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 Sparrows, Painted Buntings and Northern Bobwhite. Look in areas of dense brush for White-eyed Vireos and Yellow-billed Cuckoos. Check the shoreline for a variety of shorebirds during spring and fall migrations. Look for Red-bellied Woodpeckers, Great Egrets and Great Blue Herons downstream from the FM 59 Bridge and check the bridge for nesting Cliff Swallows.
Phone: 940-567-3506, Fort Richardson SP
Fort Richardson SP and Historic Site
From the intersection of US 380 and US 281 in Jacksboro, go south 0.8 miles on US 281 to Fort Richardson State Historical 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 seven 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, 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.
Phone: 940-567-3506, Fort Richardson SP
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 miles 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 damselflies or Black or Red Saddlebag dragonflies. 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 Buntings. The gardens are a demonstration of how to use native plants and water features to enhance habitat for wildlife.
Phone: 940-682-4856, www.clarkgardens.com
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 miles into the park.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park is located along Rock Creek, a large tributary of the Brazos River. This area was an early home to several Native American tribes including the Comanche. White settlers began arriving in the early 1850s, and intermittent warfare occurred until the late 1870s. Rugged terrain and lush native grasses attracted many early-day ranchers to this area, including Charles Goodnight, Oliver Loving and C. C. Slaughter, who ran large herds of Longhorn cattle.
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, box elder, sumac, Ashe juniper, mesquite, pecan, walnut, 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, Turkey, Raccoons, Squirrels, and a variety of songbirds. Limestone cliffs line the southern edge of the reservoir, providing habitat for Canyon Wrens 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.
Phone: 940-328-1171, Lake Mineral Wells State Park and Trailway
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 Eagles can be seen on occasion which are joined by many types of wildlife in the area. Picnicking, fishing, canoeing, boating (10mph or less) are all available at the adjoining park. Restroom facilities are available on site.
Possum Kingdome SP
From the interrsecttion 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 Eagles 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.
Phone: 940-549-1803, Possum Kingdom SP
Paradise on the Brazos
From the intersection of US 380/ SR 16 and Hwy 67/ 7th St. in Graham go south on SR 16 for 11.2 miles to Paradise on the Brazos, which is a rock house with red metal roof on the west side of the highway.
This 1000 plus acre private ranch and B&B offers camping, hiking and mountain bike trails, rock climbing, and great opportunities to see wildlife and relax in beautiful surroundings. From the tops of the bluffs the far reaching view allows you to scan several bends of the Brazos River for herons, egrets, hawks, and eagles. The sounds of Canyon Wrens ring along the river while Cliff Swallows skirt the water's surface. As you explore the woods and valleys, listen for White-eyed Vireos and Painted Buntings. The ranch has a diversity of habitats and wildlife and an array of activities and services for visitors.
Phone: 940-549-9435, paradiseonthebrazos.com
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 1500-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 will eventually hold a series of comfortable cabins and be the starting point for numerous trails to be explored on horseback or on foot. Look for White-eyed Vireos, Yellow-billed Cuckoos, and Painted Buntings in the open woodland and rolling shrub land. At the southern end of the ranch is a wetland that provides habitat for a variety of wildlife. Look for egrets, herons, and Belted Kingfishers. In the winter this area attracts a diversity of ducks and geese.
Phone: 940-549-3500; 888-462-9277, www.wildcatterranch.com
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 miles to Petus Lane, turn right and go 0.9 miles 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 Roadrunners, 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 Sparrows and listen for Northern Bobwhites whistling from deep cover or scurrying down the road as you approach. Lodging and a variety of activities are available.
From the intersection of US 380/ SR 16 and Hwy 67/ 7th St. in Graham go south on Hwy 67/ 7th St. for 6.0 miles to Rosser Ranch Rd. Turn left (east) onto Rosser Ranch Rd. and go 2.8 miles to Race Track Rd. Turn right and go 0.8 miles to the entrance.
The Backside offers one of those unique combinations that only Texas can offer: abundant wildlife in an easily accessible area combined with a great steak restaurant. The Backside offers tent and RV camping along the banks of the Brazos River. The river displays an impressive diversity of species with Great Blue Herons and Great Egrets along its banks and the occasional Belted Kingfisher. The numerous cottonwoods lining the banks and neighboring mesquite scrubland hold numerous Painted and Indigo Buntings, calling from all directions. In winter the river attracts an impressive variety of raptors with numerous Red-tailed Hawks and the occasional Bald Eagle cruising down stream. In the evening after enjoying a great meal, keep an eye out for some of the river's larger inhabitants. Raccoon can regularly be seen and the sharp eye may find a Coyote or Bobcat. Although rare, a Mountain Lion is even possible.