Step Outside - Texas WELCOME TO STEP OUTSIDE! Find the best outdoor fun near you! en-us 30 http://stepoutside.org/ Step Outside - Texas 144 144 http://stepoutside.org/ https://cdnstep-americantownscom.netdna-ssl.com/img/stepoutside_logo.gif Sat, 20 Oct 2018 04:08:28 -0500 Best Places to Fish in the South This Fall Redfish are starting to move inshore and set up at the mouths of bays, inlets and deltas as their annual spawning run commences. The bottom line for fishermen is outstanding fishing from late September through November in the northern Gulf.

Likewise, bass fishing is starting to pick up again as the weather begins to cool. Huge schools of threadfin shad are starting to filter away from open-water ledges into bays and tributaries where feeding conditions and water temperatures are more optimum.

Bass follow the food, first setting up on ledges at the mouths of inlets and creeks to waylay shad, then migrating back toward shallower water to keep up with their quarry.

Fall Script for Southern Bass

Bass rule in Dixie and cooler weather brings out an army of anglers who go after them. Whether largemouth, smallmouth or spotted bass, they’re available in most waters and sometimes all three varieties are present in a fishery, ready to aggravate or gratify those who seek them.

Hot Spots To Fish: When it comes to the South’s best lakes for fall fishing, the big TVA impoundments fit the bill. Because this is bass tournament country, dozens of YouTube videos and Facebook sites of pro anglers offer useful advice on where and how to catch autumn largemouths. Likewise, guide services are plentiful; just Google “fishing guides” for the lake you’re visiting or type in the town nearest the lake you wish to fish on the interactive map on this page.

Tackle You’ll Need: A 7-foot medium/heavy rod such as the St. Croix Premier Cranking, a baitcasting reel like the Abu Garcia Revo Winch and 10- to 14-pound-test monofilament makes a good combination to fish downsized lures.

Quick tip: This is strictly a match-the-hatch deal. Use lures that are about the same size as wandering shad. If young-of-the-year threadfins are on the bass menu, try small swim baits fished on drop-shot rigs.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Shad-colored, shallow- and medium-diving square-billed or coffin-billed crankbaits are autumn standouts. Popular lures include the Strike King 6XD, Bandit 100 or 200, Duo Realis M65, Livetarget Magnum Shad BaitBall Squarebill, Megabass S-Crank, Lucky Craft Squarebill 2.5, Storm Arashi and Rapala Shad Rap.

Fish them around shoreline cover and on the flats between creek drop-offs and the bank. Other fallback baits include spinnerbaits like the Booyah Super Shad, Stanley Vibrashaft and Nichols Pulsator. Good buzzbait options can be found from Lunker Lure, Damiki, Santone and Dirty Jigs.

Rendezvous With Redfish

Along the northern Gulf Coast from Carrabelle, FL, to Grand Isle, LA, the redfish season begins in late September and continues in stages through December. Some anglers fish in the surf with cut bait, while others station themselves on area piers or in boats on relatively shallow flats near channel cuts.

Hot Spots To Fish: For boating anglers, a couple of spots stick out. Pensacola Bay Pass is a must-fish for boaters. Anchor up on the broad flat between old Fort Pickens and the channel, set out lines as the tide changes to incoming, and hang on. Need more help? Redfish University Pensacola Fishing Charters (850-748-4368, redfishuniversity.com) specializes in the big drum.

At Grand Isle, LA, book a trip with Gotta Go Fishing Charters (225-921-3642, gottagofishingcharters.com). The marshes and inshore waters around Venice, LA, are primo redfish haunts as well. Captain Mike Frenette (504-782-0924, laredfish.com or (mike@venicefishing.net) is a top guide here.

Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company 
Louisiana’s coastal waters are ground zero for the hottest autumn redfish action along the northern Gulf Coast. A variety of natural baits and artificials get the job done.

Tackle You’ll Need: “Rat” reds of 3 pounds and up, or real bruisers weighing in excess of 20 pounds require a range of tackle options. Bass fishing tackle – whether spinning or baitcasting – is perfect for handling smaller fish and for casting jigs or swimbaits that weigh less than an ounce. A Shimano Stradic spinning reel and 7-foot medium-action Shimano Compre rod with 14-pound-test monofilament.

For bigger fish, consider a Penn Battle II BTLII5000 with 20-pound-test monofilament or 40-pound-test braid, and a 30-pound-test fluorocarbon leader. A 7-foot medium-heavy spinning rod (such as the Penn Battalion BATIN1220S70) should handle any bait rigs or lures and wear down a bull redfish in short order.

Quick Tip: Incoming tides in late evening or at night are primo times for reds as the fish free-spawn then in the mouths of coastal bays and estuaries. If you can’t fish any other time, make sure you fish the incoming tides.

