“An easy hike for those looking to spend some time in the forest.”
— Tom Peacock
Birding · Wildlife
Pedestrians must yield the trail to horses.
This loop starts at the Piney Creek Horse Camp on FSR 566. Heading southwest along the Yellow Trail
. Turn south, and follow County Road 2781 and turn right on FSR 530. After a short distance, turn right on the Orange Trail
and follow that around back to the start. The hike follows a 9.0 mile path through the gently rolling East Texas forests. A steady hiker can finish the walk in about 3 hours, plus time for breaks.
Need to Know
This hike follows horse trails, so the creeks are easily approached but not bridged. Hikers can expect dry foot crossings most of the time, but the stream crossings may be wet foot or impassable after heavy rains.
Camping is available at the nearby Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area, the two primitive horse camps in the Piney Creek area, or a bit further away at Mission Tejas State Park.
If you get the hike done early on weekends, try the local restaurant, Larry Bruce Gardens, for a freshly prepared lunch.
The Piney Creek area of the Davy Crockett National Forest has 53 miles of well-marked trails that meander through the gently rolling forest lands. To make the trails useful for those on foot, this hike is designed as a loop utilizing the Yellow Trail
and Orange Trail
, combined with a short section along forest roads. The directions show a clockwise loop that covers the road section early in the hike, but it can be done in either direction.
The starting point is the 566 Piney Creek Horse Camp, one of two USFS trailheads in the area. There is a large parking area with vault toilet and trash receptacles. The trails are wide, clear, well-marked, and lightly used. We have always had them to ourselves.
This hike can be combined with other loops in the area for a long weekend of day hiking or running. The whole trail system can be used for a more freeform backpacking trip.
Flora & Fauna
This is notably a pine forest with both new and old growth areas interspersed with oak and other trees native to the region. Hardwoods are more notable in the bottom land portions of the trails. There are seasonal flowers visible in the sunny areas and the American Beautyberry is prolific. A quiet hiker is likely to see numerous birds and sometimes white-tailed deer.
History & Background
The area was timbered by the Central Coal and Coke Company (4-C) many years ago. The remains of the lumber old mill are located at the nearby Ratcliff Lake Recreation area where you can also camp or stop by for a swim in the lake after a hike.