Back in the day, the Mission Tejas State Park area in East Texas was a stop on the El Camino Real. Thousands of Americans followed the Royal Road from the southern United States through Texas and to San Antonio. So, this area is rich, from a historical perspective.
Mission Tejas State Park is also rich from a nature perspective. This secluded park has several miles of mixed-use hiking trails that are reasonably flat and well marked. A small pond offers plenty of fishing opportunities, as well as a chance to frolic in the water. Mission Tejas State Park was also one of the original Civilian Conservation Corps state parks. Much of their handiwork survives to this day.
Finally, Mission Tejas State Park is a great place to take your RV for a weekend or even longer. But make your reservations early, especially if you plan to come in early spring to see the flowers bloom and trees bud. RVers have a choice between a number of electrical hookup sites and a pair of more primitive RV campsites. So, you can rough it or not.
One of the nice things about Texas is that there is usually more than one way to get from Point A to Point B, even in a remote area like Deep East Texas. Mission Tejas State Park visitors can basically choose either the direct route or the scenic route.
The direct route is Interstate 45 to Centerville, Centerville to Crockett, and Crockett to Mission Tejas State Park. I-45 traffic is usually not very heavy once you get out of Greater Dallas or Greater Houston. Plus, this stretch of freeway is wide, flat, and straight. There are two sharp curves on Highway 7 west of Crockett, but watch your speed and you should be fine.
If you prefer the scenic route and you’re coming from Houston, take Highway 59 north to Lufkin. From Dallas, take Highway 175 east to Jacksonville. Both routes take you through some very picturesque towns, both these highways are wide and well-maintained U.S. highways, and both routes take you very close to Mission Tejas State Park.
This park is pretty small, so there is little RV parking. You can easily walk from the RV campsite to the major park attractions. There is some parking near the fishing pond, so you do not have to haul your gear all the way from the campsite.
There are 15 campsites arrayed in a loop near the mission replica. About half these sites are pull-through sites. As one might expect, the sites are extremely level and there is plenty of shade. Each site has an outdoor grill and picnic table, so you can enjoy a relaxing meal cooked over an open fire. Many of these sites have fire rings as well. This campground is in the far northwest corner of the park just off the main camp road. Between this campground and the primitive campsites, there’s a very nice day use area with a large children’s playground, restroom area, and several sheltered group picnic areas. Other campground amenities include a restroom/shower area and an RV dump station.
If you want a more rustic camping experience, Mission Tejas State Park is the place for you. There are two water-hookup RV sites next to the pond. The large back-in sites are located just off an even larger circular driveway/parking area. In addition to a water line, Sites A and B each have a picnic table and a grill. Feel free to use the restroom in the Day Use Area and the showers in the other RV campground.
True nature lovers, or people who spend too much time on the internet, know that the pink and white flowers which appear on dogwoods in spring are not actually flowers. They are bracts. Please don’t ask us about the difference between a flower and a bract, because we don’t know. Whatever they are called, these blooms are colorful and there are a lot of them. Generally, the dogwoods bloom in mid to late March and they are considered the heralds of springtime in the Old South. The Big Pine Trail goes past a number of dogwood trees.
Visitors who take their RVs to Mission Tejas State Park and do not see the Mission Tejas replica may face immediate deportation to Arkansas. To bolster their claim to this area, the Spanish established a mission here in 1690. A few years later, a smallpox epidemic swept through the area. The Spanish abandoned Mission Tejas and high tailed it to Mexico. In the early 1930s, Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) workers built a mission replica. It basically combines 1930s rustic style with what is known about Spanish architecture from that period. Today, Mission Tejas is available for rental for weddings, quinceaneras, and similar events. Other remaining CCC projects include footbridges and hiking trails.
You do not need a license to fish from shore at Mission Tejas State Park. You do not need a fishing pole either, because loaners are available at park headquarters. Most people use the Nature Trail to reach the pond. There are several bridges over San Pedro Creek. You can also go across a footbridge next to the primitive RV campsite. There is lots of parking there as well. The pond is stocked with bass, catfish, and trout. Check with the park about ranger-guided fishing trips, as they are pretty cool.
Mission Tejas State Park has a number of hiking trails. Since this is East Texas, expect a mostly-flat trail with lots and lots of trees on either side. Hello, serenity. These trails also pass some park landmarks. The Olen Matchett Trail goes past some old CCC bathtubs. Those guys had to clean up somewhere. The Fire Tower Trail leads to, wait for it, Fire Tower Hill. This scenic overlook, or what passes for an overlook in these here parts, offers nice views of the surrounding landscape.
Several bird feeders attract quite a few winged creatures, especially during the early spring and late fall migratory seasons. Look for green jays, kiskadees, northern cardinals, painted buntings, roseate spoonbills, and hundreds of other species.
Log cabins became common in America in the 1700s. This restored log cabin is one of the oldest structures in Texas. Supposedly, Joseph Rice started it with one room in 1828. He later gave the cabin to his grandson and granddaughter. We may not think much of that inheritance, but it was a pretty big deal in the 1860s. John and Nancy expanded the cabin. They raised the ceiling and added a lot more space, including the signature front porch and dogtrot. Some of the original Nancy Rice wallpaper and blue paint remains.