We Always Enjoy Our Visits to Huntsville State Park:
Video: Huntsville State Park Tour
As Native Houstonians, we've spent a lot of time at Huntsville State Park over the years. The park is located just about an hour north of Houston just off of I-45/I-75, between New Waverly and Huntsville, Texas, barely outside the Sam Houston National Forest. Its easy to access location makes it a great park to get away for a week, a weekend or even for just a few hours during the day. Over the years, we done all of those things and we've always found the park to be a relaxing get-away.
Huntsville is where you'll begin to see some gentle rolling hills as you drive north from Houston. These small hills aren't anything like you'll see in the Texas Hill Country at Garner State Park or even further northeast around Mission Tejas State Park or Tyler State Park, but they are enough to make leveling your RV a bit of a challenge in some of the campsites. Be sure to bring your leveling blocks and be prepared to spend some time choosing the right site for you once you get here. But trust us, once you are all set up, that little challenge is absolutely worth it to get to stay within this beautiful park!
Our Campsite in the Raven Hill Camping Area
Huntsville State Park is home to 155 campsites and 30 shelters. Some of the campsites are for either RVs or tents, others are reserved only for tent camping. Most sites are back-in, but there are some pull-through sites primarily in the Raven Hill Camping Area. One unique feature of Huntsville State Park that we really like is that all of the shelter sites also feature 30/50amp electrical and water connections. You can reserve a shelter site for your RV in case you'd like a little extra covered space to spread out or if you have other folks camping with you. The park also has a dump station on each side of the lake. All of the RV campsites have 30/50amp electrical and water connections. Some are full hookup.
This is another one of those popular state parks that you will want to plan ahead for, particularly if you plan to camp during a weekend. Friday and Saturday night reservations require a two night minimum stay year round. We were surprised during our visit in July that the weekdays even during the summer were quiet. So if you can swing a camping trip during the week, you'll have a more peaceful experience (apparently even during the summer).
Hiking with Stacie's Mom
We have camped both in the Prairie Branch Camping Area and in the Raven Hill Camping Area. These are on opposite sides of Raven Lake and there are benefits to each. Raven Hill offers full-hookup campsites, mostly pull-through. The sites, particularly on the outer edge of the loop tend to be large and spacious. But, some of them are on a hill, so again, remember those leveling blocks and pack your patience. The RV section of the Coloneh Camping Area sits right next to Raven Hill. These are back-in electric and water sites with good shade. They appear to be a little bit more level than some of the Raven Hill campsites.
Prairie Branch is on the opposite side of Lake Raven from Raven Hill and Coloneh. These sites look to us to be smaller than the other sections, but some are right on the water. Prairie Branch sites are back-in with electric and water connections. This side of the lake also features the park store, boathouse, boat ramp and Raven Lodge.
Camping loops on both sides of the lake have access to trail heads for hiking and biking. There is also trailhead parking throughout the park and parking at the Nature Center/Amphitheater.
Our Campsite in the Prairie Branch Camping Area
Camping at Huntsville State Park on Thanksgiving Weekend
Our camping trips to Huntsville have occurred in the summer, spring and fall. Like so many of our state parks, Huntsville is very popular on Spring Break and during holidays. We camped here during the weekend after Thanksgiving one year, and were lucky to get the last campsite that we could fit into. Again, it pays to plan ahead here, especially if you have a larger RV.
We enjoy hiking, biking, kayaking and geocaching here. The Nature Center is interesting and the park usually hosts a wide variety of ranger programs to teach you more about the park and what you can find here. Be sure to take some time to put Huntsville State Park on your list of places to camp. This is a fun park to visit in the summer with lots of shade from the forest, a fun park to visit in fall to see leaves changing, a fun park in the spring to see migrating birds... heck, it's just a fun park any time of year!
National Forest Marker Just Outside of Huntsville State Park
Hiking Amongst the Tall Trees
The History of Huntsville State Park:
Today, Huntsville State Park is a beautiful 2,083 acre wooded park that sits just outside the boundaries of the Sam Houston National Forest. But it didn't always look like this.
Prior to the mid-nineteenth century, this area was a beautiful forest of tall trees, fresh water creeks, fish, birds, berries and wildlife. When European explorers first came to this area back in the sixteenth century, they found the Bidai, a group of Native American people who were farmers, hunters and gatherers. The Spaniards returned in 1774 to establish the first European settlement in this area approximately 34 miles north of here.
During the mid-late 1800s, the northern United States faced a shortage of lumber. The railroad's arrival in this area in 1871 brought the promise of prosperity. Since this region had an abundance of trees, it made economic since to set up logging companies here to harvest the trees and ship them north via train. The logging industry continued here from the 1880s into the early 1900s. Historians believe that most of the logging had stopped here by the beginning of World War I, and by the 1930s, the trees had begun to grow back.