 

Best Lures/Baits: Redfish aren’t particular about their dietary requirements and will eat anything from blue crabs to halved mullet. Swimming spoons such as the Johnson Sprite (johnsonfishing.com), swimbaits and jigs or even topwater poppers, such as the Heddon Saltwater Spook, will elicit strikes.

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Photograph Courtesy of Strike King Lure Company Photo By Garrick Dixon Shallow- to medium-running crankbaits probably account for more bass than any other lure in the fall when the fish are on the prowl for shad in feeder creeks and coves. http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall http://stepoutside.org/article/best-places-to-fish-in-the-south-this-fall Thu, 11 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
10 Best Outdoor Fall Activities in Texas The motto “Everything is bigger in Texas” applies to just about everything, especially the festivities. Texans know how to celebrate fall right, with a festival almost every weekend, hiking trails waiting to be explored, and food that is sure to “wow” you. With so much excitement, who would know where to begin? Consider the following 10 best outdoor fall activities to plan your perfect Texas fall. 

The Texas Rose Festival began in 1933 and remains a quintessentially Texan event. Kicking off with the coronation of a festival queen, the festival includes a Rose Show, Queen’s Tea, and Rose Parade. Additionally, the festival, which goes on in the middle of October, hosts crafts fairs, art shows, live music, and much more. 

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While the Rose Festival encapsulates all of Texas’s Southern, traditional charm, the Texas Renaissance Festival showcases the charm of yesteryear. Lasting from the end of September through the end of November, the Renaissance Festival offers themed weekends, ye old shoppes, jousts, gift shops, Halloween celebrations, campground options, and much more. 

The State Fair of Texas’s mission statement is to “celebrate all things Texan by promoting agriculture, education, and community involvement through quality entertainment in a family-friendly environment.” The fair hosts livestock exhibitions, creative competitions, live music, family fun shows, college football, and just about anything you want to eat, so long as what you want to eat is deep fried.

Wurstfest in New Braunfels is Oktoberfest, but in November. This indoor and outdoor festival includes German food, beer, themed live music events, as well as dancing, carnival rides, games, and more. Revel in the Bavarian culture during this weeklong event.

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Barton Hill Farms hosts their own fall festival from the end of September to early November. According to their website, Barton Hill Farms invites you to wander through the corn maze, jump on the huge jumping pillow, pick out your own pumpkin in the pumpkin patch, visit the farm animals, and so much more! In other words, they invite you to have the perfect family weekend.

Have an hour to kill? Not afraid of tall corn? Then the Graff 7A Ranch South Texas Maize is for you. Open from mid-September until the end of November, the South Texas Maize covers over seven acres and takes at least an hour to complete. Admission also includes hayride, hay bale jump, pig races, and more.

Big Bend and Lajitas Stables offers “exceptional Texas horseback trail riding” for those that want to experience all that fall has to offer but aren’t lucky enough to own a horse themselves. They have stables in Big Bend and Lajitas, providing two excellent starting points. Choose from hourly rides or overnight trips, each guided with an expert horseback rider. 

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By the River Campground in Kerrville, Texas sits along the Guadalupe river and spans 65 acres of trails, picnic areas, and campsites. They offer pull thru, back-in, and waterfront campsites with 30 and 50 AMPs. Enjoy the cooler weather and the splendid colors from your very own RV.

The City of Bridgeport offers an excellent off-road vehicle park, called the Northwest OHV Park. Prices are quite reasonable with a substantial discount for residents. Choose from over 25 miles of trails with varying degrees of difficulty all throughout the park.

Wandering through the golden trees at Lost Maples State Natural Area is the ultimate way to soak in all this season has to offer. October and November provide you with tolerable temperatures, crisp air rolling in, and an array of red-toned colors scattered throughout the trees. There are over 10 miles of trails to explore, campsites to stay at through the night, plenty of fishing opportunities, spots to go bird watching, and more.

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http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/10-best-outdoor-fall-activities-in-texas Tue, 09 Oct 2018 00:00:00 -0500
The Ultimate Guide to Beginner Hiking in Texas From the rugged Palo Duro Canyon to the awe-inspiring Big Bend National Park, Texas boasts some of the most uniquely beautiful hiking terrain in the country. Whether it’s traversing sprawling mountains or trekking through dense green forest with towering trees, the variation is endless. To get some ideas on where to hike, what to wear, and what to bring in your pack, check out our beginner guide to hiking in the Lone Star State.

Where to begin? The sheer volume of Texas' spectacular natural beauty makes it almost impossible to pick just one place to start. If it's a satisfying yet not-too-rigorous hike you seek, we have you covered. Check out some of the best hiking trails the Lone Star State has to offer. 

