You’d be hard-pressed to find a photographer who’s covered more ground in Texas than Laurence Parent, a leading landscape photographer and longtime contributor to Texas Highways.
Parent recently published an update of his guidebook Hiking Texas, A Guide to the State’s Greatest Hiking Adventures, 3rd Edition. He says the new edition, which builds on versions published in 1992 and 2009, introduces color photography, improved maps, and new hikes.
“The biggest reason for the update was to shift from half-tone black and white photos to four-color printed on coated paper,” says Parent, who recently moved to Prescott, Arizona, while maintaining a business office in Wimberley. “It really improves the appearance of the book and gives readers a better feel for what the hikes look like.”
Parent hit the road throughout 2017 and 2018 to re-hike and re-photograph most of the trails in the book. “I worked particularly hard in the spring of 2018 because spring is when much of Texas is at its most beautiful for photos,” he says. “I tried to have friends join me when possible, for safety, company, and to have photo models. However, I did have to do many of the hikes by myself.”
You don’t drive back and forth across Texas without encountering a few adventures along the way. Parent can rattle off several from his recent travels. There was the time he peeked into a small sinkhole at Government Canyon State Natural Area “and ended up nose to nose with a rattlesnake.” On the San Bernard Oak Trail at the San Bernard National Wildlife Refuge in Brazoria County, a swarm of mosquitoes “tried to eat me alive.”
In Big Bend National Park, the air conditioner on Parent’s truck quit a particularly hot day on River Road, and he encountered a herd of 60 auodads, non-native African sheep.
“A massive windstorm in the Guadalupe Mountains about blew a friend and me away,” Parent recalls. “Fortunately, our backpacking campsite at Blue Ridge was somewhat protected by forest or our tents might have looked like Tibetan prayer flags.”
At Franklin Mountains State Park, Parent hiked to the top of Anthony’s Nose, “an extremely rugged off-trail hike,” with a small group. “I wanted to stay near the summit for sunset photos,” he says “which meant we ended up descending 2,000 vertical feet in the dark through cliffs, talus, and endless spiny plants and cacti. We survived, but we all left blood and skin behind!”
Laurence Parent’s Top 5 Texas Hikes
- Big Bend National Park, West Texas: “The South Rim and Emory Peak trails are very well-known hikes, but hard to beat for sheer spectacular scenery. They both climb from the Chisos Basin up into the wooded high country of the Chisos Mountains. Emory Peak is the highest peak in the park. The Lost Mine Trail is a much easier trail but a contender for scenic beauty.”
- Guadalupe Mountains National Park, West Texas: “The Bowl in the heavily wooded high country basin in the top of the Guadalupe Mountains. Big ponderosa pine, southwestern white pine, and Douglas fir are common. Hunter Peak, the high point of the rim of the Bowl, offers views almost as spectacular as those from Guadalupe Peak.”
- Colorado Bend State Park, the Hill Country. “The Spicewood Springs Trail winds up a canyon following spring-fed Spicewood Creek. The creek’s clear waters tumble over multiple cascades and small waterfalls into pools big enough for a dip in warm weather. Gorman Falls is probably the biggest attraction at Colorado Bend State Park, but the beautiful pools and cascades along Spicewood Creek are hard to beat.”
- Palo Duro Canyon State Park, the Panhandle. “The Givens, Spicer, Lowry Trail is a less busy alternative to the Lighthouse Trail. Like the nearby Lighthouse Trail, it works its way past red rock bluffs and pinnacles in the bottom of Palo Duro Canyon.
- Davy Crockett National Forest, East Texas. “The Four C Trail winds through the lush Piney Woods for 19.7 miles. To do the whole thing usually requires an overnight backpack, but multiple crossings of forest roads allow many shorter sections to be done as easy day hikes. The most scenic stretch crosses the Big Slough Wilderness with its long boardwalks, bridges, sloughs, and large old-growth trees. People should check with the Forest Service to make sure floods haven’t damaged the bridges and boardwalks before hiking.”