The CCC-Built Raven Lodge
It was during the 1930s that the New Deal began to develop work programs in response to the Great Depression. One of those programs, the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) put men to work across the United States building public parks including state and national parks. To be selected for the program, communities had to apply for consideration and they had to provide the land. The folks here in Walker County wanted a park, so voters approved bonds of $20,000 to purchase the land and donated it to the State Parks Board.
The first CCC companies to arrive here (Companies 873 and 1827) were forestry companies. They worked from 1933 until 1937 on flood control, firefighting and generally preparing the land. They built early roads, culverts and bridges here.
In 1937, CCC Company 1823 arrived. Company 1823 was made up entirely of African American World War I Veterans who had also helped to build Palmetto, Abilene, Longhorn Caverns and Kerrville State Parks. They planted more trees to help with reforestation, and built the dam which formed Lake Raven, the boathouse, the combination recreation building (now called the Raven Lodge), a pump house, culverts, bridges and the spillway. Work was coming along nicely on the park until November 1940 when a storm dumped over 12 inches of rain here in 2 days. The ground was saturated and the dam collapsed, flooding the park and emptying Lake Raven. The men of the CCC worked to repair the damage and get back on track of park development, but in 1942 as the US entered World War II, the Civilian Conservation Corps program was disbanded.
Wildflowers at Huntsville State Park
A Great Blue Heron Relaxing on the Pier
After the Civilian Conservation Corps left, workers from the Works Progress Administration (WPA) and local prison laborers continued to work on the park during World War II. They were able to complete enough for the park to open to limited day use during this time, but funds were tight. It wasn't until a decade later that the funding issue for this park was solved by returning to the past. The Texas Forest Service began cutting down selected trees within the park and selling the lumber. The money raised through the lumber sales paid to finally repair the dam, restore Lake Raven and complete the park.
Huntsville State Park officially opened to the public on May 18, 1956, 23 years after the first CCC Company arrived to begin developing the park!
We Love Hiking in the Forest
Lake Raven is Great for Paddling
Things to Do at Huntsville State Park:
Hiking: Definitely, our favorite thing to do at Huntsville State Park! This park offers almost 20 miles of hiking trails, with distances ranging from 0.2 miles on the easy Loblolly Trail to 8.5 miles on the challenging Triple C Trail. Two trails (the Triple C and the Chinquapin Trails) completely circle the park. If you are interested in an easy trail that is longer than the Loblolly Trail, check out the Coloneh Trail which runs 0.8 miles between the Coloneh and Raven's Hill Camping Areas. Trailhead parking is available throughout the park. Serious hikers may want to check into the Lone Star Hiking Trail which runs near the state park line through the Sam Houston National Forest. The 129 mile Lone Star Hiking Trail is the only long-distance National Recreation Trail in Texas, and is Texas' longest continuously marked and maintained path. None of the park trails connect to the Lone Star Hiking Trail.
Paddling: 215 acre Lake Raven is a no-wake lake that is contained completely within the boundaries of Huntsville State Park. This is an easy place to paddle for even novice kayakers like us. You can bring your own kayak or canoe, or rent one from the boathouse located right next to the park store. Paddleboats are also available for rent.
Boating: Small boats are allowed on the lake, but must not create a wake. The park's boat ramp is located between the Raven Lodge day use area and the screened shelters.
Boat Rentals are Available at the Boathouse
Huntsville State Park has 2 Lighted Fishing Piers
Biking: Most trails in Huntsville State Park are open to both hiking and biking. The exception is for trails near the lake that are considered highly erosive, bikes are not allowed on trails where erosion might be a problem. This is a forest and tree roots and other obstacles exist on the trails.
Fishing: Two lighted fishing piers exist here at the park: one in the Prairie Branch Camping Area and the other in the Coloneh Camping Area. Both fishing piers and the boat dock have fish cleaning stations. No fishing license is required for bank fishing inside a Texas State Park or to fish from a boat in waters completely enclosed within a Texas State Park (like Lake Raven here at Huntsville State Park). If you forgot your fishing gear, you can borrow some from the park.
Geocaching: There are at least 6 geocaches located inside Huntsville State Park. If you would like to learn more about geocaching, take a look at our post "Discover Amazing Places By Geocaching".
Birding and Wildlife Viewing: During our visits here over the years, we've seen a variety of birds, bunnies, squirrels and the occasional deer. They say that a good number of alligators, possums, and moles also live here. The park's birding guide says that approximately 250 species of birds have been seen here, particularly during spring migration. The park's bird blind is located off of the Coloneh Trail, but somehow we missed it.
Ranger Programs: Huntsville State Park has a very active ranger program schedule. On the Saturday of our most recent visit, there were ranger programs on alligators, hiking with dogs from a local shelter and yoga in the park. We have also seen programs listed for star gazing, fishing, orienteering and wildlife. Make sure you ask about the ranger programs when you check in!
Swimming: Swimming is allowed in the designated swimming area only. There are no life guards on duty and alligators live in this park, so stay alert and keep a close eye on the kiddos.