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Proper footwear is one of the many keys to a successful hike. Before you hit the trails in Texas, it's imperative to find a supportive pair of boots that will suit your specific needs. Here are some of our favorite comfortable and sturdy hiking boots. 

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Prepare to be dazzled. As the season shifts, Texas comes to life with vibrant displays of orange, red, and yellow, making hiking adventures all the more rewarding. Whether you're trekking deep into a state park or climbing a mountain, expect magnificent views on these breathtaking foliage hikes in Texas. 

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If a more serious hiking adventure is in order, packing a backpack is imperative. How do you strike the balance between packing all of the essentials and ensuring that your back isn't going to hurt after a few hours on the trail? Pack smart. Here's how to pack your backpack the proper way in just 5 easy steps. 

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Now let's get that heart rate up. If you've explored some of the easier trails Texas has to offer, kicking things up a notch is the next step. It's time for a challenge. If you want to get a real workout on the trails, check out these invigorating and energizing hikes in Texas. 

Read more. 

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Camping Done Right: 9 Best Outdoor Stores in Texas Experience the old west in contemporary Texas with a good old-fashioned camping trip. But before you pick out your spot and settle in, make sure you’ve got the perfect equipment to make your trip one for the ages. For all the best gear from top-notch brands, here are the 9 best camping stores in the state.  

Backwoods is a fast-growing sporting outlet with locations in three states, including two in Fort Worth, Texas. They stock backpacks, camp kitchen, tents, furniture, and all kinds of other equipment. 

The Bear Mountain is primarily a bike store, but they’ve got a sizable outdoor section with plenty of great camping equipment. Stocked brands include ENO, Merrell, Osprey, Yeti , and more. 

Mountain Sports in Arlington, Texas, has a wide range of excellent brands, including Big Agnes, LEKI, Harmony, Yakima, and more. Stop in to check out their many camping accessories, stoves, maps, water treatments, lights, pet gear, and much more.

Whole Earth Provision Co. has eight stores across Texas, including locations in Austin, Dallas, Houston, San Antonio, and Southlake. They’ve been in business for 40 years and stuck “true to its ideals of providing goods that are relevant, educational and high quality and/or low cost,” according to their website biography. They’ve got tons of great camping equipment ready for use. 

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Zion Gear specializes in carrying what they call “the essentials,” most of which are necessary for a successful and safe camping experience. Consider Zion for bags, kits, prepared food, knives, lights, wellness products, and more.

While you might think Austin Kayak sells only kayaking equipment, you might be surprised to hear that they have a bunch of excellent camping equipment, too. Check out their website or come into their brick and mortar shop to see their accessories, repair parts, backpacks, camp food, coolers, electronics, headlamps, tents, and much more. 

Mountain Hideaway in Lubbock, Texas sells much of the clothing, outerwear, and gear any prepared camper would want or need. Pick up a new North Face. Select a comfortable hammock. Or simply stock up on the essentials before heading out into the wilderness. 

Happy Trails was named one of Men’s Journal’s “Best Outdoor Gear Stores in America” in their 2015 issue. We would be remiss not to include them on our list, too. Their excellent selection and small-store charm are just two of the reasons why Happy Trails remains a first-rate choice. 

In a state that does things big, you’ll find six locations for one of the biggest outdoor stores in the country: Cabela’s. For all things outdoor recreation, this is your most trusted outfitter. Find locations in Waco, Buda, Fort Worth, Allen, Lubbock, and League City. Their camping equipment is second to none, and you’ll find all of the best brands around. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-9-best-outdoor-stores-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/camping-done-right-9-best-outdoor-stores-in-texas Wed, 15 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Gorgeous Beach Campsites in Texas Texas enjoys incredible access to the Gulf of Mexico, along with a plethora of other beaches, lakes, and bays. As a result, there is absolutely no shortage of gorgeous, waterside landscapes to enjoy a weekend away. Below, you’ll find five of our favorites. Enjoy!

The Padre Island National Seashore park protects 70 miles of coastline, prairies, dunes, and wind tidal flats. It is home to over 380 species of birds and many Spanish shipwrecks. Camp right on the beach away from civilization. Keep in mind: there are no RV hookups, so you’re better off setting up camp right on the sand. Don’t forget your permit (available from kiosks at the campground entrance).

Galveston Island State Park is home to both a beach and a bay, depending on which side of the park you decide to camp on. Common activities include swimming, fishing, picnicking, bird watching, hiking, mountain biking, paddling, and more. Rent a cabin or a campsite and choose between one with water and electricity or go without.

