail Map

SASP facility park map

The trail maps are not as detailed as the maps posted along the trail. I suggest you take a good look at the map signs on trail as they are much more thorough and often have a “YOU ARE HERE” bullet on the map. I took a picture of one of the maps which is posted above.

Trail Markers: Overall, I found the trail markers (mix of wood and metal markers) to be pretty good. On a few spots there were trail intersections that had no marking but I just stayed on what appeared to be the main trail and had no trouble. It is fairly easy to navigate this park because the trails are all in between the river and FM 2288. If the road is on your right and the river on your left, then you are heading south and away from the North trailhead… and vise versa.

What is awesome about a lot of the trails is that they have separated the bike trails from most of the horse trails with hikers being able to go on either the bike or horse trail. The bike trail often runs alongside parallel to the horse trail. However, there are still some sections of trail that are shared by all users.

Water On Trail: Above is a water trough located at Burkett Trailhead which is marked at point number 2 on the maps. There are a few water troughs located on the trails. A water trough is also located on point 4 on the maps which is called Five Points (not sure why they did not assign it as point five on the map, lol). Another one of the water troughs is off of Dinosaur Trail closer to the equestrian campgrounds. There are also a few streams on some of the trails that are most likely dry during the summer or dry seasons.

This gate is typical of most of the gate at the park and fairly easy to open and close by just lifting the chain off of the post.

Gates: I will say there are several gates to open and close along the trails but most are fairly easy to open/close off the back of your horse while a few are sticky and tricky (being too close to the cattle guard making your horse nervous). So if your horse is not gate trained, ride with someone who can easily open/close gates or be prepared to dismount/mount as needed to get through them.

This type of gate was more difficult to open by horseback. The cattle guard is too close to the narrow gate. You have to be careful of your horse not stepping on the cattle guard. This gate also had a spring instead of a chain so it springs closed on it’s own as soon as you let go of it. I dismounted for this one.

Terrain: San Angelo State Park offers diversity in it’s terrain with four regions converging, Edwards Plateau, Hill Country, Rolling Plains, and the Trans-Pecos desert. Most of the trails are fairly flat and level but there is a little Hill Country in Concho Land. Be ready for a few ups and downs in some areas. You can tell by the name of some of the trails if they will be challenging or not, such as Roller Coaster Trail versus Tasajilla Flats Trail.The ground varies from black dirt, sandy clay type soil, and hilly rock surfaces. My horse got by fine barefoot but there are some rocky and hilly areas in which you may want boots or shoes on your horse. Some of the trails are wide open with miles and miles of catus but no tree coverage, while other trails have short brushy trees, lots of mesquite, and oak groves closer to the North Concho River.

A Short Description:
San Angelo State park is off the banks of the O.C. Fischer Reservoir and the Concho River. Opened in May of 1995, it is approximately 7,500 acres. My first equestrian camping trip to the park was March of 2017 but I was eager to return, going back in Nov. of 2017. I’d love to time my next trip when all of the prickly pair cactus are blooming, because they are everywhere. The park is really interesting and diverse in it’s landscape. The Reservoir water levels have greatly receded leaving behind several abandoned picnic and camping sites now far from the shores and over grown with cactus. While at the park be sure to check out the inviting town of San Angelo and it’s Fort Concho a National Historic Landmark.

Lots of Pictures!

Angel and I at Cougar Outlook.

hitching post and a giant bench at Cougar Outlook.

Bike repair station at Cougar Lookout. Sorry Angel this won’t help you any.

Haley and Jake.

Davis Mountains State Park, Fort Davis TX

Main Entrance sign

Pilar Pedersen and Kelly Hurd enjoying the Davis Mountains' view on their sure footed horses.

Pilar Pederson and Kelly Hurd enjoying the Davis Mountains’ view on their sure footed horses, Ute and Angel.



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



Davis Mountains SP main headquarters entrance.

Davis Mountains SP main headquarters entrance. Be sure to check in here and show proof of negative Coggins. The main entrance has a nice circular drive way making it easy to turn your rig around here.



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 / camping entrance.

Equestrian day use / camping entrance.


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.


Road leading to the equestrian use area at Limpia Canyon.

Road leading to the equestrian use area at Limpia Canyon.


Limpia Canyon equestrian use area.

Limpia Canyon equestrian use area.


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.


Our campsite set up at Limpia Canyon.

Our campsite set up at Limpia Canyon.


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.



Travis and his Doberman Pinscher.

Travis and his Doberman Pinscher.


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.



Screen Shot 2016-03-11 at 1.43.18 PM



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.



Trail Map       Trail Pilar Travis



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.



Angel is enjoying Limpia Creek just behind our campsite.

Angel is enjoying Limpia Creek just behind our campsite.



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.



