I recently did a 5-1/2 day thru-hike of the LST. These are my observations/thoughts on the trail.
I camped at three of the designated primitive campsites on my hike. They were indeed primitive, consisting of a fire ring ,a couple of tent sites and, sometimes, a log to sit on. I’m not complaining, it’s nice having a cleared flat tent site but there is not much here. The other two nights I camped in Sam Houston State Park, which was both expensive and not that great, and a primitive campsite which was lovely. I stopped for breaks at Stubblefield and Double Lake CGs and would try to arrange a night at Double Lake when I do the LST again. It was such a lovely setting. My first camp was probably my favorite, a primitive camp on lake Conroe around LST mile 16.5.
With the exception of the East Fork of the San Jacinto river crossing and a couple of miles around LST 93.0 the trail was excellent, packed earth with few rocks and well-maintained. I would guess over the 96 miles I stepped over roughly 200 fallen logs but that’s to be expected. There was also one swampy area (where the trail crosses FS202D) I was able to detour around.
There are not very many winter thru-hiking opportunities that do not involve ice axes, snowshoes or skis. The Lone Star Trail is an exception. At under 100 miles you only need a 6-7 day weather window which is quite common even in January. I only had one cold, wet day.
On the first day I passed three thru-hikers. I never saw these guys again. I also saw three or four day hikers near Lake Conroe. After that, over the next five days, I saw a grand total of one other hiker, a guy who was doing a west end yo-yo. Also I don’t think I saw a single car at any of the trailheads (which were very nice, by the way). I met a lone hunter near the end (in the swamp around mile 94). So, in four and and half days, after I left Huntsville State Park, I saw a total of two people.
The bridges on the trail were, for the most part, in good condition. There were some damaged walkways near the end and, of course, there is no bridge of any kind across the East Fork of the San Jacinto.
With the exception of a couple of squirrels and a beaver I did not see another animal besides birds. This may have something to do with the fact that hunting is allowed.
The trail is extremely well blazed. And there are more signs than I think I have ever seen on a hiking trail. It would be really hard to get lost on the LST.
Just what the heck is the deal with some people and their dogs? This is the only hike I have ever taken pepper spray on and I’m glad I did. Especially if you hike without poles you should have pepper spray. I sprayed two dogs and almost sprayed a third. I have never had dog problems like this on a trail it was very disconcerting and scary a few times. I love dogs. I’ve had a dog. The problem is not dogs, the problem is people.
Like most thru-hikes there is some road walking. Mostly rural roads with very little traffic and a nice change from the trail. The exception is the 3 miles after leaving Evergreen, on FM 945, extremely narrow shoulders and cars doing 65 mph. This was not a fun hike part of the hike. If you decide to try to hitch this section you should try getting a ride in Evergreen because there is no place for cars to pull off once you leave.
The trail was very clean with little trash except in a few places, mainly near road crossings. I did see the odd bit of TP.
What I learned, what I would do differently.
Not much, but a few things:
- Take the “unofficial” East Fork bypass. Swimming at 35 degrees was not fun.
- Try to cache at least one food drop to reduce pack weight at the start.
- Try to schedule a night at Double Lake CG. It was a very pretty spot.
- Try to pick a week without rain!
- Skip Huntsville State Park – the extra miles aren’t worth it. Who needs showers?!