Roll up with your RV, rent a cabin, or stay at the Discover Event Center to enjoy the 52-acre Quintana Park beachfront. Enjoy the excellent bird watching, fishing, swimming, beachcombing, surfing, and nature viewing year-round. Quintana Beach County Park does not offer primitive tent camping on-site, although the nearby towns and other beaches can accommodate tent campers for up to two weeks. 

Mustang Island State Park near Port Arkansas, Texas, offers more than five miles of coastline, perfect for swimming, surfing, camping, picnicking, fishing, hiking, and more. The park boasts 48 water and electrical campsites and 50 drive-up primitive sites with water, cold-water rinse showers, and portable toilets along the beach. Full restrooms are on-site, too, and are located near the water-electric campground for easy access. 

Texas invites you to stay at the Sea Rim State Park near Sabine Pass, Texas. With over 5.2 miles of Gulf shoreline and 4,000 marshland acres, you’ll never run out of opportunities to go beach combing, paddling, canoeing, kayaking, swimming, fishing, or even hunting (in season). Choose from 15 campsites equipped with utilities, their cabin, or many primitive camping options right on the beach. 

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5 Beautiful Backpack Camping Spots in Texas Texans are of the earth. It’s a fact. When a Texan yearns to get back to mother nature, the only thing that’ll do is to have the ground underneath and the stars above. No cabins for you. These are five of the most beautiful backpack camping spots in the entire Lone Star State. It’s time to get back to nature. 

Big Bend Ranch State Park is not for the casual backpacker. The park is remote, featuring “rugged mountains, steep canyons, amazing views, unparalleled night skies, and solitude in a high desert setting,” according to the official website. But for those backpackers with a bit of experience and searching for a challenge, you could do no better.

Lake Bob Sandlin State Park near Pittsburg, Texas, is situated on the beautiful Lake Bob Sandlin. Sixteen hike-in primitive camping sites are available. Just hike between a quarter of a mile and a mile to find the areas. Take note: getting from the camping area to the lake is a bit of a trek, but well-worth it.

Palo Duro has hike-in primitive camp areas and basic campsites galore. Permits are given on a first-come, first-serve basis. The backpack area can support 40, whereas the basic campsite area can support eight to each of their 25 sites. Why camp in the Palo Duro Canyon State Park? As the second largest canyon in the country, you’ll enjoy majestic views unlike those available anywhere else. 

The rugged limestone hills and beautiful dispersed prairies make Cedar Hill a beautiful spot to escape to. Try out the DORBA Trail, named after the Dallas Off Road Biking Association, for an excellent hiking experience across 1,200 acres. In the area, you will find 30 primitive, hike-in campsites to rest your head after a long day of exploring. Campfires are not permitted in the area and these sites are not near water, so come prepared. 

Enjoy exploring the mountains? Then you must come experience the incredible rugged terrain of the Davis Mountains. There are many miles of trails throughout the park to explore, including the 4.5-mile Skyline Drive Trail and the 1.75-mile CCC Trail. This is a great spot for bird watching during the day, and a magnificent place to stay up late and stand in awe at the twinkling night sky above. The primitive hike-in campsites can accommodate four people per site and is roughly four miles up a mountain.  

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-backpack-camping-spots-in-texas Tue, 14 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome Campgrounds for Families in Texas A family camping experience in Texas is unlike any other. The Lone Star State has no shortage of campgrounds geared toward families, with amenities to satisfy both children and parents alike. Pack up your sleeping bags, load up the RV, and get ready for a rustic adventure in nature with the family at these five awesome campgrounds in Texas! 

OK, if ever there were a place that has “kid-friendly” stamped all over it in neon letters somewhere around three stories tall, it's a place called Dinosaur Valley State Park. Not far from Glen Rose, Dinosaur Valley State Park offers, as one might expect, a whole lot of dinosaur fun. In fact, visitors can actually see the tracks left behind by these ancient critters in the Paluxy River. Naturally, the standards are also in place, including hiking, mountain biking, fishing and swimming, so it's not just a dinosaur hunt.

Dubbed one of the most family-friendly camping locations around by Texas Children in Nature, Pace Bend Park near Spicewood will deliver opportunities for enjoyment on several fronts. Not only will there be a slate of rocky features—including limestone cliffs that are spectacular at sunset—but also, Pace Bend Park's sheer proximity to Lake Travis ensures that the standard lineup of water activities will also be in play. Throw in rock climbing, mountain biking, and a plethora of sports fields, and everyone is going to enjoy this trip. 

The Splashway theme park in Sheridan offers a complete range of camping options. Whether it's straight-up tent camping or an RV park, it really doesn't matter—you'll be able to camp like it’s nobody's business! The fact that it's located immediately next to a water park with all the water slides you could ever ask for only makes this more exciting. Seriously, you should see some of these slides! 

