I want to start noting which posts are for information and which posts are for storytelling. I’ve always felt that with this website that the personal information is what makes these places to hike more relatable, but there does come a time in place when my thoughts aren’t as important as the basic info one needs before visiting a park.
Look for posts labeled “journal” moving forward that are in the author’s point of view.
What to expect at Huntsville State Park
When I was younger and living in the Houston area the only thing that was said about Huntsville is, “that is where all of the prisons are”. Now, that’s not all it’s known for, but it’s still not-not what it’s known for. The prisons are still there, but Huntsville has become a booming college town that offers a perfect blend of commercial business and outdoor recreation.
In 2020 I took some time off of work to go visit East Texas, you can read my recaps for Caddo Lake, Mission Tejas, and Martin Creek Lake state parks here. For 2021 I decided to venture back into the trees, but try and knock out some state parks just south of the Dallas- Fort Worth region.
I was going to visit my folks in Houston and then drive up I-45 to Fairfield Lake State Park. At the last second, I decided that I would just start at Huntsville State Park after looking at some amazing photos people had left for their Google reviews.
The state park itself is a mere eight miles away from the main part of town. (This will matter a little later). It’s also right off of the interstate, so right off the bat, if you’re a light sleeper you’re going to want to bring earplugs.
The road noise wasn’t quite at the level you’ll hear at Bastrop State Park, but it was noticeable.
Other than that, you’re in the outmost part of the National Forest, so the trees are everywhere here, but the beauty of the trees is almost outshined by the calmness of the lake that’s a huge draw as well.
See you later Alligator
When I arrive at any state park I like to drive around a bit and soak in the entire park. I decided that I would pull off towards the water recreation areas and enjoy the views of the water. When I got closer to the water I saw the signs warning visitors about the permanent guests at the park: the gators.
I saw some comments about the alligators, but I wasn’t sure how accurate those descriptions would be, but literally, as I walked up to the sign I saw the eyeballs of the gator popping out near the bank.
It was quite exciting!
The gators are fairly visible from most water areas at this state park. They keep it pretty close to the banks, so spend some time on any of the fishing piers and you’re likely to encounter one. Just keep your distance, do not feed them, and you’ll be just fine.
You’ll also want to keep your dogs and small animals away as well. Taunting the wildlife will get you nowhere.
Camping at Huntsville State Park
Huntsville state park is camping abundant. The trees create plenty of natural barriers between sites, and even in more open camping areas, you’ll still find that you won’t be too close to another campsite.
|Campsite Style||Number of sites||Cost/ Night||Best Use|
|Raven Hill: Full Hookup Site||23||$25||RVs|
|Coloneh & Prairie Branch: Sites w/ electricity||77||$20||Tent/RV|
|Coloneh: Sites w/ water||60||$15||Tents|
|Cabins, $50 refundable deposit||2||$60|
Prairie Branch is off on its own and the closest to the main water recreation areas. If you’re visiting this park to fish, it’s also where you’ll find the boat ramp.
This area is similar to Garner State Park in how it is designed to handle a ton of traffic during peak season. There’s plenty of room for day-use visitors to hang out, splash in the water, and just relax.
You’ll find the boathouse (closed at the time of this post), and the park store. You can grab snacks, last-minute camping items, and fishing gear. You’ll want to pick up souvenirs here as well. They don’t carry the Texas Trailhead state park passport, but you can grab one of those here.
The other two camping areas are on the other side of Lake Raven. I felt that these sites gave great views of the water from the campsites, or were within walking distance.
The Coloneh camping area is where I camped, and it was filled with trees and was close to restrooms and the fishing pier. It’s named after General Sam Houston and was the name that Cherokee Chief Oolooteka gave him.
Campsites near enough to the water to give some great morning views, but not so close that you’d need to stress about gators coming to your tent. Unless of course you just had a bunch of raw steak in your tent. If that’s the case, ew.
It’s also where the fishing pier is. This offered up some of my favorite views of Lake Raven and was where I spent a lot of time during sunset.
Raven Hill Camping area is just adjacent and has a mix of full hookup sites and electric RV sites. Also close to the water, and a little more tree density.
Hiking at Huntsville State Park
There are six main hiking trails at Huntsville state park, and the morning after camping I had it in my heart I was going to do all of it. How wonderful it would be to hike under the pine trees on a calm, cool morning.
|Trail||Distance||Difficulty (according to trail map)|
|Triple C Trail||8.4 mi. RT||Challenging|
|Chinquapin Trail||6.9 mi. RT||Challenging|
|Dogwood Trail||1.8 mi.||Moderate|
|Prairie Branch Loop||1.5 mi.||Moderate|
|Coloneh Trail||.8 mi.||Easy|
|Loblolly Trail||.2 mi.||Easy|
Look at all of those wonderful trails!
There are also six points of interest at this park. Huntsville state park is a Civilian Conservation Corps park, so a lot of the features here are remnants of their handiwork. If you want to see all six of them you’ll need to plan a full day’s worth of hiking because they are fairly spread out.
The one you can see from the car though is the historic CCC lodge that was built in 1939. Very reminiscent of CCC lodges throughout Texas, it is the perfect wood building that makes you truly feel like you’re outdoors.
Almost on the trail…
After eating breakfast I decided to break down camp, and start to gather all of my gear for the day’s hike. Because checkout from the campsite is 11 a.m. I wanted to have everything moved to a nearby parking space to free up my camping area.
Belly full and vehicle packed, I got in to start my car and pushed the button to only have the holiday lights of my dashboard laugh at me when the engine would not crank up.
Let’s try this again. The familiar hum of a clicking sound coming from my engine withdrew a lengthy sigh from deep within my lungs.
I called up to the headquarters for assistance, and once he arrived we tried jumping my battery but with no such luck.
I’m grateful to have insurance that covers my tow, so even after having my father come lend a hand, my Subaru was towed to the nearest Autozone for a new car battery.
All completely my fault due to procrastination, but still not how I was expecting to spend three hours of my day.
The only hiking I ended up doing was a crossover trail walking to the gift shop to pick up my visit lapel pin. Other than that I got skunked on the lake, and only had conversations with the gators to remember.
This is now on an automatic revisit list.