Eisenhower State Park

7.00 Miles
550 Feet
3stars (3.19)12
2point5stars (2.58)
2point5stars (2.54)
50 Park Road 20
More Info

Getting there: From Dallas head north on Highway 75 through Denison. Take exit 72 and head north on Highway 91 to FM 1310. Head west on FM1310 for 1.8 miles to the entrance to the park. Take the right fork in the road off of Park Road 20 and look for a very small parking area on the right side of the road opposite the trailhead soon after the residence on the left side of the road.

The Hikes: According to the 2002 Texas Parks and Wildlife Department Land and Water Resources Conservation Plan, Eisenhower State Park was the most visited Texas state park. I had been informed by someone who had visited the park in the past that there were no trails at the park, something that might be expected of a busy park that caters mostly to boaters and RV campers, which this one does. However, the official park website was adamant that approximately four miles of trails existed. So we had to see for ourselves.

The trailhead is somewhat tough to locate.  Note the gate indicating pedestrians only.  No bikes allowed on this portion of the trail.
The trailhead is somewhat tough to locate. Note the gate indicating pedestrians only. No bikes allowed on this portion of the trail.
It's easy to see why someone may think that there are no trails at the park. It's fairly difficult to find a trailhead! The official park maps shows trails that cross the main park roadway several times, but it does not identify a specific starting point for the trail. We ended up driving around a few camp sites looking for clues before we happened upon a trailhead and parking area, with enough space for two cars.

The hike started at the waypoint "Trailhead". About a half mile of trail is designated hiking only and at the trailhead there is a small hinged wooden gate that gets that point across. This section of the trail also includes the intrepretive trail that the park advertises. Unfortunately, the park was out of interpretive trail guides on our visit, so at best we can report that indeed most of the guide markers are in place. However, some are in need of some attention.

Some creek crossings are made simple through bridges such as this one.  Most others will rarely run with water except after rains.
Some creek crossings are made simple through bridges such as this one. Most others will rarely run with water except after rains.
One gets an immediate sense of what the trail will be like. Contrary to what we were expecting the trail tends to be somewhat overgrown and in some places rocky. What we expected, based on no real information other than the park map, was a somewhat more timid trail that connected separate camping areas, such as can be found the Onion Creek Trail at McKinney Falls State Park.

The revelation meant having to work a bit more to complete the trail than we originally intended to do. There is a positive side to the trail's roughness though. After 3 miles on the trail we saw only two other people on the trail and only a handful of folks off the trail in camp sites. Despite passing near numerous camping areas of the park, the trail somehow retains some sense of solitude, if one can ignore the motor boats in the lake and the cars at the numerous road crossings.

Much of the trail was overgrown on our visit, which made the going a bit slower than anticipated.
Much of the trail was overgrown on our visit, which made the going a bit slower than anticipated.
As the trail comes up to the first road crossing the interpretive trail portion of the hike is over. A matching swinging gate marks the end point of the hiking-only portion of the trail. After crossing the road the trail gains elevation slightly on a ridge overlooking the road below and then parallels it for a distance. Although only slightly rougher than the interpretive section, the trail from this point onward will seem a bit more overgrown and the creek crossings somewhat more difficult.

No creek crossing on the hike requires getting wet, but some of the crossings do require venturing slightly off the official trail to find a suitable spot to traverse the stream. Typically, this was no more than about 10-20 feet uphill over a path that had obviously been blazed by several visitors in the past.

Most of the shoreline of the lake consists of large boulders like those seen here.
Most of the shoreline of the lake consists of large boulders like those seen here.
After crossing the Bois D'Arc camping area road the trail enters what the park refers to as Cedar Hollow. Aptly named, this section of the hike is densely wooded and includes an abundance of Cedar in addition to some of the other varieties of trees found in the park, such as Oak, Cottonwood and Elm. The heavy rains that preceeded our visit were still apparent as the air felt thicker and wetter here than in other parts of the hike.

After bottoming out at the last creek crossing in Cedar Hollow the trail gains elevation to the top of a ridge on what the park refers to as Deer Haven. Unfortunately, on our trip we did not encounter any deer. However we were treated to an unusually large number of Cardinals flying through the canopy before topping out on the Deer Haven ridge.

