Discover the Many East Texas Trails
The collegiate trail head in Paris is the start of 11 miles of paved trail that links Paris to Reno and on to Blossom.
Photo by LouAnn Campbell
Spring is in the air in East Texas. It’s the perfect time and place to lace up some hiking boots or sneakers and head outside.
There are some amazing trails in the region to spend some time with nature and a good place to start is the North East Texas Trail (NETT).
The NETT trail encompasses 130 miles of recycled rail banked corridor. This unique piece of Texas history stretches from Farmersville to New Boston. It winds through 19 towns and seven counties.
“We come out here when it’s nice just to walk,” said Laura Perales of Paris. Laura, her husband enjoy their walks on the trail with their three-year-old son.
The NETT has an interesting history. When Earl Erickson retired as the Pasadena parks and recreation director and moved to Paris, Texas, in 2003, he knew he needed a project to keep him busy. Erickson saw the NETT as a way to contribute to area communities and the health of its citizens. His work has allowed the vision of repurposing an invaluable rail banked corridor into pedestrian, bicycle, and equestrian trails to come to life.
The Trail at Heart
East of Farmersville by some 67 miles, the Collegiate Trail Head in Paris holds the distinction of being “The Heart of the NETT.” Signage features a commemorative railroad tie and spikes.
The trail continues from 8th Street in Paris, and the towns of Reno and Blossom are on the map in the next 11 miles. The Trail de Paris is a great place to enjoy the city and take to the trail. Pack a lunch and head to the observation deck. Grab a yoga mat for a stretch or a meditation session on one of the designated yoga spots in the Outdoor Yoga Park.
“I come over here to get outside and walk. I enjoy nature,” said 92-year-old Silas McFarlane of Paris.
When the Northeast Texas trail is finally completed, it will be one of the longest trails of its kind in the country. No motorized traffic is allowed so walkers, runners, and cyclists are safe to enjoy nature at their own pace.
“The longer the trail, the more people will travel to use it,” Erickson said.
Erickson developed the NETT Coalition. The advocacy group works with the Texas Department of Fish and Wildlife, rail bank agencies, and landowners on the continued development of the NETT.
Head out to the west side of NETT and call “wheels down” or start your run or walk at the Audie L. Murphy Trail Head near the historic onion shed in downtown Farmersville. There, visitors can enjoy a ride or hike on 2.5 miles of concrete and 2.5 miles of granite maintained by the city.
Parts of the NETT are still very austere and not paved or covered in gravel, but the views are amazing. The picturesque but damaged Sulphur River Bridge does not extend over the river and will require passersby to take in the scenery on an alternate path.
“In five years the entire trail will be paved or chipped and the bridges will be fixed,” Erickson said.
For now, trail conditions are provided at www.northeasttexastrail.org.
The Two-Wheel Preference
Cyclists in East Texas are a close knit group, always looking for an adventure. They love the outdoors and the peaceful solitude of riding their bikes around East Texas.
In June a bicycle ride called “Ride the NETT” is planned. It will leave out of Farmersville June 19. Sign-up and information can be found on the Ride the NETT Facebook event page.
A group of riders from the Longview and Marshall area take to the rural East Texas farm roads for what is known as “gravel-grinding.” Stagecoach Road near Marshall is a great location to get on a mountain bike or a cyclo-cross bike and get off the beaten path and away from the traffic of the paved highways.
“It’s a peaceful place to enjoy the scenery and train for my upcoming races,” said Bruce Stephens of Longview. He is currently training to race in the “Dirty Kanza,” a premier 200-mile endurance race on the gravel roads of Kansas.
“We don’t have to worry about traffic and people texting and driving while we ride out here,” said Anna Mullinax. Anna and her husband Richard are avid cyclists and mountain bikers who have ridden all the trails in East Texas as well as those in Shreveport.
The Stephens and the Mullinax’s make their way to the Davy Crockett National Forest near Alto to ride the hundreds of miles of gravel and forest roads.
Mission Tejas State Park, outside of Alto, is a great place to set up camp and take out the hiking boots. With miles of trails winding through the Davy Crockett National Forest, hikers can crush those Fitbit step goals and take in some amazing East Texas scenery.
For another option, Tyler State Park offers a 13-mile trail system for hiking and mountain biking that traverses up and down hills and over man-made bridges. Every year the Ray Porter Memorial Race is held there.
Tyler is also home to Faulkner Park and Lindsey Park. These pristine trails offer a challenging mountain bike ride and hiking to their patrons. Hit these up for an adrenaline charged ride, a run, or a relaxing hike. Bring the dog.
For mountain bike novices, the Herrington Patriot Center on the campus of the University of Texas at Tyler encourages that exploration. Mountain bikes are for rent at $5 a day. UT Tyler is home to a four-mile trail where mountain bikers can shred right on the campus. Pat Mayse State Wildlife Area, located northeast of Paris, is home to the Barber Hills Trail, and features 11 miles of trail for mountain biking and hiking.
“It’s an awesome place to ride, hike, and enjoy nature right here in our own backyard,” said Bryan Hargis, trail steward.
Texarkana is home to Camp Preston Hunt where a 6.7-mile mountain bike trail keeps the adrenaline pumping. The Bringle Lake trail system consists of a three-mile stretch of trail that takes riders and hikers around the beautiful lake.
Hamby Mountain Bike Trail in Longview is operated by the Longview Area Multisports Association. A membership in the association is needed in order to ride the trail.
Go for a Long Walk
East Texas also includes many parks and outdoor places for a leisurely walk.
The Azalea Trail offers glimpses of nature as it follows Hurricane Creek through the heart of Lufkin. Walkers can view native plants and small gardens, and perhaps even see numerous bird species, including owls, woodpeckers, and warblers. Although just under two miles, the trail connects two well-loved community parks.
Various other parks are also worth checking out. The Cargill Long Park Trail runs for three miles through Longview. The trail follows an old rail bed along a wooded corridor among suburban neighborhoods and parks. Rose Rudman Park in Tyler is a picturesque place to walk the dog. This 1.2-mile trail offers beautiful bridges and landscaped areas to get some exercise and enjoy the day. Caddo Lake State Park near Karnack offers a 2.5-mile hiking adventure to some exercise. The Lanana Creek Trail in Nacogdoches provides 3.5 miles of trails for East Texans to enjoy. The Atlanta State Park in Cass County is a great place for a nature hike on the 3.8-mile trail.