Angelina National Forest Activity Guides:
Angelina National Forest
Angelina National Forest Overview
Angelina National Forest is part of a patchwork of public landsand one of four national foreststhat protect chunks of a unique part of Lone Star heritage. While Texas is well-known for its dusty, big-country landscapes, here in the Piney Woods, along the easternmost edge of the state, the landscape is a watery region of lush vegetation, bald-cypress swamps, gently rolling hills, dense hardwood thickets, tall longleaf pines, and old forests, which hide away rare orchids in their depths.
Angelina is the most waterlogged of the public lands in these parts; it centers on the massive Sam Rayburn Reservoir, a man-made bass-fishermen's paradise with sizable largemouth, crappie, catfish, and white bass populations. Two developed recreation areas, Caney Creek and Sandy Creek, offer recreation users camping, picnicking, cold showers, boating, and fishing on or near the shores of Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Additional boat ramps on the reservoir are available at Harvey Creek and Townsend Recreation Area. Two smaller lakes, Bouton Lake and Boykin Springs, are excellent spots for picnicking, swimming, fishing, and canoeing in a scenic setting of longleaf pines.
The Upland Island and Turkey Hill Wildernesses areas, both covered by dense pine and hardwood forests, offer plenty of backcountry recreation opportunities, including hiking, wilderness camping, horseback riding, fishing, and hunting. Here, just know that you'll likely be sharing at least portions of your trip with chiggers, stinging insects, and a poisonous snake or two.
Land Some Lunker Bass
Tune into enough of those Sunday-morning fishing shows on ESPN and you're sure to see a tournament held on Sam Rayburn Reservoir. The largest lake entirely within Texas borders, Sam Rayburn supports a nationally renowned trophy-bass fishery; largemouths exceeding ten pounds are not uncommon. Spring and summer bass fishing can be excellent, often with jigs, worms, lizards, crank, and spinnerbaits. Concentrate on the outer edges of flooded weed beds lying near deep creek channels. In cold weather, look for crappie gathering next to bridge pilings in deep water.
Spot a Red-Cockaded Woodpecker
As is pretty much the case throughout southern and eastern Texas, the birding in Angelina National Forest can be spectacular. There are good numbers of wood ducks, bald eagles, herons, and migratory waterfowl at Rayburn Reservoir, and in the open longleaf pine forests you'll spot red-cockaded woodpeckers—a bluebird-size woodpecker with a black-and-white barred back—one of the rarest birds in North America. Other rarities include brown-headed nuthatches, Henslow's sparrow, and Bachman's sparrow; other wildlife ranges from armadillo, gray fox, bob cat, and deer to numerous reptiles and small furbearers.
Hike the Sawmill Trail
For most people, a ramble down the Sawmill Trail will be just the right speed for an up-close look at some of the most interesting features of Angelina National Forest's ecosystem. Five and a half miles long, the trail winds between Bouton Lake and Boykin Springs. You'll pass through excellent examples of the forest's dominant habitat—dry, upland longleaf pine woods, a dramatic contrast to the rocks and cascading springs at Boykin Springs. A quarter-mile-long spur near the middle portion of the trail leads to the abandoned Aldridge Sawmill site, a remnant of a rapacious logging industry that harvested all of East Texas's old-growth pine forests. This headlong clear-cutting of climax forest spelled the end for the ivory-billed woodpecker; its cousin, the red-cockaded woodpecker, nearly followed the ivory-billed on the road to extinction. But now, this trail through Angelina is one of the few places where you can spot a red-cockaded woodpecker, along with interesting flora such as pitcher plants.
Canoe Boykin Lake
Also at Boykin Springs is nine-acre Boykin Lake, a great place to paddle on a hot summer day, when you can always jump overboard to cool off. Swimming and paddling are popular activities in the lake. You can bring along fishing tackle, or just enjoy the ride—the lake is a great place for bird-watching. In the cooler months, consider a night at Boykin Lake's campground; it has a lovely rustic feel and there is a lot to explore.
Drive the Texas Forest Trail
The route through East Texas' Piney Woods region connects four national forests, including the Angelina. An especially good road for scoping fall foliage. Drive through Governor Hogg Shrine State Historical Park, Lake O' the Pines, and Caddo Lake State Park on your way to Sam Rayburn Reservoir and Angelina National Forest.
- Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail
- Day 1: Pineywoods and Bottomland Hardwoods