Limpia Canyon primitive equestrian use are water trough.

Limpia Canyon primitive equestrian use area water trough.


On Trail-

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.



Pilar is encouraging Ute to drink from the well.

Pilar is encouraging Ute to drink from the well.



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



Signature date carved into the well.

Signature date carved into the well.


Remains of the windmill wheel that used to pump the well.

Remains of the windmill wheel that used to pump the now solar powered well.



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!



Karen and her horse Kitty heading out.

Karen and her horse Kitty heading out.



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!



Karen and Kitty crossing a rocky dry creek bed and heading back to our campsite.

Karen and Kitty crossing a rocky dry creek bed and heading back to our campsite.



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.



Leaving the Limpia Canyon and heading out on the trail.

Leaving the Limpia Canyon and heading out on the main trail.



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.



Angel is enjoying the miles and miles of mountain range views as much as I am.

Angel is enjoying the miles and miles of mountain range views as much as I am.



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.



This two track path at the top is not apart of the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop but it is an alternate route that flat and has less rocks.

This two track path at the top is not apart of the Sheep Pen Canyon Loop but it is an alternate route that is flat and has less rocks compared to 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.



Pilar and Travis enjoying the view and discuss our best route of return.

Pilar and Travis enjoying the view, discuss the best route.



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.



Great shot Chris took of Kelly and Angel.

Great shot Chris took of Kelly and Angel.



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.



Heading back to camp on the little side trail following Limpa Creek.

Heading back to camp on the little side trail following Limpa Creek.



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.




Fort Davis

Fort Davis


Additional Trail Photos: View the Davis Mountains SP album on our Facebook page for more photos.


trail new Trail on top 2 Trail hillside Angel Ears trail trail hillside 2

Shaffer Bend Recreation Area, Marble Falls TX

Entrance both



Shaffer Bend Recreation Area link


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


View of Lake Travis which is fed by the Colorado River from Shaffer Bend Campsites 15 - 26.

View of Lake Travis which is fed by the Colorado River from Shaffer Bend Campsites 15 – 26.



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.


View of Homestead Trail at Shaffer Bend.

View of Homestead Trail at Shaffer Bend.



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 –

Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.

Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.


Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.

Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.


Lakeshore Trail at Shaffer Bend.

Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.



Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.

Lakeview Trail at Shaffer Bend.


Sleeping Doe Trail and Sign.  The trails are well marked at Shaffer Bend.

Sleeping Doe Trail and Sign. The trails are well marked at Shaffer Bend.


Equine Trail at Shaffer Bend.

Equine Trail at Shaffer Bend.


On the Equine trail by the fence line, keep a look out for the purple tape/ribbon and barns, as your horse might spook here.

On the Equine Trail by the fence line, keep a look out for the purple tape/ribbon and barns, as your horse might spook here.


Equine Trail at Shaffer Bend.

Equine Trail at Shaffer Bend.


Bottom of Dagger Trail hill.

Bottom of Dagger Trail hill.


The top of Dagger Trail.

The top of Dagger Trail.


Dagger Trail overlook sign.

Dagger Trail overlook sign.


Dagger Trail Overlook at Shaffer Bend.

Dagger Trail Overlook at Shaffer Bend.


Main park road at Shaffer Bend.

Main park road at Shaffer Bend.


At the Campsite –


Our campsite #15 was roomy, shady, and close to the lake.

Our campsite #15 was roomy, shady, and close to the lake.


At campsite 15 we high tied the horses in the trees.

At campsite 15 we high tied the horses in the trees.


The group campsites 25 - 26 comes with four pens and a huge barbeque grill.

The group campsites 25 – 26 comes with four pens and a huge barbeque grill.


Huge grill at group sites 25 - 26.

Huge grill at group sites 25 – 26. Due to the burn ban they are covered up.


One of four pens at the group campsites 25 - 26.

One of four pens at the group campsites 25 – 26.


Fun Pictures –


There is a porta potty at sites 15 - 26 but no hitching post, so you have to have your horse potty trained.

There is a porta potty at sites 15 – 26 but no hitching post, so you have to have your horse potty trained.


Angel with her tongue out enjoying Lake Travis.

Angel with her tongue out enjoying Lake Travis.


Midnight is enjoying a good roll at Lake Travis.

Midnight is enjoying a good roll at Lake Travis.


Midnight and Kelly at Shaffer Bend.

Midnight and Kelly at Shaffer Bend.


Angel and Chris looking great and enjoying the trails at Shaffer Bend.

Angel and Chris looking great and enjoying the trails at Shaffer Bend.


Camping neighbors enjoying the horses.

Camping neighbors enjoying the horses.


Angel's taking one last dip in the lake before we head home.

Angel’s taking one last dip in the lake before we head home.



« Older posts