2017 My Top 10 Places Hiked

My last blog of the year is a review of the best places I have hiked this year. I was going to do a list of top ten hikes but I could not narrow it down to a good twenty. Plus the order would change as I was thinking about which hike should be placed on the list. I decided on places because it was easier but not easy. The top ten was not too difficult but the order was very hard. I did about 60 hikes this calendar year and they were spread out the entire twelve months. I had to compare the recent fresh in my mind place with a place that was hiked ten to eleven months ago. The ten places I have chosen, I have or will hike multiple times. Two places I have hiked but not blogged about yet. The ten places cover three states, a national park and a wildlife refuge.

10. Cedar Ridge Preserve-Minutes away from home and is one of the most scenic areas in Dallas County. hike2220171124_121348.jpg

9. Hot Springs National Park-This quaint cozy park has some great views. 20171112_103833.jpg20171112_103709.jpg

8. Pedernales Falls State Park-The Texas hill country is all over this list.20170406_131314.jpg20170122_130731.jpg

7. Pinnacle Mountain State Park-The second Arkansas park and a summit hike.20171111_141701.jpg20171111_082716.jpg

6. Enchanted Rock SNA-The park is more than The Rock. Hidden gems everywhere.20170406_092524.jpg20170122_102656.jpg

5. Lost Maples SNA-A nature made amphitheater with great trees, waterfalls and views.20170711_182026.jpg20170712_160931.jpg

4. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge-This place has everything. Summits and waterfalls.20171208_162255.jpg20171001_111717.jpg

3. Caprock Canyon State Park-Home of the official bison herd of Texas. Plus canyon views.20171220_124508.jpg20171220_122602.jpg

2. Colorado Bend State Park-Gorman Falls is amazing but that is just the start.20170405_143431.jpg20170405_134311.jpg

1. Palo Duro Canyon State Park-The second largest canyon in the USA.20171220_082257.jpg20171219_144321.jpg

These top ten places that I have hiked in 2017 maed this a memorable and fantastic year. Next year I hope to have a totally different list of places.

2017 Top Ten Hikes

This list will consist of only hikes I have done this year. I will also bore followers with an all time list at the end of the year because I have one more trip planned this year. Next year I will be doing less hiking and more trail running trying to move up to the 20K and 25K distances at some time next year. This year was my most active year hiking ever. I have hiked over twenty state parks and a handful of other parks. I really want to finish the 52 Hike Challenge within the year and I am on pace to finish early. I have completed 48 hikes this year and I have two months to get four more hikes done. The majority of my hikes have been in Texas but I did get into Oklahoma for a weekend of hiking. I had adventures in the high hills of central Texas. I was blessed to see all different parts of Texas from the piney woods to the hill country and also the west Texas desert and the great plains. I had a difficult time narrowing it down to ten hikes and it might change depending on the day but here it goes:

10. Tyler State Park, Whispering Pines Trail-This really short trail was visually electric.20170222_102938_001.jpg

9. Lake Mineral Wells State Park, Penitentiary Hollow-Not really a trail but it a rock climbers paradise with bouldering and lake views mixed in.20170304_135240.jpg

8. Pedernales Falls State Park, Pedernales Falls Trail System-it is as long as you want it be but you must go down to the falls for a spectacular view of the water.20170122_133632.jpg

7. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Kite Trail-bouldering over mini waterfalls, what more can I say.20170930_173833.jpg

6. Enchanted Rock SNA, Summit Trail-I felt very accomplished summiting The Rock.20170406_095152.jpg

5. Inks Lake State Park, Devil’s Waterhole Nature Trail/Valley Spring Creek Trail-This combination of trails is the hidden gem of Texas.20170405_183904.jpg

4. Wichita Mountains Wildlife Refuge, Little Baldy Mountain Trail-Another summit but this one combined hiking and rock climbing.20170930_183728.jpg

3. Lost Maples SNA, East-West Trail/East Trail-one of the toughest uphill hikes I had before #2 on this list but worth every step.20170711_180348.jpg

2. Hill Country SNA, Merrick Mile Trail/West Peak Overlook Trail-this was a great hike with better views. I later found out of a similar hike with even better views, need to see to believe. 20170712_092155.jpg

  1. Colorado Bend State Park, Gorman Falls Trail-I was just so amazed at these falls.20170405_143220.jpg So there is the 2017 top ten as of today. I could have easily expanded to a top twenty. I have enjoyed my hikes this year so far and am looking forward to my next set of hikes and hopefully they can crack this list.