Did someone say camping at the beach? One of the most notable beaches around is the Port Aransas city beach. Offering a wide array of activities—ranging from Frisbee to volleyball and beyond—as well as campfires up to three feet by three feet, this spot is quite the campsite. With easy access to various amenities in Port Aransas proper, it's easy to get set up just right. 

For one of the richer experiences in North Texas, check out Lake Mineral Wells State Park, near Mineral Wells. Like the name suggests, rocks play a big part of this area, so rock climbing is certainly on the menu. Throw in a huge 646-acre lake and it ensures that a good day of swimming will always be on hand. Throw in bike trails, woods, fishing opportunities, horse trails, and an amphitheater for cultural presentations, and the range is substantial. Oh, and there's a fair chance the place is haunted, filled with lost treasure, or both. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-awesome-campgrounds-for-families-in-texas Mon, 13 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Awesome RV Campsites in Texas The Lone Star State boasts some of the most impressive RV campsites around. Stay by the beach, in a planned resort, in the desert, or near the forest—Texas’s diverse natural environments lend to options for every kind of camper. Need help narrowing down which campsites are the best? We’ve picked out five awesome RV campsites throughout Texas just for you. Read on, camper! 

Dellanera RV Park in Galveston, Texas, offers campers their very own private beach access. With 65 full RV hook-ups and day parking, combined with their premier beachfront access, Dellanera stands out. Choose from deluxe or full sites, each providing electricity, water, and sewer. Each site boasts a picnic table and barbecue pit with beach equipment rentals available. 

Treetops is an “all-ages RV resort” named for their 2,000 oak trees that provide shade over most sites. Their 169 sites include full hook-ups and concrete patios, with the premium option of on-site grills. Two bathhouses, two air-conditioned laundry facilities, pool, and weekly game nights are part of their offerings. Nightly rates start at $52, with weekly rates of $309 and monthly rates at $624. 

While some might call Mill Creek Ranch Resort “low-key,” its rustic charm and upscale offerings make it stand out. Visitors are asked to embrace a back-to-basics approach of simplicity and country hospitality. Rent a cabin, a tiny house, or one of their RV sites. Choose from premium pull-through RV sites, premium back-in RV sites, or standard pull through or back in RV sites. Amenities include concrete pads, full hook-ups, Wi-Fi, picnic table, fire ring, and much more. Stop by and see why Mill Creek Ranch Resort is an award-winner. 

Lake Livingston/Onalaska KOA in Onalaska, Texas, is surrounded by Lake Livingston, providing ample opportunity for boating, swimming, and fishing. Book a premium lakefront RV site to ensure perfect access. Campground amenities include Wi-Fi, power, cable TV, hot tub, sauna, fishing, dog park, pavilion, and pool access. Back-in and pull-through sites available. Book on their website and take a look at their rotating “Hot Deals.”

Rayford Crossing RV Resort in Spring, Texas, “offers an endless array of activities for the whole family from nearby hiking and biking trails, fishing, and swimming to multiple rally rooms, game room, a playground for the kids, tropical pools, and so much more,” according to their website. Each site comes with concrete pads, Wi-Fi, and cable. Choose from standard back-in or pull-through, deluxe pull-through (with patio furniture, gas grill, and large front yard), or premium pull-through (with patio furniture, gas grill, large front yard, and front of the park location). Make sure to visit the George Mitchell Nature Preserve while you’re in town!

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5 Energizing Hikes in Texas Do you consider yourself a hiker of some regard, always looking for new and rewarding challenges? In Texas, you have some of the very best options for a hike that will challenge you. The following five energizing hikes from all over the Lone Star State will surely get your heart rate up! 

Hikers near Austin, Texas, have plenty of fantastic options to choose from, but overlooking the Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail would be a huge mistake. This out-and-back route is heavily trafficked and features a beautiful, shimmering waterfall. The trail covers eight miles and almost 900 feet of elevation.

The North Shore Trail courses through Murrell Park, near Grapevine, Texas, for almost 10 miles. This out-and-back trail has almost 1,100 feet of elevation gain, and features a lake. This multi-faceted trail has many options for adventurous hikers to choose from.

The St. Edwards Park Creek Trail is an easier route than the previous two, coming in at just over 2.9 miles along its loop. The elevation gain is just under 400 feet, and features a beautiful stream with cacti throughout. 

Big Bend National Park has over 150 miles of hiking opportunity along various terrain, including desert hikes, mountain hikes, and river hikes. For our purposes, let’s focus on the Chisos Basin Loop Trail. The trail is only 1.8 miles round-trip, but forces the hiker to manage through vegetation. It’s not uncommon to see bears and mountain lions, too, so make sure you are totally comfortable before heading out.

