Equestrian Trails and Campgrounds

Category: Texas Trails (Page 1 of 11)

T bar S Horse Camp, Kennard TX

Originally published March 30, 2019 — recently updated September 07, 2021

N.E.T.A.S.A (Northeast Texas and Surrounding Area), an American Indian Horse Registry trail riding group, enjoyed T Bar S for at least their 3rd visit on Aug. 29, 2021. Left to right, Zack on Dragon, Patti on Dakota, and Curtis on Rain Man.

Ride beneath East Texas Woodlands deep in the shade of Davy Crockett National Forest. Discover the Piney Creek Horse Trail system, over 50 miles of sandy, gently rolling, well developed horse trails between Crockett and Lufkin.   If you want to horse around in comfort, skip roughing it for a change and stay at T Bar S… for both you and your horse’s pleasure.

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

 

 

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.

or

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.

 

T Bar S is easy to find and right off FM 2781.

 

Contact:
Tom & Stephanie Hanslik (owners)
Tbarshorsecamp@yahoo.com
(936) 655-3328 office
(832) 928-9584 cell / text

 

Creative bucket lanterns with the T Bar S logo can be turned on at your campsite.

 

T Bar S Horse Camp Website: https://tbarshorsecamp.com     This is a great website, user friendly and very informative with a facility map, pictures and details about each campsite, park/trail maps and lastly you can make reservations and a deposit via this website.

T Bar S Facebook Group

Hours: Open daily from 8am to 8pm

Overnight camping:
Equestrian overnight camping is allowed, with parking space available for day riders as well.

Campsite #2 has four covered pens and a lovely Oak tree for shade.

 

Pens for campsite #2 & #3.

 

Campsite #4 (picture from 2019) unfortunately has lost a few trees due to the 2021 freeze, however the pens are covered.

Facilities:

  • Enclosed air conditioned pavilion  with a front patio that has chairs, a barbeque grill and a freezer full of of ice bags for purchase
  • Restrooms and showers with AC and vents
  • 16 sites with 30 amp and two 50 amp electric and water hookups – see T Bar S website, as details about each campsite are described well with pictures of each site.
  • Two horse pens per site; several of the pens are covered. Horse pens are 12×12’ Priefert panels; most pens can be opened to 12×24 for those camping with one horse.

 

Cookies Corner air conditioned pavilion with patio and large garage type doors that can be opened up when the weather is nice. Oh and did I say there is a blue freezer full of bags of ice you can buy!  No more running into town to buy ice – cool.

 

Inside Cookies Corner.  We enjoyed playing dominos at this table.

 

Two bathrooms and two showers on the side of Cookies Corner.

 

One of two bathrooms.

 

One of two showers.

 

Angel enjoyed her spacious shady suite at T Bar S.

Rates:
Camp for $35/night with 2 pens included in that price, reservations required. Day Riders are welcome 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.
  • 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.

Manure Management:

A few rakes and muck buckets with carts are provided.  Please put manure in the spreader. 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.   This is a very clean well maintained facility, thank you in advance for helping to keep it that way.

A few muck buckets, carts and rakes are provided. Manure goes in the spreader please.

Dogs: Are allowed but must remain on leash.  Owners have two very friendly dogs who do roam the facility freely and like to greet the guests.

 

My pup Eva came along and we did a little hiking in the pines, which you can see she loved! Aug. 2021.

Phone Service:  AT&T is fairly good (mine did not work inside my trailer but did work outside of my trailer).  Straight Talk is said to work well also; while other phone services don’t work as well in this area.

Hunting: Hunting is allowed in the forest, so it is best avoided starting on the first Saturday in November through the end of gun/deer season (approximately mid January).  The forest is commonly too wet to ride in these months anyway.  Riding the trails from T Bar S during hunting season will be closed, but the T Bar S facility will still remain open and is a great rest stop/lay over for any equine travelers.  October is bow season and you may still ride the trails during this time but be sure to wear orange.

Controlled Burns: The U.S. Forest Service conducts controlled burns in the National Forests and Grasslands in Texas from early spring to summer.  Check their website ( https://www.fs.usda.gov/detail/texas/home/?cid=STELPRDB5355005 ) and with T Bar S owners, Stephanie or Tom, for information about any possible burns/fires.