The blog will be about trail running. The trail runs and hikes have gone hand in hand on many occasions. I like going to trail races just to hike the park at times.

Possum Kingdom State Park

Possum Kingdom State Park is located about two and a half hours west of Dallas. This is another CCC park as it is displayed with the rock entrance sign. I have heard so many great things about Possum Kingdom Lake so I thought all the scenic areas could be accessed through the park. I hate to say that the so called best parts of the lake are not part of the state park and those areas are privately owned or at other parks. Most of the parks activities are centered around the lake and rightfully so. But I am here for the hiking, so I did not partake in the lake activities. This park is not as big as the average state park but trails had some very challenging spots. The park only has three somewhat marked trails for a total of two and a quarter mile. Of course I got lost because of the somewhat to the not so marked trail and added almost an extra mile and half. I also had to do some backtracking on another trail. The trails might be lacking in length but they make up for it in difficulty. Two of three trails are rated challenging. The trails have some steep inclines. There are three overlooks but only two are on the trail map.

I started at the Chaparral Ridge Trail which lead to the first overlook after a steep up hill hike. I was on and off this trail for quite awhile due to the lack of trail markings. I then went to the Lakeview Trail and onto to the Longhorn Trail. The Longhorn Trail also had an overlook of the lake. I backtracked on the Longhorn Trail and reconnected with the Lakeview trail and finished the loop.20170809_120000.jpg20170809_115700.jpg20170809_120004.jpg20170809_122332.jpg20170809_123808.jpg20170809_130211.jpg20170809_130834.jpg20170809_132134.jpg20170809_135112.jpg20170809_132147.jpg

The park is very nice and especially nice if you are a lake person. I am not but still enjoyed myself at the park. I am a fan of steep trails hikes that are hikeable. I am getting use to trails that turn from hikes into rock climbing but here it was just steep hikes.

Next blog takes me out of state on a two day twenty plus mile adventure that tested how far my legs could carry me.

Fort Worth Nature Center and Refuge

I finally made it to the Fort Worth Nature Center. I have wanted to hike here for years. It is located on the the far northwest part of Fort Worth, TX. I also have wanted to do a 5K out here and run with the bison. The bison herd was one of the major reasons I wanted to hike at the nature center. The good thing about trail running and doing the 52 Hike Challenge is that it gets me to places I have wanted to go. They also have a prairie dog town. I was very disappointed that I did not see any bison or prairie dogs the day I hiked. I did see some bison chips that were huge but I will not blog about that crap. The hike was relatively flat with some steep areas if you are looking for some elevation change. I had to find the trails that had some overlooks and the views were amazing. I found that most of the trails were flat and by the Trinity River and Lake Worth.

I started my hike in the area between the Bison range and prairie dog town on the Prairie Trail. It was well marked and aptly named because it ran through the flat prairie part of the refuge.20170621_155328.jpg20170621_150234.jpg20170621_150518.jpg

The trail lead to the Hardwicke Interpretive Visitor Center which was much needed because I lost my map and was lost for awhile. I replaced my map then had some nice views overlooking the refuge on the Caprock Trail. I liked this trail for the change of elevation and the views.20170621_151220.jpg20170621_151242.jpg20170621_153804.jpg20170621_153802.jpg20170621_154241.jpg

I then ventured on the Riverbottom and Deer Mouse Trails and literally ran into some deer. What I missed seeing bison and prairie dogs, the deer crossing made up for it. The trails ran along side of the Trinity River then back up to the prairie lands. 20170621_152125.jpg20170621_151805.jpg20170621_153549.jpg

I finished my day on the Greer Island/Margaret Parker Memorial Trails. I found this trail interesting due to the fact that it was a land trail to an island. The trail is about six to eight feet wide with Lake Worth on either side of the trail. It is like a natural boardwalk leading to large body of land. 20170621_162140.jpg20170621_163856.jpg20170621_162005.jpg20170621_163258.jpg20170621_163228.jpg20170621_163804_001.jpg

I had a good time on my short trip to the Fort Worth Nature Center. The trails were diverse and I saw very few people so it was peaceful. I hope the next time I am out there I get a chance to see some bison and prairie dogs.

My next blog I will make a long five minute trip across the street with a new hiking partner. Let the silliness begin.

