Outside Houston, explore pine forests, cypress swamps, and the Great Texas Coastal Birding Trail.
The pandemic has made travel—including lengthy road trips—complicated. But if you’re itching to escape from the Houston area into another world—one where sunlight streams through Spanish moss draped on bald cypresses, and warm breezes blow—then buckle up and head to the Big Thicket. Depending on your schedule and how often you want to stop, you can make this trip in a day or two by making a 300-mile loop from Houston to the Big Thicket, then through Galveston, and back to H-Town.
Among the highlights is Big Thicket National Preserve (409-951-6700), a series of parklands north of Beaumont stretching along the Neches River. Comprising more than 110,000 acres, the Big Thicket makes social distancing easy.
This patchwork of Lone Star wilderness is a bit bigger than West Texas’ Guadalupe Mountains National Park. The Big Thicket is also an ideal gateway for a longer trip if travelers prefer to learn not just about the plant and animal diversity of the shadowy bottomlands of East Texas, but also about the coastal communities and attractions of what locals call the Cajun Coast.
Getting a taste of Liberty
Leave Houston on I-10 east, then head north on US 90. As you cross the Trinity River about 45 miles northeast of Houston, you’ll encounter Liberty (B). This historic small town on the Trinity was originally a Spanish outpost. William Travis, the Texas legend who died at the Alamo, had an office here, as did Sam Houston. The Sam Houston Regional Library and Research Center (936-336-8821) holds documents and historic archives pertaining to the area. The center’s grounds also boast several significant historic homes, including the one-room St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church dating to 1898. In Liberty, pick up picnic supplies at Big Frank’s BBQ (936-253-8907).