Sunday, January 1, 2012

San Angelo SP: December 30, 2011

The weather in San Angelo was beautiful the days immediately after Christmas, so Donna and I decided to get out and enjoy the sunny, warm weather. And what better way to enjoy such weather than by taking a hike. We headed out to San Angelo State Park, which is just on the west edge of San Angelo. SASP has about 50 miles of multi-use trails, so there are plenty of opportunities to stretch your legs out there.

We had hiked many of these trails about 1995 or so so when this park was added to the state park system. Prior to that, it was an US Corps of Engineers Park. Actually, the park consists of 2 "sides": the north side and the south side. By road, the entrances to the different sides are probably about 10 miles apart, but they are also connected by trails. The trails may be used by hikers, bikers, and equestrians.

Since it had been so long since our last hike here, we wanted to keep the hike short and simple. We parked our truck at the Chaparral Group Shelter (see map) and began our hike on the Chaparral Trail heading west.

Chaparral Trail

Along the ridges and hills, the trails tend to be rocky. This makes going up and down slopes somewhat treacherous, especially for older people. Lose rocks on slopes make footing difficult. But we had our hiking poles with us, so we had no problems.

The Chaparral Trail winds upstream from the old "Red Dam" and emerges at the Isabel Harte day use area. As we crossed the road there, we spotted a wild pig. At this point, we picked up the Winding Snake Trail, which wound through low areas dominated by mesquite flats.

Mesquite Flats on Winding Snake Trail

We passed through an old campground from the days when the Corps of Engineers operated the park. Most of the facilities were falling apart, and it gave us the feeling of a ghost town. We then soon emerged at the Burkett Trailhead.

Burkett Trail Head

Burkett Trailhead was the point where we turned around on this day. However, this trailhead is the jumping off place for the trail system that continues on to the north side of the park.

We had a short walk of a quarter mile or so up the paved road to hop on our next trail, Lanky Lackey. Since there are so many trails, we were able to map a loop so that we did not have to back track and go over the same trail twice. Lanky Lackey is a pretty nondescript trail that works its way back near Isabel Harte day use area, where it then becomes the Nature Trail. The Nature Trail had numerous numbered markers along the trail, so there might be a brochure available to detail plants and other nature items. However, we did not have the brochure, so I can't say for sure. Most of the Nature Trail is along lower elevations in areas that may have once held water from the lake. However, today it is dominated by mesquites and cactus.

Nature Trail: straight and level dirt path among the mesquites

After the Nature Trail, we then took a series of trails to work our way back to our truck. These included the Horny Toad Trail, Tally Valley Trail, and the Chaparral Trail.

I like the trails in this park. Based upon the limited hiking we have done there so far, there appears to be 2 types of trails: those along the hills/ridges and those in the flats. Trails along the ridges and hills require dealing with lose rocks. There is only shorter vegetation, such as cactus and scrub brush. In the flats, however, there are mesquites that would provide some shade in the summer months, and these trails are dirt and are much easier to walk on. As a result, hiking along the ridges/hills for us is slower as we are careful to avoid slipping on the lose rocks, while on the dirt in the flats we are able to make much better time.

The actual trails are normally single tracks, but occasionally there are dual tracks and sometimes old Corps of Engineer roads are available, and many of these are paved. Yes, the pavement is crumbling, but the foundation is still there. As I mentioned earlier, old campgrounds are scattered throughout the park, but these are no longer maintained as they are now so far away from the water (when water is in the lake).

Marker at trail head of Horny Toad Trail

The trails are normally marked, at least at trail heads (see image above). However, we did come across several trail junctions where there were no signs present.

My biggest complaint would have to be with the map -- or rather, the lack of. Most state parks have a pretty good map available on their websites in PDF format. However, the map for SASP does not show the bulk of the trails. I asked for a map at the gate, and they provided one that looked as if it had been copied and recopied numerous times. It was also discolored, making it difficult to read. It lacked several prominent locations, including the Highland Range Scenic Overlook, which really is a major landmark for people hiking along the western edge of the park. The map also does not give mileage, so I'm unsure how long our hike on this particular day was. My guess would be somewhere in the neighborhood of 5 miles.

Still, with all the miles of trails available at SASP, we plan to spend plenty of time out there footing our way through the mesquite and the cactus and enjoying the long-distance vistas.


  1. Mr. Cameron, thank you for posting your experience and description of the state park. I've lived in San Angelo 15 years and have never been hiking at the park. Based on the information on the SASP website, I was debating whether to try it out this weekend with a friend from out of town. But now that I have read your post, we will definitely go hiking there.

  2. Silver, I think you'll enjoy hiking at the park, especially in winter. Trails are wide. I like that because it makes it easier to spot snakes. Actually, the north section is probably more scenic than the south section.

    Enjoy your hike(s).