For Houstonians wanting to break away from the stresses of urban life and spend a day, a weekend, or a week (or more) “roughing it” in nature, there are almost limitless possibilities that are practically in your backyard. Whether you are looking for sandy beaches, or wooded forests, lakes, wildlife, nature trails, fishing, or just a place to sit around a campfire with your friends, you can find what you’re looking for within a two-hour drive of H-town.
A very popular choice is Sam Houston National Forest, which comprises of more than 160,000 acres in Montgomery, San Jacinto, and Walker counties, just 50 miles north of Houston-where the suburban sprawl drops off suddenly and you find yourself in an unspoiled, Federally protected, densely wooded natural paradise. Both primitive and developed campsites are available in three different recreation areas scattered throughout the forest.
Another wooded option is Livingston State Park, 30 miles east of the Sam Houston National Forest, and 75 miles north of Houston. It consists of 635 acres along the coast of Lake Livingston, Texas’s second largest lake. Developed campsites are available as well as screened shelters. Along with the usual activities such as camping, hiking, picnicking, and swimming, the park offers guided equestrian trail rides on horses from Lake Livingston Stables. Two and a half hour trail rides begin at $18.
For those looking to get somewhere a little further away from home (and a little less tourist populated as well), Lake Sommerville State Park is a good option 100 miles northwest of Houston. The 20+ miles of trails around Lake Sommerville are perfect for hikers or equestrians. There are two camping facility units, the Birch Creek unit and the Nails Creek unit, at opposite ends of the park. They both offer developed and equestrian campsites, and primitive, “hike-to” campsites are located along the trail. Major Birdwatching areas offering guided tours are within easy access of the facility.
For those who want to spend a few lazy days on the beach, you really can’t beat Galveston Island State Park. All campsites on the beach have water and electricity and screened shelters are available. If you grow tired of lounging beach side and swimming in the ocean, the park offers birdwatching, hiking, fishing, and mountain bike riding-and in those infamous Texas summer months, the sea breeze can take 5-10 degrees of the scorching Texas heat. Outside of the park, the city of Galveston has much to offer: dining, shopping, history, and, of course-more beaches (and at $5 per day, camping at the State Park can be a very economical way to spend a few days in this resort town).
A wilderness retreat can be yours in less than a two hour journey. Even if you don’t have the time, money and/or energy to travel far and wide, you are bound to find something that suits your fancy close to home if you go looking for it. (That is, unless you are looking for mountains. The nearest place you can find those is big bend.) Those who take the time to venture just the slightest bit out of the big, polluted, congested city will be rewarded with the respite they find.