Travel & Destinations

A Refreshing Escape to the Piney Woods

Winter is behind us, and in the brief respite called “spring” in North Texas, we stream outdoors before the summer heat wave hits us. For many of us, the woods are calling. Camping, hiking, fishing, mountain biking. All can be found close to home in the expansive lands of the Piney Woods in east central Texas.

Path in woods LRA day in the woods is always a good day. Escape the city, the traffic, the noise. Even if it’s raining the woods offer solitude, peace of mind. It’s transcendental. It’s good for the soul. Just you and trees, trails, campsites, and nature.

The heart of the Piney Woods is found in the four National Forest lands that cover nearly 700,000 acres. The Crockett, Angelina, Sam Houston, and Sabine national forests have vast pine forests that house camping and recreation areas.

From Dallas, you head south about 3 hours on I-45. The closest campground is at Ratcliff Lake, just off Route 7, east of Crockett.

Camping PineyWoods LR

Campgrounds in National Forest areas are a little primitive. There is water but often no electricity. Forget about hot showers, this is a wilderness experience! For a complete list of what each campground offers, go the Forest Service website.

Trail Marker LR

Hiking trails lead you into the pine forest along footpaths and old logging roads. At Ratcliff Lake, there are even backpacker camping areas off the trail by the lake.

Caney Lake and Boykin Springs are two popular camping areas in the Angelina Forest, south of Lufkin. The Sabine forest offers camping in regions around the Toledo Bend reservoir.

The Sam Houston forest is the closest woods to the Houston metro area, and fills up fast on weekends.

Check the websites before making the long drive. Some campsites are available on a first come-first served basis, others can be reserved online.



Fred Mays

Fred Mays is a former TV news guy. He now lives in Allen, Texas and works as a freelance writer/photographer. He specializes in travel and environmental subjects. Follow his blog at

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