Have you ever been at a loss for something to do when the weather is beautiful? Living in Texas means great weather sneaks up on us sometimes. However, now that summer is here, there are endless possibilities for some fun in the sun. It may be your first instinct to go straight to that swimming pool, but there are numerous options for fun.
If you are looking to change things up a little bit, Huntsville State Park is the perfect place for all your outdoor activities. Open daily from 7:00 a.m.–10:00 p.m., the park offers activities for everyone in the family for just a small entrance fee. Admission is $5 per person; children 12 and under are free. Unknown to some, the park offers the community a place to camp, hike, bike, picnic, ride horses, fish, swim, paddle, geocache, and study nature. The park grounds include 21 miles of trails, playgrounds, and a nature center.
If you are drawn to the water, have no fear; there are plenty of activities to enjoy on and around the 210-acre Lake Raven. Designated swimming areas give the option to cool down and meet new people. On the edge of the water, Postcards met Amy Studer of College Station and her 2-year-old son, Houston. “We come at least once a month,” Amy said, “We like the hiking and swimming, but mostly [Houston] likes to play in the sand”. The swimming areas are open daily from 10:00 a.m.–8:00 p.m. If swimming is too wet for you, the park offers canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats for rent. Navigate your own boat across the enormous lake, but try not to tip over! Huntsville State Park also allows fishing for free—that’s right, FREE! No license is needed to come bait your hook and fish for the array of crappie, perch, catfish, and bass roaming the lake floor. The park is equipped with a boat ramp, fishing piers, and fish cleaning stations. You can bring your motorboat, but it must remain at idle speed only.
You do not have to be a fan of the water to experience the park. The park offers plenty of ways to just relax with the family. From picnic tables to places to host a barbecue, they have you covered. We spoke with Brenda Kinney of Huntsville, who is a regular to the park with her family. “We love cooking and playing in the water out here. It’s nice to just relax; they are keeping [the park] clean and enjoyable”. The park offers a group pavilion and hall to rent for bigger gatherings you may have. You will love the park so much, you may want to stay overnight. No problem. With screened shelters, shelters with amenities, and 160 campsites to choose from, your camping needs are covered. To make a reservation, call the park staff at (936) 295-5644.
The nature in the park is one of the biggest draws to visitors. The 21 trails offer a more personal tour of the Piney Woods and the secrets they hold. One way to explore the trails of the park is on horseback. (Note: You may not bring your own horses to the park.) 2E Stables leads hour-long trail rides through the park. They welcome all ages and riding abilities, so Postcards saddled up and went along for a ride. Led by trail boss Dewayne Rose, we set out for a beautiful ride through the woods. We rode along with 13-year-old Claire and 11-year old Sterling, who both had a blast. The two girls both commented on how sweet the horses were and how pretty the nature was. Sterling said, “The horses listened; wherever you go, it’s really pretty back there!” It is the perfect place for beginners, even if you’ve never been around a horse. “You can see how gentle each horse is, and every horse we have is like that,” Dewayne said. Contact 2E Stables to reserve your riding time at (210) 861-0105.
Our last adventure in the park was to find a park ranger. At the nature center, Postcards found Park Interpreter Jessica Gross. Jessica has worked for Huntsville State Park for four years. Her job is to interpret nature and wildlife to the public, lead nature hikes and educational programs for the kids, and to help run the nature center. The nature center is on the main road between the entrance to the park and Lake Raven. If you are interested in the living things in our forests, you should definitely join a free nature walk. When we asked Jessica her favorite thing about the park, she said, “You feel like you are in the wild, like you are away from the people in the city. You can really escape out here.” Another thing Jessica mentioned were the many volunteer opportunities. Whether you are a student at Sam Houston who needs volunteer hours or just a person wanting to give back to the community, all help is welcomed. Volunteer work could include trail work, picking up trash, or helping keep the nature center open during the week. If you do choose to volunteer in the mornings, you will have free entry for the rest of the day. To set up a time to serve, contact Jessica Gross.
There is something for everyone to enjoy at Huntsville State Park. The rangers’ saying is “You can do anything with an “ING” out here that is legal!” So go on out and enjoy our Piney Woods! The state park might be just the change of scenery your family needs.