Logging: It is always possible there could be some harvesting/logging going on of the pine trees but I hear the loggers are very courteous to the trail users.

Trail Users: Horse/mule riders, hikers, and hunters.  No motorized vehicles allowed.

Mileage: Over 50 miles of trail.

There are some sections of Piney Horse Trail system where the different trail loops merge, such as here with the White and Blue trails intersecting.  Curtis on his buckskin Wonder Women, aka Diana, is about the check the map.   Which way do we go now?

Maps and trail markers: Maps are online, printed out, and cloth maps on a bandana can be bought at T Bar S for $5.  Trails are color coded and well marked.

T-S Piney Creek Horse Trails May2021

 

Description:
T Bar S opened in 2019  and has direct access to the 50+ miles of marked and mapped trails in the Davy Crockett National Forest.  Owners, Tom and Stephanie Hanslik, have worked hard adding many additions to this awesome facility to include many nice decorative touches.   Tom and Stephanie check in on their guests and make sure to keep an eye out for everyone’s safety.  It is a good feeling knowing if you don’t come back from trail riding, they will be looking for you and calling the ranger.  Tom and Stephanie are helpful and friendly.  I would feel very safe camping here solo.  Their  newest addition to T Bar S is an air conditioned pavilion named Cookies Corner with bathrooms & showers attached to the side.    Inside Cookies Corner is a large table and chairs, which was great for playing dominoes.  The horse pens are very nice with well secured Priefert panels, soft sand, and several are covered.  I really like if you have just one horse, most of the double pens can be opened up to make one large pen. 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.   There is no septic service.  There is a dumpster for your trash.

There are several two track forest service roads to ride on.

Trail Access from T Bar S is practically right in the front yard of Tom and Stephanie’s home.  Just head out the front entrance gate and turn right or head out the side corner gate to the north of the campsite, cross over the yard and you can head left across FM 2781 or through the trail entrance and to the right.  Trails from the camping area to Davy Crockett are yellow and black.

T Bar S gate for trail access, located on the north corner of the camp grounds. A chain latch on top of the post makes it easy to open/close via horseback. Ride straight ahead to the trees and then go right or left across FM 2781 to access the trails.

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

Beautiful evergreen towering pines overhead at Davy Crockett National Forest. Sept 2021.

The mostly barefoot friendly trails are primitive. Paths are 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.

 

There are some road crossings along these trails such as FM 2781. Here Patti, aboard her BLM Dakota, showed us how it’s done. Of course look both ways and don’t dilly dally!

 

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 allowed, to include,  atv, utv, and dirt bikes,  in the forest.

I have visited T Bar S twice now and was impressed both times.  I did most of my riding in 2019 as unfortunately my horse was lame during my recent visit in Sept. 2021. Regardless, I still enjoyed hiking the trails with my canine companion, Eva.  I also really enjoyed hanging out at the T Bar S campsite with my friends and critters.

This trail entry is a combination of information from my 2019 and 2021 visits, some information from friends, and information provided by the owners as well.

 

There are several watering opportunities along the trail.

 

Another shady trail alongside a beautiful pond.

 

Most of the trails are soft sand with a few exceptions along some of the roads, such as in this picture provided by Trina Moya. She is enjoying the trails here for the first time and intends to return. – Sept. 2021.

 

NETASA group enjoying 20 miles of the White trail. On this day we exceeded our plan by riding 22 miles!

 

There are two trailheads: Piney Creek Trailhead has pit toilets, designated campsites, a self-service pay station and municipal water; White Rock Trailhead (pictured here) has pit toilets. Great to know for when you need to take a pit stop.

 

White Rock trail head.

 

Patti and Dakota on the White Trail. This was their longest ride at 22 miles!

 

A great ride finished and back to the comfort of T Bar S. Look what Curtis has cooking for us!

 

 

 

 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, TX

Kona enjoying the view  from Frijole Ranch Road. Photos and Trail Tale provided by Shannon King.

Location: Guadalupe Mountains National Park is located in far West Texas on the north side of U.S. Highway 62/180. The driving distance is 110 miles east of El Paso, Texas, 56 miles southwest of Carlsbad, New Mexico or 62 miles north of Van Horn on Hwy 54.  Follow signs to the park.

