Palo Pinto Loop
- Graham, 800-256-4844, www.visitgraham.com
- Jacksboro COC, 940-567-2602
- Mineral Wells Area COC, 800-252-6989, www.mineralwellstx.com
Lost Creek Reservoir State Trailway
From the intersection of US 380 and US 281 and FM 59 in Jacksboro, go north 2.3 miles on FM 59 to the parking area on the right.
Located at Fort Richardson and Jacksboro, this approximately 10-mile hike, bike and equestrian trail runs adjacent to Fort Richardson and along Lost Creek. The trail follows scenic Lost Creek and travels the east side of Lake Jacksboro and Lost Creek Reservoir. The trail crosses the dam at Lost Creek Reservoir and winds along the west side until you enter the trail head. There is a trail head at Fort Richardson State Park and a trail head on Lost Creek Reservoir. The trail passes shaded areas of pecan and oak trees and runs by the creek or lakes much of the route, providing many opportunities to fish and swim.
Explore the area around the lake for grassland birds such as Lark Sparrow, Painted Bunting and Northern Bobwhite. Look in areas of dense brush for White-eyed Vireo and Yellow-billed Cuckoo. Check the shoreline for a variety of shorebirds during spring and fall migrations. Look for Red-bellied Woodpecker, Great Egret and Great Blue Heron downstream from the FM 59 Bridge and check the bridge for nesting Cliff Swallows.
Fort Richardson State Park and Historic Site
From the intersection of US 380 and US 281 in Jacksboro, go south 0.8 mile on US 281 to Fort Richardson State Historic Site.
Established in 1867, Fort Richardson was the northernmost of a line of federal forts established after the Civil War. The fort was abandoned in May 1878. Historical structures include 7 of the original buildings which have been restored: the post hospital, the officers' quarters, a powder magazine, a morgue, a commissary, a guardhouse and a bakery. There are also two replicas: officers' and enlisted men's barracks. The officers' barracks houses the Interpretive Center. Activities include historical study, picnicking, camping, fishing, hiking and nature study. Look for Painted Buntings in open areas near the historical buildings and White-eyed Vireos in the dense groves of oaks. Check the pond behind park headquarters for herons and migratory waterfowl.
From the intersection of US 281 and US 180 in Mineral Wells, go east on US 180 for 4.6 miles to Maddux Rd. Go left (north) on Maddux Rd. for 0.9 mile to Clark Gardens.
This 83-acre botanical garden was created to serve as a working model for achieving aesthetically pleasing, sustainable landscapes. By demonstrating the techniques of using adapted plants, minimizing lawns, using compost and mulch and conserving and collecting water, they hope to inspire and educate visitors. The numerous ponds and fountains in the gardens are excellent spots to look for dragonflies and damselflies such as Powdered and Blue-ringed Dancer or Black and Red Saddlebags. Reptiles such as Texas Whiptail and Texas Spiny Lizard are both common here. Texas horned lizards are even found from time to time, especially near harvester ant mounds. Check the large pond next to the parking area for swallows and the nearby mesquite trees for Painted Bunting. The gardens are a demonstration of how to use native plants and water features to enhance habitat for wildlife.
Lake Mineral Wells SP and Trailway
From the intersection of US 281 and US 180 in Mineral Wells, go east on US 180 for 3.9 miles to PR 71. Turn left (north) on PR 71 and follow it 0.3 mile into the park.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park is located along Rock Creek, a large tributary of the Brazos River. Activities include camping, lake swimming, fishing, canoeing, rock climbing, mountain biking and hiking. The "Lone Star Amphitheater" provides a great venue for a variety of natural and cultural interpretive programs, including Cowboy History through Music and Poetry, astronomy, storytelling and Ranger Talks. The park also offers Kid's Wilderness Survival, guided trail walks, wildflower walks and other nature programs.
The park is located in the Western Cross Timbers region. Common plants include post, live and blackjack oaks, sumac, Ashe juniper, mesquite, pecan, mulberry, Texas ash, wild plum, willow, cedar elm, American elm, hackberry, milkweed, Engelmann daisy, sunflower, Coreopsis, Indian blanket, Mexican hat, goldenrod, spiderwort, morning-glory, bluebonnet, wild onion, yucca, prickly poppy, standing cypress, Indian paintbrush, prickly pear, horse crippler cactus, lace cactus and maidenhair fern.