Huntsville State Park Nature Center
Park Store Air Pump
Other Amenities at Huntsville State Park:
CCC Structures: The CCC built Raven Lodge is available for rent for special events. It is air conditioned and heated, and includes private restrooms and a kitchen. We attended a family anniversary party there and it was a great venue. The boathouse is also a CCC structure. As with many Civilian Conservation Corps parks, you find little hints to their history throughout the park. Part of the fun is looking for them while you explore.
One thing we always find interesting about park structures built by the CCC is their design. National Park architects designed park buildings to blend into and compliment their environment and that is why the style of CCC-built structures is unique to each park. Here, for example, Raven Lodge is an unassuming wood paneled building that fits right in nestled amongst the forest trees overlooking Lake Raven. Be sure to go around the back and check out the view from its patio.
Park Store: Huntsville State Park's store is located next to the boathouse in the day use area near the Raven Lodge. They sell ice, ice cream, a few camping items, small groceries and souvenirs. Just outside the store, you'll find the park's air machine. For 75 cents you can air up your bike tires, inflatable kayak or stand up paddleboard, or anything else needing a little bit of air.
Amphitheater: Located behind the Nature Center, the amphitheater is a meeting place for ranger-led programs.
Playground: There are three playgrounds inside Huntsville State Park: one between the Raven Hill and Coloneh Camping Areas, in the Day Use Area next to the Raven Lodge, and one in the Prairie Branch Camping Area.
Nature Center: Huntsville State Park's Nature Center is home to baby alligators and interactive information on a lot of local plant and animal life found here in the park. It's air conditioned and fun for all ages, so it's a good place to visit when it's really hot. Park rangers and/or volunteers are available to answer questions or provide more information about the park. Check with the park headquarters about Nature Center hours.
Contact Huntsville State Park:
Park Address: 565 Park Road 40 W, Huntsville, TX 77340
*The Huntsville State Park reservation system says that it has 93 campsites that can accommodate RVs up to 40 feet and another 31 campsites that can accommodate RVs larger than 40 feet long. While it does have some sites that can accommodate big rigs, we're not confident that the park truly has that number of sites that larger rigs would fit in and be able to properly level. We definitely suggest arriving during the week or early on Friday if you have a larger rig to be sure that you have plenty of campsites to choose from. Besides site lengths, many of the Huntsville campsites are very unlevel (the park has rolling hills) and other campsites have trees that may make parking a bit difficult. (Yet another reason to arrive early in the day. This is a challenging park to set up in after dark.) The park website also indicates that the Raven Hill Camping Area is reserved for RVs only. However, the reservation system lists that camping loop as an option for tent campers as well.
One great thing about Huntsville State Park is that every RV campsite (all 93 of them) has both 30 and 50amp electricity and water connections. Plus, all of the screened shelters are also equipped with 30/50amp electrical and water hookups and RVs are allowed to reserve screened shelters sites as well! That's an additional 30 sites. Each campsite has a picnic table, firepit/BBQ grill and many have a lantern hook.
Huntsville State Park is very popular state park, so a 2 night minimum stay is required to camp on Friday and Saturday year round. Comfort Stations with restrooms and showers are located between Raven Hill and Coloneh, with two more in Coloneh, and one in Prairie Branch. Huntsville State Park has two dump stations: one on each side of Lake Raven.
Huntsville State Park Shelter
Restroom Building at Huntsville State Park
Group Camping at Huntsville State Park:
There is no specific Group Camping area at Huntsville State Park. Everyone in a group will need to make their own reservations.
Screened Shelters at Huntsville State Park:
Shelters with Air Conditioning and Heating
Total Shelters: 2
Water and Electricity at Site
30/50amp RV Electrical Hookups at Site
Park at the Shelter
Basic Screened Shelters
Total Shelters: 28
Water and Electricity at Site
30/50amp RV Electrical Hookups at Site
Park at the Shelter
Each shelter at Huntsville State Park includes a picnic table, fire ring, BBQ grill. Bring your own bedding and all of your own supplies. A comfort station with showers is located within the shelter area. And yes, we confirmed with the park that RVs can reserve a shelter site. All of the shelter sites have 30/50amp hookups and water connections for RVs. A dump station is shared with the Prairie Branch Camping Area.
Visiting Huntsville State Park For a Day:
Day Use Areas
Picnic areas are located on the same side of the lake as the screened shelters and Prairie Branch camping areas. Day use areas also include lighted fishing piers, a playground, a lake swimming area, canoe/kayak/peddleboat rentals, a park store, amphitheater, nature center and boat ramp. A Day Use Bath House with showers is located near the swimming area. Trailhead parking is also located near the front of the park, in the Coloneh Camping Area and near the shelters. A Group Screened Pavilion and Group Recreation Hall (the Raven Lodge) are available for day use rental.
Disclaimer: These details are accurate to to the best of our knowledge. We try our best to provide accurate information, but we are human and sometimes details change. Please check with the park directly to confirm current information.