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Lake Mineral Wells State Park is located about an hour and a half west of the DFW metroplex. It is well worth the drive. This CCC park has many different things to do and see that you will not get bored looking for adventure. I have already been here twice so I will blog about both trips at once. The first time out it was rainy and the guided tour was cancelled but my son and I stayed anyway to have some fun. We did not hike far but we stayed for hours and the heavy rain never arrived. The second trip, I was hiking alone and covered some other areas of the park I did not get to the first time around. I also repeated some parts because it was hot and dry and I was able to get to different places without worrying about slick surfaces.

The CCC structures are prominent at the trailheads where we started. There are benches, tables, ovens and the famous overlook are all CCC structures.20170304_135240.jpg20170304_134439.jpg20170304_151913.jpg

Even though it was lightly raining there were still people rock climbing and rappelling on the huge rocks everywhere. It is like an adventure park within the state park. Plus there is Lake Mineral Wells for boating and a canoe trail and it also has a sand beach. On the trails it was interesting walking between the large rocks and looking up at how high they were at 90 degree angles from the ground. Also the trees that are growing between the rocks were amazing. The CCC steps to get to the top of the overlook were also  something else. 20170304_135309.jpg20170304_140619.jpg20170304_140444.jpg20170304_143609.jpg20170304_142612.jpg20170304_144234.jpg20170304_144112.jpg

On the warm sunny day I did more of a hike around the lake on the Red Waterfront Trail. The trees were green and the lake was beautiful on the clear day. It was like a whole different park. I did get lost several times in the same place as last time. Going north of the overlook the trail map does not have any marked trails and the trails that are there come and go. I guess we were not to go that far north on the east side of the lake. There are trails on the northwest side of the lake that go to the far north part of the park. I have not been to those trails yet but I need to see more of the park. Maybe next time I will get to that part.20170608_124718.jpg20170608_133718.jpg20170608_132434.jpg20170608_133247.jpg20170608_133237.jpg

I am surprised at all the activities at this park. I am looking forward to going to the others trails I did not get to the first two times. I hope they do the guided tour again because it was supposed to go to places only a park guide can take people.

Next up a Fort Worth hike where I literally come face to face with nature.

Fairfield Lake, Fort Boggy and Fort Parker State Parks

I have decided to put these three state parks in one post. As a hiker, I see these parks as all the same. I know there are other things to do in these parks but for me it is hiking only. The other activities to do on the lakes might set these parks apart or the size of each park or even the historical relevance of each park might make a big difference but the hikes were all very similar. These are all part of the east Texas parks I mentioned in the Tyler State Park blog. The trails were well marked and clearly defined. Fort Parker even had mile markers on the the trail I hiked. Fairfield Lake was the most difficult due to the lack of markings because once you are on the trail it is the only trail around. Fort Boggy park is so small the trail was easy to navigate because you can see across the park.

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I will start with Fairfield Lake State Park located in Fairfield. TX which is located about an hour and a half south southeast of Dallas. The park partially surrounds Fairfield Lake on the south side. I hiked the Nature Trail and the Scenic Loop, basically because of the names. I knew nothing about this park and was on the way to a different park so I just decided to stop by and get a hike. The hike lead me to the lake and through multiple types of trees and plants. I also hiked over sand and red dirt. I am finding that many east Texas parks have sand in the middle parts of the park.20170618_131435.jpg20170618_131832.jpg20170618_133523.jpg20170618_133924.jpg20170618_135217.jpg20170618_132000.jpg

The trails were mostly flat with a few quick up and downs. It was an easy hike. The biggest difficulty was getting away from all the bugs on the hot and humid day. It was a very relaxing stress free hike overlooking a lake and under tall trees.20170618_111809.jpg

Next up is Fort Boggy State Park, it is a very small park. The park is located in Centerville, TX which is about two hours south southeast of Dallas. The park surrounds a 15 acre lake and is nestled up against I45. You can hear cars and trucks roll by on the highway. The park only has 3.5 miles of trails but they made the most of them. Lake Trail circles the lake and the other trail goes around the untouched nature part of the park. I had a good talk with the park ranger. The park has been opened then closed several times over the past ten years and now with cabins it has a steady income to stay open. I took the Lake Trail but had a problem because it was flooded and impassable.  I had to backtrack after almost completing the trail. I found it hard to believe it was flooded because we had not had much rain the past few weeks. The park will be a great place to stay if you are driving across Texas and need a peaceful break. Lastly even though it was not mentioned as a CCC park it did have a rock pavilion.20170618_113649.jpg20170618_113728.jpg20170618_114614.jpg20170618_114951.jpg20170618_115425.jpg