Phone: 915-828-3251

Address: Pine Springs Visitor Center, 400 Pine Canyon, Salt Flat, TX 79847

Website: https://www.nps.gov/gumo/planyourvisit/horse.htm

Trail Mileage and Difficulty: Guadalupe Mountains National Park has about 80 miles of trails, just over half of these trails are open to equestrians.  However, Destiny, at the park visitor center phone line reports the trails are extremely difficult. They mostly get mule traffic and very few horse campers.  She said on average they have about 3 equine campers a year.   Definitely plan ahead for this trip, be prepared if you decide to take on the challenging  Guadalupe Mountains of West Texas.

Equestrian Trails at Guadalupe Mountains National Park:

 Gentle grade, easy to follow.

  • Foothills Trail
  • Williams Ranch Road
  • Frijole Trail

Moderate steeper grades; rocky sections; generally easy to follow; may require dismounts; intermediate rider experience; stock conditioned to mountain trails.

  • Bush Mountain Trail – Dog Canyon to Marcus Trail
  • Marcus Trail
  • Tejas Trail – Dog Canyon to Pine Top
  • McKittrick Canyon Trail – Tejas Trail to McKittrick Ridge Campground
  • El Capitan Trail – Pine Springs to Salt Basin Overlook
  • Salt Basin Overlook Trail (lower loop)

Difficult steep grades; narrow sections; rocky; trail may be difficult to follow; requires specific knowledge of trail or experience with similar trail conditions; for experienced riders and stock conditioned for difficult mountain terrain.

  • Tejas Trail – Pine Springs to Pine Top
  • Bush Mountain Trail – Pine Top to Bush Mountain Campground
  • Guadalupe Peak Trail
  • El Capitan Trail – Salt Basin Overlook to Williams Ranch

 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park Maps Link

 

 

Day Use Equine Riding:  Allowed, check in at Pine Springs Visitor Center,  day use parking is at Frijole Ranch or Dog Canyon.

Equine Camping: Allowed at Dog Canyon and Frijole Ranch. No more than 10 equines allowed per group and on one specific trail on any one time.

Frijole Ranch  Corrals (near Pine Springs Visitor Center and Frijole Ranch) is primitive with 4 pens, 2 tent pads, 2 hitching posts, toilets, RV’s  / LQs are allowed but there are no hook ups.

Dog Canyon (remote and on the north side of the park) is also primitive,  has four pens with  designated parking sites near the pens and toilets.

View from Frijole camp. Photo provided by Shannon King.

Reservations can be made for the corrals up to 60 days before arrival. Reservation Instructions Link

Water is available at the corrals by way of a faucet.  Water sources on trail are few and unreliable.

Riding is limited to day trips only. All equines must return to the corrals each night. All riding trips must start and end at the trailheads located at Frijole and Dog Canyon. Horses and/or mules may not be transported by trailer to any other trailheads.

Campfires: No open flame fires allowed.

Fees:

  • $10 Park entrance fee per person applies to all adults, 16 years of age or older, and is good for 7 days. Under 16 is free.
  • $15 a night for use of the corrals.  Reservations for the corrals can be made up to 60 days in advance.  Reservation Instructions Link
  • Free backcountry use permit is required for all equine use. These free permits are issued at the Pine Springs Visitor Center or at the Dog Canyon Ranger Station. Permits must be obtained in person, the day of or the day before a proposed trip.

 

Mule deer near Pine Springs. Photo provided by Shannon King.

Coggins: Required

Cell Phone Service: Park reports cell phone service is generally usable around Frijole Ranch and Pine Springs, and along some of the major roads.  Expect dead zones along several trails and areas in the park such as the longer trails, canyons, and Salt Basin Dunes.  Free WiFi is available at Pine Springs Visitor Center.

Time Zone: Note this area is right along the central and mountain time zone lines.  Visitor center is in Mountain Time Zone.  Your smart phone might get confused and switch back and forth between the two time zones. This is a great location to lose track of time!

Pets/Dogs: Allowed at campgrounds but not on park trails.  Must be on a leash no more than six feet long and can’t be left unattended.

 

Shannon King and her Aussie pup Kona. Photos and trail tale provided by Shannon King.

