By Lone_Star on 3/26/2013
Distance: 18.40 Miles Duration: 7 hours, 40 minutes
WOW! I'd read that this part of the Lone Star Hiking Trail (LSHT) was pretty, but I was blown away I hiked the Four Notch Section last week and stated that it was the nicest part of the LSHT that I had hiked thus far, but this section surpassed it. I was so excited by this trail that I was able to cover the 8.7 mile trail (up and back) plus a one mile hike around Double Lake on pure adrenalin. I took so many photos that I exhausted my camera battery and virtually all of the backup battery, too.
One thing that impresses me about the LSHT is how one section can be so different than another. This section is next to the Tarkington Bayou Section, which I hiked about a week ago, and I was not impressed by the scenery at all in that section. You can read my log of that hike here. This section, however, and specifically the Big Creek Scenic Area was a true gem!
I parked at Trailhead #13 along FM 2666 and hiked NW to the Big Creek Scenic Area. The trail was well-maintained and the forest was thick and lush. Wildflowers were in bloom everywhere. There were a couple of boardwalks along the way to cover the low lying areas, but the ground was dry when I did my hike.
There are a couple of loop trails that branch off of the LSHT in the Big Creek Scenic Area, but if this is your first time hiking this section, I highly recommend you stay on the LSHT because it takes you along Big Creek which is the most scenic area. The other branching trails (Big Creek Trail, White Oak Trail, and Pine Trail) near Trailhead #12 are nice, but not nearly as scenic as the LSHT along Big Creek.
This section of the LSHT has numerous hills that offer elevation change to give you some cardio. And the trail is long, which helps with endurance.
Further down the trail, the LSHT passes just behind the Double Lake Campground. This is a very pretty campground that charges for entrance ($5/day for a vehicle) and camping ($16/day), but it is a very nice, full-service campground. You can swim in the lake or rent a boat. The water level was low and part of the lake was dry, but the rest of the lake is big enough to enjoy. There are also 21 miles of mountain biking trails (sorry, no hiking).
If you don't want to pay to camp, there are a few primitive camping spots just off the LSHT. I camped in the Hunter Camp halfway (about a mile) down FS 220 the night before and had the entire campground to myself. There is another Hunter Camp very close to the LSHT near Double Lake, but there were several young party animals there so I elected to camp further away for my peace of mind and rest.
I hiked all the way to FM 2025, past Trailhead #11, and then turned around. My hike took me all day, but it was exhilarating and time well-spent. I tend to rate most trails harshly with low ratings to allow for the possibility that some trails may rate high by exceeding my expectations. This section of the LSHT did exactly that and, as a result, gets 4.5 stars.
P.S. There is a lot of wildlife in this section, especially in the Big Creek Scenic Area. Lots of birds. In the evening, I ran into a bunch of feral pigs that scattered as soon as they saw me.