So what’s the big deal about Tyler State Park? Isn’t this whole section of Texas essentially one big pine tree forest?
Well, yes, that may be true. Nevertheless, this delightful Civilian Conservation Corps-era park has a lot to offer visitors.
Tyler State Park Lake is at the center of the Park, both figuratively and literally. You do not need a license or even fishing equipment to cast for bass, perch, catfish, and more. Anglers do not need a license to fish from shore at a Texas state park, and the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department loans fishing rods, tackle boxes, and so on.
Of course, the serene piney woods surround the lake. Visitors may go on a number of hiking trails which wind through the woods. One of them is almost exactly the same today as it was in the 1930s.
Tyler State Park is also a very good place to take your RV. There are a number of full-hookup sites. Many are pull-through sites designed for large vehicles. There is also lots of parking at the trailheads. It almost never freezes here, so the flat roads are quite accessible. Plus, even when the mercury rises to near-intolerable levels in July and August, the Park is comfortable because there is always plenty of shade.
RV Rentals in Tyler State Park
Transportation in Tyler State Park
Pretty much all RVers use Interstate 20 to reach Tyler State Park. The direct route is to go north from I-20 on the aptly-named State Park Highway. The cutoff is east of Wood Springs and west of, well, basically nothing.
There’s also a back way from Interstate 20. Take Lavender Road (Farm to Market 35) north from Interstate 20. The cutoff is around mile marker 560. Go right on FM 315 and right again on Old Road.
From U.S. Highway 80, take Beulah Street (FM 14) south from Hawkins. Take our advice and make a quick pit stop at Bizzie Lizzie’s Coffee Shop. FM 14 turns into the State Park Highway and winds to your destination.
If you need a GPS address, use 789 Park Road 16, Tyler, TX 75706. For GPS coordinates, use 32.482180 W, 95.283396 N.
Pretty much all the RV parking is in or near the RV campsites. Most of the trails are loop trails which originate from the lake, so there is little need to drive your rig anywhere.
Campgrounds and parking in Tyler State Park
Campsites in Tyler State Park
Eight water hookup sites are available on the other side of the creek from Hickory Hollow. Each site has a picnic table and is handy to the restrooms.
This camping spot is located near a sharp bend in the road and a little further from the Lake. Eleven water hookup sites are offered; about half of them back up to a creek.
Red Oaks is a lot like Dogwood Ridge except more spread out. This campsite also has shower and restroom facilities and offers 14 water hookup sites.
Dogwood Ridge Camping Area
There are no electricity hookups here, but seventeen water hookup sites are available, and close to the Southside Day Use Area.
Blackjack Group Trailer Camping Area
Tis twenty-nine site campsite is for RVs only. It’s adjacent to the Bird Blind and includes a sheltered picnic area. The sites have water and electricity hookups.
Big Pine Trailer Area
As you may have guessed, only Rvs are allowed in these campsites near the Lake’s west shore. This full-hookup park offers very good access to the Lakeshore trail.
Lakeview Tent and Trailer
Sites 30 through 37 are almost literally right on the lake. The remaining sixty-nine sites are a little further back but they still live up to the Lakeview moniker. An RV dump station, shower room, and restrooms are all at the center of the camping area. All the RV sites are full-hookup sites.
Cedar Point Campground
The closest RV campground to the Park entrance has twenty electric hookup sites, restrooms, showers, and a dump station. Sites are roomy and wooded and each sports water an a picnic table.
Creekside Camping Area
Six limited service cabins, one of which is wheelchair-accessible, are featured here. Facilities also include a restroom/shower area and a group dining area. This camping area is the gateway to the Whispering Pines Nature Trail.
Seasonal activities in Tyler State Park
Tyler State Park Lake
This lake is quite big and quite well-developed. There is a boat launch at the northern tip of the Lake near the amphitheater. Motorboats are allowed on Tyler State Park Lake, but the entire body of water is a no-wake zone. Canoeing and kayaking are quite popular as well. Swimming is allowed and the fish are almost always biting. There are two lighted fishing piers - one in the Northside Day Use Area and one in the Southside Day Use Area. Other facilities include a parking area, bath house, several picnic areas, a children’s play area, and restrooms.
As the name implies, this loop trail hugs the shoreline all the way around the lake. The TPWD says it is moderate, which means you may need hiking boots. However, a number of very young children hike this trail with little or no complaining. At two miles, the full trail may be a bit long for little tykes, but there are cutoffs available. It’s usually a good idea to hike this trail before you participate in lake activities. You’ll have a good idea of what activities are ongoing, and as the trail is rather humid, you’ll also be ready for a break. The Lakeshore Trail is also a no-bike trail.
The Overlook is a stone’s throw from the Southside Day Use Area. Most of the original CCC work remains, including a very cool stone shelter and stone walkway. It’s one of the highest points in the Park, but in this part of Texas, “high” is a relative term. Bring your binoculars for excellent views of birds and wildlife.
EZ Loop Trail
They wouldn’t call it “EZ” unless it was easy, right? This .75-mile mixed use (biking and hiking) trail is fairly wide, flat, and sandy in places. It’s a good warm-up or cool-down trail for bikers, as there are cutoffs to some of the longer hiking/biking trails in this section of the Park.
Whispering Pines Nature Trail
In many ways, this little trail may be the ideal nature hike. It’s a three-quarter mile loop trail, so it’s vigorous but not at all strenuous. Moreover, the TPWD rates it as easy to moderate. That means it’s a little more difficult than an unpaved sidewalk but probably does not require any special expertise or equipment. Only hikers are allowed on the trail. There are no mountain bikes. Tread quietly and you’ll probably see a number of birds and small mammals. The trail is also interactive. Numerous posts along the way offer information about the flora and fauna along the trail. As a little bonus, there are some original CCC reminders. Part of a children’s wading pool and a day use area are still there. Who knows how many families held their reunions at this spot way back in the day.
C-D Loop Trail
The slightly shorter (3.3-mile) C-D loop is along the northern part of the Lake. There are lots of hardwood and pine trees, as well as lots of wildflowers, on this very scenic trail. It’s a moderate trail. There are some rather steep inclines and sharp turns, but altogether it is not too difficult. The trail is very well marked, which is a good thing. Otherwise, you could find yourself on the A-B loops and end up like Charlie on the MTA in that Kingston Trio song.
A-B Loop Trail
This 5.3-mile mixed use trail is on the west side of the Lake. Riders should always go clockwise on all mixed-use trails. The A portion has a lot of roots but is otherwise pretty smooth. There’s also a very picturesque bridge. The trail crosses a creek bed which is dry most of the time, but may be a little wet after a heavy rain. Next, the B section descends rather sharply and also ascends rather sharply. It’s much closer to the Lake, so it is muddy during the rainy season. There are several stream/creek crossings, but most of them are bridged.
Bring your GPS-enabled smart device and search for buried treasure along the trails. You won’t strike it rich finding doubloons, but you will come away with some geocache swag. Locate the buried object, which could be a metal box or other similar container. Take out the gift and replace it with another one. Then, sign the log book and reward yourself with a virtual smiley face. Then, it’s off to the next X-marks-the-spot locale.
Blackjack Nature Trail
This short, easy trail loops off the Bird Blind. It’s a good place for supplemental birding and also very good for young children.
Cardinals and red-breasted woodpeckers are among the most common types of birds in Tyler State Park. To get the most out of TSP birding, don’t miss the guided Great Backyard Birding Classic. Parts of the aforementioned Lakeshore Trail are good birding spots as well. The swampy area at the far end of the trail is a good spot. Or, during the winter, find a good spot on the dam and you may see lots of sparrows.