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Exploring the Sam Houston National Forest

Sam Houston National Forest

Located 40 miles to the north of Houston, the Sam Houston National Forest is a Texas gem, providing endless outdoor recreational opportunities for outdoor lovers.

Encompassing an area of almost 163,000 acres, this natural wonder spans three counties – Montgomery, San Jacinto, and Walker. Its proximity to Texas’ largest city has made it more heavily visited and somewhat less secluded than its counterparts in the state’s more rural areas. The services and features here are also more developed compared to the others.

Wildlife Management Area

The Sam Houston National Forest is one of more than 45 Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) in the state of Texas. WMAs are operated by the Wildlife Division of Texas Parks and Wildlife and have been established to allow everyone the chance to explore these areas while preserving their wildlife populations and habitats.

WMAs provide outdoor activities for visitors, including hiking, camping, public hunting, and bird and wildlife watching, in a sustainable and eco-friendly manner. They also conduct research and offer education on the conservation of these natural resources.

Activities in the Sam Houston National Forest

Within the national forest, you can enjoy:

  • Hunting – Hunters are required to have a valid license, the required tags and stamps, and the Annual Public Hunting Permit, which specifies the animal species that may be hunted as well as the areas where hunting can be done.
  • Biking – Designated forest service roads may be accessed by all bicycle types. Only mountain bikes are allowed on developed trails in the Double Lake Recreation Area.
  • Camping – Campsites, ranging from primitive to well-equipped, can be found throughout the forest.
  • Equestrian – There are designated areas for horseback riding, including the multiuse trail, forest service roads, and cleared spaces for pipelines.
  • Fishing – Largemouth bass, bluegill, channel catfish and other fish species are widely available for fishing. A legal fishing license is required.
  • Hiking – The forest has many great spots for hiking, including the 130-mile Lone Star Hiking Trail, the multiuse trail, forest service roads, and spaces cleared for pipelines.
  • Wildlife viewing – Sam Houston is a great place for bird watching, with interpretive trails where you can sight North American bird species like bald eagles, woodpeckers, and migratory birds.

Popular Facilities at the Sam Houston National Forest

Some of the most popular facilities in the forest are:

  • Cagle recreation area – Located along the shores of the 22,000-acre Lake Conroe, this campground, and day-use area offers camping, fishing, hiking, hunting, and other activities.
  • Double Lake recreation area – Built-in 1937 by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) around the 24-acre Double Lake, the area offers tent, RV, and group campsites, as well as other activities like fishing, hiking, swimming, and hunting. It also boasts a historical pavilion and bathhouse, as well as a concession stand.
  • Stubblefield recreation area – Also built by the CCC in 1937, this spot offers camping, canoeing, fishing, and hiking opportunities.
  • Lone Star Hiking Trail – This 14-mile loop trail goes through pine and hardwood forests and encompasses swamps, meadows, and several creeks, where you can view the wildlife. Along the trail are several campgrounds where hikers can replenish their supply. It’s considered a moderately difficult trail that hikers of all ages can enjoy.