Way back in the day, people came to Northwest Texas to “take the cure.” Supposedly, the water in Mineral Wells had mystical healing properties. A bit later, people came to work on the railroad. Today, people take their motorhomes to this area to experience nature and history along the Lake Mineral Wells Trailway.
The primary hiking trail follows the routes of the old Weatherford, Mineral Wells & Northwestern Railroad. Visitors can explore it on foot, on a mountain bike, or on horseback. But there are lots of other things to do at the Lake Mineral Wells Trailway as well. Visitors enjoy water sports on a 640-acre lake, rock climbing, and more.
Camping is usually on the agenda here as well. Lake Mineral Wells Trail has over 75 RV well-shaded parking spots with electrical and water hookups. So, you can get back to nature without leaving the comforts of home. That’s a combination which is hard to beat.
For most people, the Lake Mineral Wells Trail begins in, wait for it, Mineral Wells. This town is west of Fort Worth along Highway 180. This road is well-maintained, wide, and straight, so you should have no problem negotiating it with your RV or camper. There are also trailheads in Garner, which is basically the halfway point, and the eastern terminus in Weatherford.
The developed area of the park is mostly around the southern half of Lake Mineral Wells. As the town grew, crews enlarged the Rock Creek dam to increase the town’s water supply. So today, the lake is very big and blends in well with the surroundings. It looks like a natural lake.
Large vehicle parking is available throughout this RV-friendly park, especially near the fishing pier, boat launch, and swimming area.
Located across a channel from the wildlife viewing area, the Live Oak Camping Area has 47 back-in sites with 50 amp electrical and water hookups. Each level site has a fire ring, barbecue grill, picnic table, and lantern post. That’s pretty much everything you need for a quiet outdoor evening under the Texas sky. This RV campground has a dump station, two fishing piers, and a restroom/shower area.
This RV campground has 30 water and 30 amp electrical hookup back-in sites arranged on a loop. In most other respects, it’s a lot like the Live Oak Camping Area. Each level site has everything you need to enjoy both the outdoors and the indoors. These campers share the dump station with Live Oak campers. Plateau has a restroom/shower area right next to a wheelchair-accessible RV site.
The roughing-it RV camping area at Lake Mineral Wells Trail is not exactly roughing it. Each motorhome site has a water line, along with a picnic table, fire ring, and other conveniences. Additionally, several sites are literally on the water’s edge. The 11-site campground includes restroom facilities.
For most visitors, this is where the trail ends. It’s about ten miles from the Mineral Wells trailhead to the Garner trailhead. Even if you are on horseback or mountain bike, the remaining eleven miles to the Weatherford trailhead is a pretty fun piece. Garner is a nice little town which was once a busy railroad shipping place for farmers in the immediate area. The Dry Creek Bridge is a cool sandstone bridge, so it’s an ideal photo-op stop.
If the ten miles to Garner is a bit much, try the five miles from the Mineral Wells trailhead to the Vietnam Memorial Park, which is south of the lake. From the 1950s through the 1970s, nearby Fort Wolters was one of the largest and most important U.S. Army helicopter bases in the country. The fort is gone now, but a quiet memorial remains. That’s a fitting tribute to the men and women who served over there.
Speaking of the lake, the main boat launch is not far from the park headquarters. There’s an unwritten rule that the developed southern half of the lake is for fishing boats, kayaks, canoes, and other such craft. The undeveloped northern half is for power boaters. There is enough room here for water skiing and other such activities. Altogether, this lake is not nearly as big as some of the other ones in North Texas, but it is not nearly as crowded either, even on boating holidays like Memorial Day and July Fourth.
Visitors do not need a fishing license to fish from the lighted pier, which is near the swimming area, the Penitentiary Hollow fishing pier, or any other place on the lakeshore. The crappie bite well here all year long, but especially in the winter and early spring. In the winter, they school near rocks, piers, islands, the dam, and other cover. In the spring, they move to shallow areas to spawn. Catfish are active during the winter, and bass are plentiful in the spring and summer.
This trail stop is near the Vietnam memorial. Much of the coal that powered the steam locomotives that moved through here came from this mine. A word about the trail itself. Since it is an old railroad gulley, the trail is wide, flat, and well-marked. However, since this is West Texas, parts of the trail have little or no cover. During the summer, and even during the winter, wear a hat and bring lots of water.
The area near the Plateau Camping Area is a nice place to see all kinds of wildlife. Since the park is in the Cross Timbers zone, there is a diverse array of trees. Look for box elder, sumac, Ashe juniper, mesquite, pecan, walnut, post, live and blackjack oak, mulberry, Texas ash, wild plum, willow, and other kinds of trees not seen in many other places. In terms of four-legged wildlife, there are deer, turkeys, and raccoons aplenty. If birding is your thing, look for (or listen to) hundreds of songbirds as well as different types of waterfowl.