The park is a really nice little park. It is another park I had never heard of but it was along the highway and I decided to swing by for the pleasant surprise. I give credit to 52 Hike Challenge for me visiting these three parks. I want to get all my hikes in this year and the bonus is going places that I would not normally go.20170617_115441.jpg

Last but not least, is Fort Parker State Park. The park is located in Mexia, TX which is about an hour and half due south of Dallas. This is the park that is rich in history. As the park title might suggest, it was a site of a fort for settlers on the area. They have a replica of Fort Parker near the the park but I was here to get to the scenic overlook. Once again the trails were well marked but I had to find the trail first. The trail I hiked starts inside the park but you have to drive back outside of the park to get to the trailhead. I chose Baines Creek Trail for two reasons. The first is that it was the most difficult trail relatively speaking. Secondly it had a scenic overlook in the middle. I also had never heard of this park but it was on the way to a park destination. Plus it was near the previous two parks and I could get some hiking in before my last park destination. I was a little disappointed at the scenic overlook but I found a rock overhang that made up for the overlook. I also had to fight off the bugs as it was another hot and humid day.20170617_123904.jpg20170617_124545.jpg20170617_125109.jpg20170617_130444.jpg20170617_131033.jpg20170617_130230.jpg

I think this park has much more to it because it was packed when I visited unlike the other two parks. Fort Parker Lake has a paddling trail and is also a CCC park. The part of the park I missed was the limestone bluffs on the north side of the park. I will have to return to see those bluffs. I did get a video of the cave and why I think a little rain would have made this trail better.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tHLGIS-BjmI

I referred to a park I was going to when I made the detour to these parks. I will get to that park in the next blog. I will give you a hint of where I went-alligators, prison and running.

Tyler State Park

I had heard good things about Tyler State Park before my first visit. I did not think much about the park before the visit but some friends said it is a great park and a must see in east Texas. It is located in Tyler, TX which about and hour and forty minutes due east of Dallas. East Texas is known for huge pine trees and Tyler State Park did not disappoint. The trees are about 100 feet tall but they look much taller from where I was standing. Walking through this park is just mesmerizing, one of the pictures I took is actually my start up screen on my computer. This is also a CCC park so there also rock structures mixed in with all the natural beauty. This is my favorite east Texas park of the five I have been to so far. The gem of the park in my opinion is the Whispering Pines Trail. It is only two thirds of a mile long but it has everything the park is about in this short distance. The trail has spectacular tree views, water features and a good change of elevation. The park also surrounds a lake and the attached pond. My first trip here I hiked the aforementioned Whispering Pine Trail and the Lakeshore Trail. Neither trail had significant elevation change but I knew that parts of the park must have some trails with challenging elevation changes since the paved roads in the park had dramatic elevation changes. I will get to those later. You can see the CCC workmanship on the Whispering Pine Trail early as you will pass either the children’s wading pool or the rock waterfall depending on which way you start the loop.20170222_105439.jpg20170222_102818.jpg20170222_103440.jpg20170222_104429.jpg20170222_105636.jpg20170222_105032.jpg20170222_104314.jpg20170222_103257.jpg

Hiking on the Whispering Pines Trail I also crossed over creeks on small bridges that were fed by the natural spring called Beauchamp Springs. Beauchamp Springs also feeds the rock waterfall. I had my hiking partner, Dade, with me that day also. 20170222_105420.jpg20170222_103702.jpg

The Lakeshore Trail was another relatively flat trail with more picturesque views of the trees and the lake. A beaver dam separates the lake from the pond, appropriately named Beaver Pond.20170222_111427.jpg20170222_111543.jpg20170222_113553.jpg20170222_111533.jpg

The trails were clearly marked and there were plenty of tree and plant description signs so you know what you are looking at. The park map and trail map are clear and precise so it is hard to get lost. You will know the difference between the loblolly pine and shortleaf pine just by reading the plaques by each tree.

I had a wonderful time here and for a long time wanted to come back and see the other parts of the park. I was lucky enough to find two trail runs that the park was hosting. I did the Pineywoods Ultra 10K yesterday. At this run I found out that this park has trails with elevation changes that are lung busting. The hills were not too steep but they went on, for what seems like miles. I did get a few pictures after the run but nothing like the first trip. The drive out here was great with the low lying fog hovering over the grasslands and lakes. It was very surreal looking at the fields at times that I have only seen on TV. I get another chance in January to visit the park as I have another trial run. I should get to do some hiking before the run next time.

I think I will stay in east Texas for the next four state parks.