Wildlife observation includes white-tailed deer, turkeys, raccoons, squirrels and a variety of songbirds. Sandstone cliffs line the southern edge of the reservoir, providing habitat for Canyon Wren and nocturnal mammals like ringtails. Look for Prince Baskettail, Eastern Amberwing and Widow Skimmer dragonflies in the small inlets. Waterfowl and shorebirds are common during spring and fall migration.
Lake Tucker Trails
From I-20 between Ranger and Weatherford, take Exit 361 for Hwy. 16. Go north on Hwy. 16 for 3.4 miles to FM 2372. Turn left (west) on FM 2372 for 4.1 miles to the trails. Alternate Directions: From Hwy. 180 west of Palo Pinto, take Hwy. 16 south for 11.8 miles and take a right on FM 2372. Both routes run through the city of Strawn.
The fields and forest around Lake Tucker are accessible through a network of trails originating in Strawn City Park. The high trails provide several scenic viewing sites. Views from the top of the dam provide a chance to scan the lake for waterfowl in winter and herons and egrets in summer. The best wildlife-watching trails are found downstream from the park where visitors enter towering bottomland forest. Summer Tanagers and Yellow-billed Cuckoos echo from the treetops. The small ponds throughout the woods support numerous dragonflies and turtles. At the edge of the woodland, Eastern Bluebirds and Lark Sparrows line the fencerows and Red-tailed Hawks may soar overhead. Bald Eagle can be seen on occasion which are joined by many types of wildlife in the area. Picnicking, fishing, canoeing and boating (10 mph or less) are all available at the adjoining park. Restroom facilities are available on site.
Possum Kingdom State Park
From the intersection of US 180 and US 281 in Mineral Wells go west on US 180 for 34.9 miles to PR 33. Turn right (north) on PR 33 for 16.1 miles to the park entrance.
This 1,528-acre state park adjacent to Possum Kingdom Lake offers camping, picnicking, lake swimming, fishing, hiking, biking, nature study and boating. This park is located in the rugged canyon country of the Palo Pinto Mountains and Brazos River Valley, and is adjacent to Lake Possum Kingdom, 20,000 acres of the clearest, bluest water in the southwest. Numerous white-tailed deer make their home in the park. In early summer, the park is filled with the sounds of singing Chipping Sparrows and Painted Buntings. Access to several shallow coves provides an opportunity to look for herons, egrets and shorebirds. The lake attracts waterfowl and Bald Eagle during the winter. Listen for Canyon and Bewick's Wrens in the brushy uplands and look for Black-chinned Hummingbirds and Lark Sparrows perched on exposed branches.
Wildcatter Ranch and Resort
From the intersection of US 380/SR 16 and Hwy. 67/7th St. in Graham, go south on SR 16/Elm St. for 9.2 miles to Wildcatter Ranch. The ranch is located 8.9 miles south of the Courthouse Square in Graham on Hwy. 16. The main entrance is on the west side of the highway.
Located 90 miles northwest of Fort Worth, amid the rolling Palo Pinto Hills and the Brazos River, the 1,500-acre Wildcatter Ranch and Resort offers visitors a chance to enjoy a landscape steeped in history and overflowing with natural beauty. Surrounded by tales of Indian raids, wagon train massacres and historic forts, the ranch offers a unique guest experience. The main ridge running north to south through the ranch has a series of comfortable cabins that are the starting point for numerous trails to be explored on horseback or on foot. Look for White-eyed Vireo, Yellow-billed Cuckoo and Painted Bunting in the open woodland and rolling shrubland. At the southern end of the ranch is a wetland that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. Look for egrets, herons and Belted Kingfisher. In the winter this area attracts a diversity of ducks and geese. Rio Grande Turkey, white-tailed deer and doves can also be seen. The ranch has cabins and a hotel for staying overnight, a steakhouse on site, a horse barn and arena, a large pavilion and wagon ride through the property.
Hockaday Ranch B&B
From the intersection of US 380/SR 16 and Hwy. 67/7th St. in Graham, go south on SR 16 for 4.8 miles to Old Hwy. 16. Turn right and go 0.3 mile to Petus Lane, turn right and go 0.9 mile to the Hockaday Ranch B&B.;
One hundred and fifty years ago the ranch was part of the Brazos Indian Reservation. Located on the Brazos River, the ranch supports a variety of habitats, including juniper-oak woodland and open brush and grassland. Look for Greater Roadrunner, Texas spiny lizards, Wild Turkey and white-tailed deer. The fencerows provide perches for Ash-throated Flycatchers and curious Black-crested Titmice. Where the trees give way to grassland, look for Lark Sparrow and listen for Northern Bobwhite whistling from deep cover or scurrying down the road as you approach. Lodging and a variety of activities are available.