Marion Samsom Park’s trail system is broken down into sections, but ultimately boasts 11 miles of intermediate to expert-level trails. Enjoy sections such as the Lone Wolf Loop, the Dam Drop, the Grass Loop, and more. Check out the map on the park’s website to find out which route is best suited for you. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-energizing-hikes-in-texas Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Best Trail Running Spots in Texas With its rolling plains and desert valleys, Texas is a glorious spot to go for a run outdoors. Trail running not only makes for a more interesting workout, but a more challenging one. Trail terrain can vary, creating a trek that requires more work than running on the sidewalk. Jogging on the treadmill just isn’t quite as scenic as these five awesome trail running spots in Texas! 

The Hill Country State Natural Area in Bandera, Texas, is an “undeveloped and secluded retreat,” with over 40 miles of trails. Hikers, bikers, runners, and equestrians will equally find much to enjoy on these natural tracks. 

The Bear Springs Blossom Nature Preserve has 12 different trails throughout its 125 acres, with vastly different terrain. Depending on how you set out, you might contend with rolling hills, a pond, or dry desert. 

McKinney Falls State Park in Austin has nine trails of differing terrain. Before heading out, make sure you take a good look at the trail maps, as some have hard pavement designed for strollers, and others are unpaved for runners and hikers. 

Blanco Shoals is unique in that most of its 81 acres remain completely undeveloped, with no plans for future development any time soon. That means that many trails throughout, full of high bank bluffs, tall cottonwoods, and shoals, will remain pristine for you to come back again and again. 

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Start off your San Marcos River Walk Trail experience at the City Park Pavilion before winding along the San Marcos River. You’ll run for around three miles through this nature-filled retreat. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-trail-running-spots-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-best-trail-running-spots-in-texas Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
7 Best Birdwatching Hikes in Texas In Texas, birders are spoiled. With over 600 different species of birds to discover, from pristine beaches to lush wildlife refuges, there’s no telling what you’ll see. Discover all the herons, hummingbirds, robins, warblers, and other fascinating rare birds on these best birdwatching hikes in the state. 

The South Texas Botanical Garden and Nature Center in Corpus Christi, Texas, has several birding guides separated by season for its guests. Consider taking a paid tour, or branching out on your own on their many nature trails. Birds you might get to see here include pelicans, herons, and terns in the summer, and hummingbirds, robins, and warblers in the winter! 

Sargent Beach in Sargent, Texas, is “one of Texas best kept secrets,” with a community of only 500 residents and excellent access to the Upper Texas Coast Birding Trail. We suggest hiking along the beach before finding the trail and exploring.

Matagorda County has been number one since 1997 for the North American Audubon Christmas Bird Count, making it a can’t-miss for any birdwatchers in the area. The Marine Education Center Nature Trail has orioles, buntings, sparrows, and much more. 

The Aransas National Wildlife Refuge in Austwell, Texas, is known for its large number of whooping cranes, with “researches from multiple organization working together to track the population.” The Heron Flats trail in particular is one of the most beautiful and provides views of storks, waterfowl, shorebirds, and more. 

Cross an old river channel between the Athey Nature Sanctuary and Riverside Park to catch a view of many different woodland birds. Riverside Park is also worth a visit, with over 562 acres of woodlands and many different nature trails.

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The Brackenridge Park and Campground in Edna, Texas, has a five-mile hike and bike trail that goes along the shore line, providing fantastic access to its many different kinds of birds. The park has an elevated gazebo for birdwatching. Take note: Birds intersect along two migration flyways here.

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The Anahuac National Wildlife Refuge near Anahuac, Texas, is characterized by meandering bayous “cut through ancient flood plains, creating vast expanses of coastal marsh and prairie.” This 34,000-acre refuge includes several wildlife watching and nature trails, but we recommend the Shoveler Pond Auto-Tour Loop. Bird enthusiasts will love seeing the purple gallinule, marsh wren, and others along the loop. 

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http://stepoutside.org/article/7-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/7-best-birdwatching-hikes-in-texas Thu, 09 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Great Hiking Trails in Texas The best way to appreciate the sheer volume of Texas’ tremendous, natural beauty, is by taking a good long walk. Next time you’re looking to get outside with the family on a nice day, consider navigating one of the Lone Star State’s many easy but satisfying hiking trails. Here are five great ones! 

Head to the Barton Creek Wilderness Park for a shot at the Sculpture Falls hike. Offering five solid miles of trail, in both heavily-trafficked and back trail varieties, you'll get a little taste of everything on this trek. The Sculpture Falls hike is considered a “moderate” hike, which is accessible year-round and open to hikers, walkers, mountain bikers, and even dogs. The high point of the trip is the beautiful Sculpture Falls. 

