Back in the day, the area around what is now Lake Mineral Wells State Park was a cattle trail, and then a rail line, close to a well-known mineral resort. Today, Lake Mineral Wells State Park is a great place to take your RV for a week or a weekend. Like many other State Parks in Texas, this place combines the history of the area with some cool, family-friendly activities.
There are some unusual features as well. Penitentiary Hollow, which is basically a small canyon, is a great place for rock-climbing. Moreover, about half of the park’s hiking trails are wide enough to accommodate horses, and the park has many equestrian-friendly facilities.
There’s camping variety as well. Some of the RV campsites are located near the lake. If you crave a little more open space, try one of the campgrounds in the higher parts of the park. If you feel like really stretching your legs, check out one of the other area attractions, like the regionally-famous Dinosaur Valley State Park in Glen Rose.
From Fort Worth, Lake Mineral Wells State Park is pretty much a straight shot (and we do mean straight) west along Interstate 20 to the Mineral Wells Highway (U.S. Highway 180). Both are four-lane divided highways for most of the route. Watch for an elbow-shaped curve in the MWH just west of Cool, which is a “suburb” of Mineral Wells. Just watch your speed, especially if you are towing a trailer, and you should be fine.
Lake Mineral Wells State Park is a relatively small park which is essentially a lake and a network of hiking trails. So, there is not very much parking outside the RV camping areas. However, there is ample parking on the south shore of the Lake near the boat launch and on the north shore of the Lake near the equestrian/hiking/mountain-biking trail heads.
The Live Oak Camping Area features 47 RV and tent sites with 50 amp electrical and water hookups. Each site has a barbecue grill, fire ring, and picnic table. Amenities include two fishing piers, restroom/shower facilities, and a dump station. You'll also be within walking distance to all the action of the lake. Pets are welcome to join you during your stay. Many RVers choose these sites thanks to their privacy provided by the tree coverage surrounding each site.
The Plateau Camping Area has 30 30-amp and water hookup sites. All these sites have barbecue grills, fire rings, and picnic tables. Amenities include two lakeside observation points and a restroom/shower area. The dump station is next door in Live Oak. This campground is the closest to the lake so it is popular with fishers, swimmers, and boaters. Your furry companion is welcome to join you during your stay, just make sure they on a leash when outside the RV.
The 20 equestrian campsites of Cross Timbers double as super-size RV sites. there is no electricity or dump station, but there are plenty of drinking water spigots, as well as a restroom/shower area and a parking area. Cross Timbers is basically the gateway to the park’s biking/hiking/equestrian trails. Therefore, this is the perfect campground if you plan on hitting the trail often throughout your stay.
There are six fishing piers, and one of them is artificially lit. You do not need a fishing license to fish from a pier or the shoreline, as long as you use poles and lines. Crappie and sunfish bite really well here. In the winter, there are hordes of crappie anywhere near cover. In the spring, they spawn in shallow areas. Catfish are plentiful in the fall and winter. Drift fish with cheese, liver, live bait, or blood bait. Largemouth bass bite near the dam in the spring if you use spinners. In the summer and fall, stay in that area, but switch to crankbait or worms. Sunfish also bite pretty well here and there. There is also no size or quantity limit for sunfish.
Park rangers rent a variety of watercraft, such as canoes, kayaks, paddleboards, and even flat-bottom boats equipped with trolling motors. So, if you forgot to pack your boat in your rig, no worries. Lake Mineral Wells is basically a semi-no-wake zone. Visitors cannot waterski or jetski, but they also cannot tube. Go figure. There is a lot of stuff in the southern part of the Lake, and the northern part of the Lake is almost entirely undeveloped. So, you can choose between activity and serenity.
With no high-powered boats to worry about, people can swim pretty much anywhere on the lake. The main swimming area is near the boat launch. There’s a small nameless island not far from there. Many people enjoy racing to the island and back. The water is generally clear and calm, which is a good thing because no lifeguards are on duty.
Whether they want to climb the rock, watch from a distance, or go on a guided tour through The Squeeze and some other extremely narrow rock crevices, most RVers include Penitentiary Hollow on their Lake Mineral Wells State Park visiting agendas. There’s probably an interesting story behind the name, but we don’t know what it is. The top of Penitentiary Hollow has a nice overlook view of the lake and its surroundings. To reach this area, take the Red Waterfront Trail from the Post Oaks to the Four Elms.
Most of the extra-wide three-way mixed-use trails are north of the Lake. The Cross Timbers Green Trail is pretty cool. It meanders through a grassy savanna. Slight elevation changes drastically alter plant life. For something a bit more challenging, take the Green Trail to the Yellow Trail to reach the Maroon Trail. That sounds like a long way, but it’s only about two miles. The Maroon Trail straddles a high ridge and then descends into a natural bowl. The hiking-only trails, such as the aforementioned Red Waterfront Trail, are closer to the Lake. We also recommend the Primitive Camping Trail. It goes through the remains of an ancient forest and the sweeping grasslands that attracted cowboys to this area so long ago.
This is one of those bag-of-tricks activities to pull out when young children get restless. Small boxes dot all these trails, especially the hiking-only trails. Use a GPS-enabled device to find them, open them, replace the prize, sign the logbook, add a virtual smiley-face to your smart device, and then find the next X that marks the spot. Arrr, mateys.