This small pier provides visitors a chance to get down to water level.
This small pier provides visitors a chance to get down to water level.
The trail again descends towards the lake shore into what the park refers to as Fossil Ridge. Although one can find evidence of it throughout the park, this section of the hike does produce an extraordinary abundance of sea shell fossils cemented together to form a rough aggregated rock. Just as man had changed the landscape with the creation of Lake Texoma in 1944, so too did nature, when this section of the Earth was under water millions of years ago. Most of the fossils to be found here are small. For an example of how large some of the crustaceans could get, stop by the ranger station at the park entrance and look through the garden along the side of the building.

To our surprise the trail at Eisenhower State Park was a bit more challenging than we suspected.
To our surprise the trail at Eisenhower State Park was a bit more challenging than we suspected.
A fishing pier sits near the waypoint "Pier". Due to the heavy foliage and rocky terrain there are not too many spots from which to get wide open views of the lake. This pier provides one of them.

A short distance north of the pier is an ideal spot for enjoying lunch or just resting. Numerous picnic tables are situated in the shade and one of them provides great views of the lake. The picnic tables do not sit next to any camping spot and we saw no one in the area when we passed by, so they may provide a quiet spot at which to rest and refuel.

The trail continues to follow the lake shore northward until it comes to land's end. At least it's the end of land for this small peninsula. The trail dead ends on a point of rock that overhangs the lake below. It's a dramatic sight would provide a fitting point at which to turn back, if you intended to double back on the trail.

There are not too many sections of the trail that open up to the lake.  Here is one of them.
There are not too many sections of the trail that open up to the lake. Here is one of them.
Since we did not intend to double up on the trail we pulled back from the point and headed to our right, towards the south to follow the trail to its end. A small beach area sits in a narrow cove at the tip of the peninsula. At the waypoint "Straight" go straight ahead to continue the hike or take a right turn here to cool off in Lake Texoma.

There remains only about a half mile of trail left that mostly parallels the overflow camping area just uphill. After crossing the road twice more the trail dead ends at the Fossil Ridge Camping area road.

The end of the line.  The trail dead ends at this point over the lake.
The end of the line. The trail dead ends at this point over the lake.
Due to time constraints and not wanting to double up on our chiggers on the way back to the trailhead we decided to try our luck at hiking along Park Road 20 back to the car. Let's just say that this is not too advisable, particularly if you are hiking with children. There is at best a small shoulder along the road and at worst no shoulder at all. It's not a particulary pedestrian friendly road. However, we made it back to the car in about a third the time it would have taken us to double back on the trail.

Our one way hike along the trail totalled 3.5 miles and was accomplished in about 3 hours, with a stop for lunch. Double the distance and time values if you elect to completely double back on the trail to the trailhead. The hike summary above shows the full out and back distance that is possible.

We were pleasantly surprised that the trail was more challenging than expected. Perhaps due to recent rains, the trail was largely overgrown. Again, this was somewhat of a surprise. Since Eisenhower State Park is one of the state's busiest parks this trail would make an excellent "trail adoption" project for some hiking or scouting group in the area.

Lake Texoma
A view of Lake Texoma from a rocky bluff about 100 feet above the lake. (Photo by JamesSpangler)
Eisenhower State Park Trail
Part of the Eisenhower SP trail, located in the northwest corner of the park. (Photo by JamesSpangler)
Log Entries
Exceeded my expectations
By batbubs on 7/19/2011
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 9.00 Miles Duration: 5 hours, 30 minutes

