Photo by Lance Varnell

From Beaumont, head north on US 96 about 10 miles to Village Creek State Park. This heavily wooded preserve occupies a bend of its name-sake creek, a free-flowing stream that offers a flat-water canoe float through the heart of the Big Thicket to the Neches River. If you like, rent a canoe from one of the local outfitters in Lumberton or Silsbee. Take time for a picnic or a hike on the park’s eight miles of trails, which include a one-mile jaunt to a sandy swimming beach and a slightly shorter trek through cypress swamps that provide habitat for abundant wildlife.

In Lumberton, go west on West Chance Cutoff Road, and cut over to US 69. Drive north, among bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, Indian blankets, phlox, and primroses. Eight miles past Kountze, turn east on FM 420 to the visitor center of Big Thicket National Preserve, which is comprised of 15 units spread over seven coun-ties. A unique convergence of eastern hardwood forests, Gulf coastal plains, and Midwest prairie create 10 defined habitats here, accessible via eight trails from one to 17 miles in length. Pick up a map at the visitor center and choose your favorite.

Continue north on Texas 69, and turn west on FM 2827, then south at the sign for Sundew Trail, a one-mile, wheelchair-accessible option that loops through longleaf pine/wet-land savannah. Several species of or–chids and four species of carnivorous plants occur here, including pitcher plant and the trail’s namesake sundew. This dime-sized plant’s white or pink flowers bloom in summer, as do most wildflowers in these heavy woods. You’ll see dogwood, magnolia, and redbud in the spring.

Drive north on US 69 about 17 miles to Woodville, watching for fringed sneezeweed, Carolina jessamine, yellow wood-sorrel, and prolific southern dewberry. Enjoy all-you-can-eat chicken and dumplings or fried chicken at the Pickett House Restaurant in Heritage Village, a living pioneer town just west of Woodville on Texas 190. Then drive east on Texas 190, across B.A. Steinhagen Lake, to Martin Dies Jr. State Park. The latter’s classic Piney Woods landscape includes numerous magnolia-lined sloughs, while four miles of hiking trails and a two-mile nature trail offer good places to spot bluebonnets, bluebells, bloodroot, jack-in-the-pulpits, and other wildflowers.

Drive 12 miles farther to Jasper, and turn south on US 96. Then, since country roads often yield the best wildflowers, follow FM 1005 for 10 miles to FM 1013, and go west across the Neches River to Spurger. Take FM 92 south to Silsbee, where Big Thicket rangers like to eat at West Texas BBQ, known for its delicious pies. Follow US 96 back to Beaumont. Cardinal River Adventures’ Neches River boat tours depart from Riverfront Park downtown, Saturdays at 10 a.m. After a long day, rest up at one of Beaumont’s many accommodations. Still hungry? Head to Spindletop Restaurant in the Crockett Street District downtown for the best rolls ever.

Back to: Trip to Bountiful 2010

From the April 2010 issue

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