PK trails not your city park

PK trails not your city park

Taking a walk through your local neighborhood park, you might not be surprised to cross paths with a few squirrels, maybe a stray cat, a spider or two, and various birds.

I'd bet there have even been a few squirrels brave enough to come close so, used to visitors; they know a treat might be in hand.

If you're looking for a change of scenery via a nice hike or bike ride through a beautiful area, Possum Kingdom Lake offers 16 miles of great trails, free for the public to enjoy. 

Just remember, you'd not be the only species enjoying the space crisscrossing the lake's central peninsula.

Those who've lived and grown up on Possum Kingdom Lake are a little more familiar with all the wildlife that surrounds the area. White-tailed deer are an all-to-common sight along the reservoir, and portions of the lake are lined with those fishing for dinner. And no matter where you're at near the reservoir that's halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene, bring binoculars for a chance to view the wide range of water and prairie birds.

Another big bonus to visiting Possum Kingdom Lake is the reservoir is also adjacent to a 1,528.7-acre state park. Possum Kingdom State Park opened to the public in 1950, and the Texas Parks & Wildlife Department charges $4 daily for adults to enter; children 12 and younger get in free. Roughly 90% of the park was lost to fires in 2011 after a massive wildfire swept the area.  While the fires were devastating to the park, it is recovering. 

Outdoorsy suggests while at the State Park, you should look for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, Golden-fronted woodpeckers, canyon wrens, painted buntings, dickcissels, canyon towhees, Rufous-crowned sparrows, Mississippi kites, wood ducks, wild turkey, greater roadrunners, and grasshopper sparrows in the area.

Also among the wildlife at the state park are turkey, raccoons, bobcats, coyotes and opossums, according to the Texas State Historical Association. There's also the chance to see foxes, rabbits and of course, squirrels, according to TPWD.

Just remember, you'd not be the only species enjoying the space crisscrossing the lake's central peninsula.

A map of the PK Hike and Bike Trail System

So, with that in mind, when you plan a trip to visit the trails at PK, remember the lake is within the natural habitat of numerous animals native to the area and North Texas. The trails are accessible through the BRA public use areas, taking guests through a North Texas cedar and oak forest. They boast a natural surface with a vertical rise that, in some places, is more than 300 feet, requiring physical stamina to complete.

Despite the trails being toward the center of the reservoir, it's not uncommon to see raccoons, foxes, armadillos, and the occasional coyote while enjoying them, said Lambert Jefferson, PK lake ranger sergeant resident.

Respect wildlife and its place in the environment by being aware of the living things around you. Take pictures, but never approach or threaten the wildlife. Wildlife along the trails are not domesticated or tame. 

Do not try to feed any animal. As in any outdoor situation, the animals can bite or attack and carry disease, so it's important to stay watchful. 

Keep a lookout for snakes, including rattlesnakes, copperheads, and coral, especially as they are most active late spring through the fall.

The trails are cut through natural and primitive areas, so it's important to stay on the clearly defined trails and not venture off. 

Somewhere between the bottom of the climb and the summit is the answer to the mystery why we climb

Greg Child, author, rock climber, mountaineer

You don't have to be an expert navigator to enjoy the Brazos River Authority hike and bike trails. The 12 trailheads are located at intervals, which allows hikers to enjoy as much or as little of the trail system as they'd like. Take a physical map, but know there are also color-coated signage maps posted on the trail. The trails feature rest areas with cedar benches and information displays about the area's history, geology, and animals.

The trails link all the BRA parks, including access to areas with parking, restrooms, picnic, camping, and swimming areas. There are 19 lookouts along the trail providing outstanding views of the reservoir.

If you plan on bringing your four-legged friend along the hike, be sure to always keep the pup on a leash, which will help keep them by your side should they spy local wildlife.  The rule is in place for both the pets' safety and the safety of other hikers and mountain bikers. Don't forget to carry water for your pet and know your pets' limits.

Cell phone service can be unreliable on the trails, so be prepared for any venture. Take a friend or tell others where you'll be. Dress appropriately for the weather, and remember, trails can be impassable during and immediately after heavy rain due to mud and runoff. 

Remember, some things are not permitted on the trails: Littering, motorized vehicles, alcoholic beverages, hunting, campfires, and cutting, removing or destroying any trees or vegetation.

Stretch your legs and create new memories on Possum Kingdom Lake's hike and bike trails while enjoying nature and all those who call that area home.