This trail, located in the Davey Crockett National Forest, will do a fine job of evoking history thanks to its famous namesake. This trail carries on for 20 miles, so be sure to prepare accordingly. The 4C Hiking Trail—named for the Central Coke and Coal Company, which operated in the region—will show off old tramways that were part of a large-scale logging project, as well as the 100-foot-tall pines that actually survived the logging effort.

For most people, maple trees conjure images of fall color tours and the northern United States. Texas has its share of maples as well, as evidenced by the Lost Maples State Natural Area not far from Vanderpool. The big selling point of this trail is the maple trees, which put on an annual show in the fall showing off an impressive range of colors. Naturally, there's more around here than just fall color, as it also boasts canyons and the Sabinal River. The area features over 10 miles of trails, including a loop that takes hikers along a 2,200-foot cliff, so keep the little ones close by.  

only a little bit lost

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Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers a staggering array of features. Perhaps biggest of all is the fact that this is referred to as the “Grand Canyon of Texas,” and with good reason. A picture from Palo Duro Canyon might look almost indistinguishable from one taken at the Grand Canyon, perhaps except only to truly trained eyes. Beyond that, the park offers a wide variety of amenities ranging from horse rentals to picnic tables to RV parking facilities, allowing visitors to experience the full range of parking. Palo Duro boasts 30 miles of trails for hikers, bikers, and equestrians. 

One of the most popular areas to explore in Texas, the Barton Creek Greenbelt is almost eight miles long and covers just over 800 acres. Experience the lush forestry and immaculate limestone cliffs as your traverse the area with your family. Many consider the Barton Greenbelt to be one of the best hiking trails in the state. 

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Yung Tsai/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-great-hiking-trails-in-texas Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Beautiful Scenic Hikes in Texas Hiking through Texas can be one of the most rewarding outdoor experiences in the United States. Whether you prefer to hike through the city, mountains, swamp, or forest, there’s a perfect trail waiting for you. Below you’ll find five of the most beautiful scenic hikes throughout Texas, and even a few dinosaur tracks along the way… 

Pedernales Falls State Park is perfect for your next family hike outing. Park trails range from beginner to expert. For beginners, try the .5-mile Twin Falls Nature Trail for exquisite views of the falls. The six-mile Wolf Mountain Trail, on the other hand, provides a much more turbulent hike. Families with young children will love the duck pond, and there is also a wheelchair-friendly wildlife viewing station.

Martin Dies, Jr. State Park near Jasper, Texas, consists of 730 acres across three state park units. Choose from eight miles of hiking trails through the forest. Take a look at the online interactive map or download the PDF for directions to six points of interest, including the Observation Pier, Cypress Forest, Swamp Deck, Sunset Vista, Wildscape, and more. 

Hike through downtown Austin along the Ann and Roy Butler Hike-and-Bike Trail. Near Lady Bird Lake, you’ll “meander along the water’s edge and pass by skyscrapers, neighborhoods, ball fields, and cultural attractions.” The trail is 10 miles-long and is one of Austin’s more popular recreational areas. You’ll trade natural vistas for the cityscape, but there’s hardly a better way to get acquainted with Austin, its people, and its culture, than by winding through it along this hike. 

Franklin Mountain State Park has almost 27,000 acres to explore and 100 miles of trails. The Sunset Trail is one of the most beatific, offering a 360-degree view of the sunset and El Paso lights. The trail is just over eight miles and can be a difficult hike, but the staggeringly beautiful views at the end of a long day make it worth it.

We’re going to cut right to the chase: The Government Canyon State Natural Area has 110-million-year-old dinosaur tracks. You read that correctly. Kids will go crazy for this hike. The Overlook Trail isn’t too far from the tracks, either. The entire trail is only around three miles with a clearing for the overlook sight. Consider the Joe Johnston Route to view the dinosaur tracks at ground level and avoid the possibility of falling over the overlook. 

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Tricia Daniel/Shutterstock.com http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-scenic-hikes-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-beautiful-scenic-hikes-in-texas Wed, 08 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500
5 Exhilarating Jet Skiing Spots in Texas It’s time to do it big! Jet skiing in Texas affords miles of stunning shoreline across the state’s sparkling lakes and the Gulf Coast. It doesn’t matter if you’ve been jet skiing for a decade or if you’re just hopping on for the first time, in Texas, everyone can have the ride of a lifetime. Here are five exhilarating jet skiing spots in the Lone Star State. 

