Lone Star Trail in Review

I recently did a 5-1/2 day thru-hike of the LST. These are my observations/thoughts on the trail.

My favorite campsite, on Lake Conroe

Campsites

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.

Trail conditions

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.

Weather

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.

Other hikers/people

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.

Bridges

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.

Wildlife

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.

Signs/Trail markings

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.

Dogs

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.

Road walking

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.

Trash

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.

Trash at FM945

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?!

Lone Star Trail, Day 1-2

Day 1 – Sun, Jan 23 – LST 16.5

Bert dropped me off at the western terminus of the trail (TH #1) at just after 9:00 AM and I was walking by 9:15. It was a beautiful first day – sunny and cool (50’s).

Looking very clean on day 1

The trail is in good shape and there seems to be lots of water. Saw my first (and only) thru hikers of the day at about 2 miles (they were getting water out of a pond). Three guys who I never saw again. Also saw a few day hikers (maybe 6 or 7) over the course of the day. 

Stopped for lunch at 11:30 and then back on the trail at 12:15. Got to Lake Conroe and my first campsite about 3:00.

Lake Conroe

Cell coverage is spotty. I have one bar here (sometimes). Dinner was nice – a freeze dried pasta thing. Supposed to rain tomorrow but who knows? I hit Stubblefield CG at about 4 miles tomorrow so I don’t need more than a liter of water from here. Too bad… there’s lots! A whole lake!

Camp #1

All in all a very nice first day of hiking. My first impression of the LST is very favorable.

Day 2 – Mon, Jan 24 – LST 35

Helluva day! It rained all day – non-stop – for 10 hours. I did not see another hiker all day. The first couple of hours weren’t too bad – my rain gear was keeping me dry and the trail conditions were good.

Early on Day 2 – wet but still cheerful

I got to Stubblefield Campground around 8:30 just before the rain really began to come down so I hung out for 30 minutes or so waiting for a lull before moving on. I crossed over the new bridge heading out of the campground.

In the dry at Stubblefield

By noon I was pretty much soaked. My rain poncho was holding up nicely but my “waterproof” mitten shells and wind pants were soaked through. I was really getting tired of the rain. I had gone about 12 miles and was on Cotton Creek Cemetery road when I noticed a house with a large carport on the south side of the road. I knocked on the door and asked a very nice lady if I could stand in her carport to get out of the rain. She said yes and I ended up eating my lunch there.

My carport refuge!
My scenic lunch view

I didn’t want to leave the carport but I didn’t think the homeowners would let me camp there so I headed back out into the rain around 1:00. I got to the Camelia Lake dam (about mile 15 on the day) around 2:00. Was a little worried about this because of all the rain but it was easy-cheesy, just took off my shoes and socks and walked barefoot across the top.

I had planned to just find a place to camp near Alligator Creek (LST 33.2) but with all the rain I really wanted someplace I could get dry before putting up my tent so…. after looking at my map I decided to take the North Loop trail into Huntsville State Park. What I didn’t notice was that the trail crossed Alligator Creek after about a quarter mile. And with all the rain the creek was overflowing. I ended up fording the stream in my crocs after I took off my socks. I did not fall in. That is the best thing I can say about that. 

I got to the campground after a couple miles (this turned into a 20+ mile day for me) around 3:00 PM, and payed my $34 for an RV site (really?). A nice gentleman gave me a ride to my campsite with access to a dry bathroom.

Camp Day 2, Huntsville State Park

Huntsville State Park is not really set up for hikers or tent campers and it seemed a little pricey for basically a tent space, a picnic table and a flush toilet but I’m not complaining. The bathrooms were out of the rain.

The rain finally stopped around 10 PM. I got up around 1 AM and took the rain fly off my tent and shook it out because drops were falling on my face while I was sleeping. It seemed to help. Hopefully tomorrow will bring some sun…

Lone Star Trail – Preparations

Unlike most thru-hikes the LST, at just under 100 miles, can be done in one 5-6 day section so I don’t have to worry about resupplies.

LoneStar hiking Trail Map
Lone Star Hiking Trail

Trail Access/Plan

The western terminus (LST Trail Head #1) is about 75 miles (90 minutes) from downtown Houston. Roberta will drive me early Sunday morning so I can get a full day of hiking in on the first day. 

DayDistanceLST MileComment
116.616.6Camp at Lake Conroe
216.633.2Alligator Creek
318.151.3Primitive CG
417.368.6Primitive CG
515.883.6Primitive CG
612.896.4Eastern Trail Terminus
Hike Plan

Water

It’s always about the water! The LST trail organization uses a “drop” system. Each water source is assigned a drop number (1-5). Then entire trail is assigned a drop number (currently 1.5) so any source with a drop number larger than that should have water. Water seems to be fairly plentiful (though there are a couple of ~15 mile dry sections) so I will not be caching water.

Weather

The weather forecast for the Conroe area looks pretty good, with one exception, Monday. Possibly heavy rain is forecast. On the plus side that should mean plenty of water to drink. On the down side, besides getting wet, this could make the East Fork of the San Jacinto ford more difficult (the old bridge washed out in Harvey).

LST Weather Forecast

Pack Weight

Even though this is a winter hike I won’t be needing micro-spikes or heavy winter clothes. Fully loaded with 6 days of food and 2 L of water my pack weighs in a just under 30 lbs.

ItemWt (Lbs)
Pack/Tent/Pad/Quilt6.5
Cooking (Stove/Fuel)1.0
Hydration (Bladder/Filter/etc)1.2
Toiletries/First Aid1.7
Clothing (Packed)3.6
Electronics (Battery/SPOT/Cables)1.5
Food (6 days)9.1
Water (2L)4.4
Total29.0
LST Pack Weight