Trail tale and description  contributed by  Confessions of a Saddle Tramp, Shannon King.  Thank you Shannon and keep riding your dreams! 

Guadalupe Mountains National Park, Texas

There’s something about west Texas. The vastness of the land, the roads which seem to go on forever in one direction (without gas stations) … it has always reminded me that there is something bigger in this life than me and my problems. Actually, I’d say the outdoors in general has always had that wonderful effect.

 

Photo provided by Shannon King.

Out near the west Texas town of El Paso (channel Marty Robbins when you read that), there is a mountain range called the Guadalupe Mountains where what are today mountains used to be the sea – or more specifically a fossil reef. These mountains are one of the finest examples of an ancient fossil marine reef on earth. Geologists visit from around the world to study the Guadalupe Mountains and their perspective.

I visited Guadalupe Mountains National Park hoping to make it to Franklin Mountains State Park as well, but once landed it was hard to leave. There are over 80 miles of trails here and 60% of that is open to horses. To say this area is rocky is an understatement, sometimes there’s nothing but rocks. The horse trails here are divided by difficulty rating and only 3 short trails are rated “easy”… this is not for the uninitiated horse or rider.

Frijole Ranch. Photo provided by Shannon King.

After checking in at the main office, Dex, Kona (my mini Aussie) and I camped at the Frijole Ranch site near Pine Springs. There are both water and corrals there, as well as at Dog Canyon. However, while regular camping is first come first serve these must be reserved in advance. You can find instructions to reserve horse camping using the links above.  Lots of Texas ranching history and beauty is preserved here: Frijole Ranch, built in the late 1800’s, the Butterfield Stagecoach route, Pinery station ruins, McKittrick Canyon and Pratt cabin, plus some.

One of the most accessible Stagecoach station ruins in Texas. Photo provided by Shannon King.

Guadalupe Mountains also boasts the four highest peaks in Texas, of which Guadalupe Peak tops them all at an elevation of 8,749 feet above sea level. For perspective, this makes Guadalupe Peak taller than Aspen Mountain in Colorado and about equivalent to Telluride. The park is also unique in its seclusion as there are no roads inside the 86,000 acre park – only trails, which makes it my kind of place. 

Shannon and Dex enjoying the Foothills trail. Photo provided by Shannon King.

I was working during part of this trip, and it was Daylight Savings so we were limited to shorter rides. Hay, gas and groceries were an hour away in either direction.  Definitely good to stock up before arriving!

Shannon and Dex taking in the landscape views from Frijoles trail. Photo provided by Shannon King.

Our first trail was one of the “easy” ones and even there we had incredible views with paths so narrow in places you could not turn around. Dogs are not allowed on the trails so this time Kona had to stay at camp. Dex was booted on his front feet but still sore after our second time out. So much so that I gave him his head on our return and he walked us straight back into the corral without stopping (and I mean actually into the corral)! His message was clear.

Shannon and Dex riding El Capitan trail. Photo provided by Shannon King.

After a day of recovery, we rode again and this time made it onto part of the El Capitan trail – one worth returning to as it overlooks the salt basin dunes towards trail end. Guadalupe peak trail (advanced trail for experienced riders and stock only) is also available to explore but we were not yet acclimated for the climb. The rolling hill country and one quick trip to Colorado were our only experiences riding real elevation prior to this – and I don’t think the hill country really counts, do you?

Shannon and Dex back at the Frijoles corrals. Photo provided by Shannon King.

So… we have more goals. There is much more to ride at Guadalupe Mountains, we haven’t even touched Franklin Mountains and just a bit down the road (6 hours is a short drive across Texas) are of course Big Bend Ranch and Big Bend National Park.

I’ve heard it said that people either really like West Texas or they really don’t. Well I’m a sucker for it, there’s a beauty here that’s hard to describe. The pace moves just a little slower than the rest of Texas, the perspective goes for miles and you can lose yourself for as long as you like. Just make sure you grab that gas when you can!

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!

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

Website:
https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/san-angelo

FaceBook page:
https://www.facebook.com/San-Angelo-State-Park-Texas-Parks-and-Wildlife-120216764662169/

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

Facilities:
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!

Maps:
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.

 

Water:

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

« Older posts