Lake Travis near Austin, Texas, despite not originally being designed for recreational use, is one of the most popular recreational lakes in the state. You’ll find plenty of anglers, boaters, swimmers, scuba divers, and jet skiers on the water. Take note: Lake Travis is close to Hippie Hollow Park, a nudist beach at the eastern end of the lake. Don’t be surprised if you see a few clothing-optional visitors. Check out Luxury Boat Rentals to rent a jet ski for the day. 

Lake Amistad is massive. It boasts a surface area of nearly 70,000 acres and “is best known for excellent water-based recreation, camping, hiking, rock art viewing, and its cultural heritage,” according to the National Recreation official website. You’ll have to contend with lots of other visitors, but with so much open water, you’ll find plenty of space to jet ski to your heart’s content.

Lake Conroe, near Houston, is a popular residential area. Its 21,000 surface acres are used for boating, fishing, hunting, golfing, swimming, water skiing, pleasure boating, jet skiing, and more. The lake is man-made, but stocked regularly with fish. Its proximity to Houston has made Lake Conroe one of the go-to lakes in Texas, so be ready to contend with a crowd. There are several rental options available in the area. 

The Gulf Coast covers over 600 miles of coastline, and just about anywhere on it can be a fantastic place to jet ski. USA Today recommends Corpus Christi’s J.P. Luby Surf Park. Jet ski rental locations are peppered throughout the coast if you don’t have your own. Make sure to check which access point you’re using to make sure it’s legal to jet ski at that specific location—if it’s not, you’re usually not too far away from another legal spot.

Canyon Lake is known for their watersports, boasting that it is “where waters sports are king!” Canyon Lake has 80 miles of shoreline covering over 8,200 acres. Fishermen, swimmers, boaters, parasailers, wave runners, scuba divers, nature watchers, and jet skiers flock to Canyon Lake for its emphasis on water recreation and for a good time. Stop by the nearby seafood restaurants after a day on the water to relax and take in the scenery. 

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5 Excellent Places for Beginners to Kayak in Texas Everyone needs to start somewhere. When it comes to kayaking, the right place makes all the difference for novice paddlers. In Texas, you’ll find an abundance of waterways geared toward the less-experienced. Before you get in the water, consider bringing along a guide or participating in a safety course. Get your kayak on at these five great spots for beginners in Texas.  

The Buffalo Bayou takes paddlers on a 26-mile trek, accompanied by beautiful sights of downtown Houston. Now, the entirety of the paddling trail may be 26 miles, but this is still ideal for novices. Sections of the trail can be traversed in 1.5-4 hours of paddling. Wildlife in the area includes turtles, herons, hawks, and so much more. Through Bayou City Adventures, you can take a guided tour to experience the area to its fullest. The shortest of the tours offered is the 2.5-hour Navigator’s Tour. This tour provides just a few small, manageable rapids, and stunning scenery. There are also kayak rentals available. 

This Colorado River reservoir in Austin, Texas, is home to Live Love Paddle, your “one stop shop” for watercraft rentals. Lady Bird Lake spans a total of 468 acres with a maximum depth of 18 feet. Through Live Love Paddle, paddlers can participate in the incredible Congress Avenue Bridge Bat Tours. At this bridge, you’ll find the world’s largest urban bat colony. Kayaks, paddles, person flotation devices, and drinking water are provided on every trip. 

The Medina River provides paddlers with one of the easiest and most breathtaking kayaking trips in the Lone Star State. The waters are glistening blue green and trees shade paddlers from above. Through the Medina River Company, rental rates go at $50 per kayak. Tours offered include a 1-1.5-hour trip, a 2-2.5-hour trip, and a 3-3.5-hour trip. According to its site, times vary based on the flow of the river. The Medina River Company also offers waterproof phone cases, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, and several other waterproofing bags. 

For a serene escape, consider paddling the Limestone Bluffs of the Navasota River. The waters on this paddling trail are calm and quiet, perfect for those beginners not quite ready to take on an intense adventure. The trail is surrounded by limestone bluffs, and magnificent wildlife such as waterfowl and beaver. Rentals can be found at Austin Canoe and Kayak as well as Recreational Equipment, Inc. 

Somewhere on the Navasota🤙🏻

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The San Antonio River spans a total of 240 miles and is one of the most significant waterways in the state. For the fullest experience, Mission Kayak has it all. Choose from two, three, and four-mile river trips that all vary in difficulty with small rapids and mildly-challenging chutes. From these trips, you can choose from a self-guided or guided tour. Mission Kayak even offers a Kayaking 101 class, which features education on kayak terminology, river terminology, proper paddling techniques, and rescue techniques. 

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iStock.com/jacoblund http://stepoutside.org/article/5-excellent-places-for-beginners-to-kayak-in-texas http://stepoutside.org/article/5-excellent-places-for-beginners-to-kayak-in-texas Mon, 06 Aug 2018 00:00:00 -0500