I was pleasantly surpised by this hike.  It is true that you are within earshot of the park's roadways, and will occasionally pass through the picnic areas used by campers.  However, the trail is remarkably secluded and natural.  Your solitude experience will depend upon how many campers and boaters are at the park.  If you go on the weekend when the weather is perfect, you can expect that you won't have so much solitude.  The ability to bail-out of the trail if you have an emergency makes this a good training or beginner's hike.  I hiked the entire trail from Armadillo hill to marker 14 and back.  The trail guides list it as 9 miles for the loop and that felt about right. As the trail map shows, the trail is a lot of up, down, and back up.  I took my time exploring fossils and the rocky shoreline.  After 5 and half hours, I felt like I had a good work out.  At marker 14 (Fossil Ridge), there is a large picnic area with plenty of shaded tables that are tucked into the woods. The area also has restrooms and water source.  Perfect for the halfway mark.  I started the hike at noon on a weekday when it was 100 (non heat index) outside.  Neededless to say, I didn't encounter anyone else on the trail, and I rarely heard a car on the roadway.  The heat also negated the need for any bug repellant.  I didn't get a single bug bite.  Most of the trail is along limestone outcrop, so you are walking on gravel and rocks for most of the trail.  I couldn't imagine anyone with a bicycle or stroller on this trail, although I did spot a few tire tracks here and there.  The trail had many opportunities to explore fossils and drop down to the rocky shoreline.  The hike takes you right past the lake's official beach and several other access points for swiming.  Bring your water shoes and swim suit in your back pack.  If you are going to do this hike in the summer, bring at least 60 ounces of water with the expectation to refill with your micro filter at Fossil Ridge.

Trail is really clean and kept up.
By kemery on 8/21/2010
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 1point5stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 6.00 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes
Started hike at 10:30 am. Finished at 2:00 pm. Hi temp for the day was 106. Stopped by swimming area and let wife cool off in beautiful Lake Texoma. Beach could be cleaned up a little but not to bad. Between geocache and wife taking a dip, trip took about 45 minutes longer than it could have. Been on this trail before in winter with snow on ground and lots of deer can be seen. Trail is good all year around. They do an excellent job with up keep.
By jeepy_girl on 4/11/2010
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Close to Dallas, so convenience was a huge plus. Crosses the road numerous times and trail is very close to campsites & picnic areas. Saw a few people out hiking and a few bikers. LOTS of spiders and an unidentified dead animal on the trail. Also very muddy. Not too bad for a quick hike close to home.

By pendragon0650 on 12/19/2009
Rating: 1star Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 1star
Distance: N/A Duration: N/A
Enjoyable Hike
By JamesSpangler on 11/2/2008
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 2point5stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 4.00 Miles Duration: 4 hours

My family and I leisurely hiked about half of the trail.  Beautiful scenery, easy to follow trail, and quite a few fossil finds.  Taking frequent excursions off the trail to the shore of the lake for fossil hunting provided some challenging hiking and climbing.

By TXSOUTHPAW on 9/24/2008
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 2stars
Distance: 14.00 Miles Duration: 5 hours, 45 minutes

Like many have stated before you are never more than a few feet away from the lake roads. About the time you feel that your getting into nature a truck drives by and you get a reality check.  Once you get used to it you don't get too bothered.  i went on a weekday so the park was not too busy.  There are some great views of the lake that made the hike worthwhile.  Trail was in good shape and the fee is now $3 per person.

A very fun local hike.
By dewgar on 1/3/2007
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 5stars
Distance: 2.00 Miles Duration: N/A
I brought 2 of my kids along for this hike. We had the whole trail to ourselves and greatly enjoyed it. The trail was in good shape and easy to follow along.
By a_panda on 7/2/2005
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 2point5stars Solitude: 4point5stars
Distance: 8.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Nice for a close quick trip from Dallas.
By mstrunc on 5/26/2003
Rating: N/A Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 1point5stars
Distance: 7.00 Miles Duration: N/A
Intended to do the Cross Timbers trail (or part of it) but that trail said no pets. And if Sparky doesn't get to go then Liz won't want to go and I am hiking alone!
Fairly nice little hike
By RLHamer on 9/8/2002
Rating: N/A Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: N/A
I found the hike over all very nice the trail was hard to find at first the trail head is between two residence and took a little finding. The trail itself was not will maintained and in several places had to move off the trail to find ways around tree falls and places were trees had been cut and left laying across the trail. The trail close to the park roads but they did not interfer to much with the sense of solitude I found on the trail. Part of this could have been the weather it was raining off and on (more on than off) and there were few people in the park. One very pleasen surpirse was seeing two white tail deer cross the trail just a couple of feet in front of us, must likely the rain was masking our scent from the deer. so we got a good look at them. Over all it was a nice hike not to far from Dallas.

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