Big Thicket National Preserve
Hiking is a great way to get deep within the Big Thicket. Presently, there are hiking and nature trails in four of the Preserve Units. You may select from eight trails ranging from 1/4 to 19 miles in length. The different trails traverse a variety of plant communities and provide an overview of the diversity of Big Thicket National Preserve. There are trail guide booklets available at the Kirby Nature Trail. Permits are not required for day hiking, but you should register at the trailhead, where you may also obtain a map. The trails are open at all times, but flooding often occurs after heavy rain. Do not attempt to follow a submerged trail. Opportunities also exist for cross-country hiking with a compass and topographical map (available at the Visitor Information Station). The Preserve does not recommend cross-country hiking unless you are very familiar with the use of a map and compass, as it is easy to become lost. Be aware that fire ants, poison ivy, snakes, and mosquitoes are common in the Big Thicket. Vehicles, pets, and firearms are not permitted.
Here is a brief description of the hiking trails in the Big Thicket:
Kirby Nature Trail - Located at the southern tip of the Turkey Creek Unit on FM 420, 2.5 miles (4 km) east of the junction of US 69 and FM 420, is an excellent introductory trail for first-time visitors. The trail begins behind the Information Station where a ranger is on duty daily from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. This is a double loop trail with an inner loop that is 1.7 miles (2.7 km) long and an outer loop 2.4 miles (3.9 km) long. The trail winds through a diverse mixture of hardwoods and pines. Where it passes along sections of Village Creek there are cypress sloughs and floodplains. A guide booklet, available at the trailhead, interprets the plant communities and identifies many of the plants along the trail.
Sundew Trail - Located at the eastern edge of the Hickory Creek Savannah Unit, one-half mile (0.8 km) south of FM 2827. The dirt road leading to the trailhead intersects FM 2827 a half-mile west of US 69. A booklet guides you around a 1-mile (1.6 km) loop through an open longleaf pine/wetland savannah. The Sundew Trail is a premier area for wildflowers from late spring through summer. A short, half-mile (0.8 km) inner loop is fully accessible.
Beaver Slide Trail - Located in the SE corner at the Big Sandy Creek Unit, on FM 943 approximately a quarter-mile west of the FM 1276/FM 943 intersection. This 1.5-mile (2.4 km) loop trail winds around a series of ponds formed by old beaver dams. The trail provides access to Big Sandy Creek and several excellent fishing spots.
Turkey Creek Trail - A 15-mile (24 km) linear trail that roughly parallels Turkey Creek provides opportunities for backcountry camping and extended hiking. There are three main trailheads. The northern trailhead is 3.5 miles (5.6 km) east of Warren on FM 1943. The southern trailhead is located 4 miles (6.2 km) east of Hwy 69 on an unnamed paved road known locally as the Hardin County Line Road. This road is just north of the US 69/FM 3063 junction. The third trailhead is reached by following Triple D Ranch Road until it crosses Turkey Creek, about 6 miles (9.6 km) south of the northern trailhead. The trail can also be accessed via The Kirby Nature Trail or Pitcher Plant Trail. The trail provides diverse views as it winds through the sandy pine uplands, mixed forests, floodplains, and baygalls that surround Turkey Creek.
Woodlands Trail - Located at the NW tip of the Big Sandy Creek Unit, this trail provides options for hikes of varying lengths. The outer loop of the trail is 5.4 miles (8.6 km) long, with two shorter loops of 4.5 and 3.3 miles (7.2 and 5.3 km). The trailhead is located on FM 1276, 3.3 miles (5.3 km) south of US 190, or 5.9 miles (9.4 km) north of Dallardsville. The trail traverses a great variety of habitats including the Big Sandy Creek flood-plain, and dense stands of huge hardwood trees with sparse ground cover. Portions of the trail cut through upland pine stands and old pastures being reclaimed by nature. These, plus the mature forest, provide a rich diversity of plant and animal life.
Big Sandy Creek Horse Trail - Located in the SE corner of the Big Sandy Unit, which can be reached by turning left from FM 1276, a half-mile (0.4 km) north of Dallardsville and proceeding 3 miles (4.8 km) on Sunflower Road to the trailhead located on the left. This 18-mile (28.8 km) round-trip trail is designed for horseback riding, hiking, and all-terrain bicycling. The trail meanders through upland pine forests and beech-magnolia-loblolly pine slopes before crossing Simons Branch to a floodplain forest of basket oak, sweetgum, hornbeam, and holly.
Pitcher Plant Trail - Located on the NE side of the Turkey Creek Unit, leads a short distance through a mixed pine forest to the edge of a wetland savannah. To reach the trailhead follow FM 1943 east from Warren 4.3 miles (6.9 km), turn south and continue 1.9 miles (3 km) along the east boundary of the Turkey Creek Unit. The quarter-mile (0.4 km) trail is fully accessible and allows close-up views of several kinds of carnivorous plants, including many pitcher plants. Continuing past the end of the boardwalk leads the hiker to the Turkey Creek Trail.
Beach Woods Trail - Near the SW corner of the Beech Creek Unit, accessible from FM 2992, 1.5 miles (2.4 km) north of its junction with FM 1013. The 1-mile loop trail is reached via a short walk on an old dirt road. The trail meanders through a magnificent mature stand of beech and magnolia. After walking the loop, hikers may want to continue north on the dirt road to view the various stages of forest development that have occurred following logging and insect attacks.
Turkey Creek Unit - This area displays great plant diversity. A trail leads 15 miles north-south. On the northeast a disabled access boardwalk explores the carnivorous pitcher plant area. Kirby Nature Trail introduces many plants and explores Village Creek's floodplain.
Beech Creek Unit - A mid-1970s epidemic of southern pine beetles decimated loblolly pines here. How natural populations change because of this will be interesting to watch. Take the one-mile loop trail here.
Hickory Creek Savannah Unit - Dry, sandy uplands and wetter lowlands result in diverse flowers and grasses. Longleaf pine forest and wetlands mix here. Exposed to natural wildfires, this community will be largely a glade-like park. Without fire, dense shrubs will invade these grasslands. Take the one-mile loop trail through the unit's eastern part. The disabled-access boardwalk is 0.5 miles long.
Big Sandy Creek Unit - A sloping forest of beech, magnolia, and loblolly pine descends into dense stands of hardwoods in the Big Sandy Creek floodplain. Take the 5.4-mile loop trail and follow the sloping forest to the creek. A second loop trail 1.5 miles long winds around a series of ponds formed by old beaver dams. This unit offers the only horse riding trail, 18 miles round-trip, in the Preserve.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication