For mountain bikers in Texas, a state that is made up of more open plains than steep hills, finding an enjoyable yet challenging course can be a little bit like the quest for the holy grail. This summer, both mountain bikers and hiking enthusiasts will find a new challenge at Possum Kingdom Lake.

The Brazos River Authority will open an additional five miles of the Possum Kingdom Lake Hike and Bike Trails soon after Memorial Day; expanding the trail system to 16 miles and linking several of the Authority’s major parks via the trail system.

Winding through the hills and valleys along an area known as the peninsula near the lake’s middle, the trail system was built with grant funds from Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and matching funds through the Authority. Phase I, or the first five-mile trek, was opened in 2007 with Phase II opening in 2009. Phase III will open soon after Memorial Day.

“The great feature of the trail system is that you can enjoy as little or as much as you like,” said Ken Hyde, the Authority’s PK chief of lake development. “With numerous trailheads located throughout the system, you can get on the trail at Scenic Cove and go all the way to Sandy Beach – or just to the next trail head. It’s a great hike.“

Besides breathtaking views of the lake, the five-mile addition links five of the Authority’s 10 parks via the trails; allowing visitors to enjoy the beach, picnic and camping areas along with the trails from one location.

The natural-surface trails are five feet wide with an overhead clearance of about 10 feet to aid easy passage of hikers and bikers.

“Most of the trails average no more than a gentle 5 to 12 degree slope, designed to make it easy for mom and pop to walk," Hyde said. Other sections, such as the portion that rises high above the lake to Johnson Peak, have more challenging slopes of up to 20 degrees. Challenging mountain bike trails wind throughout the system, providing the best of both worlds including areas to rest.

Throughout the trail system, rest areas with cedar benches have been constructed at scenic overlooks; many named for Texas universities. With titles such as “Longhorn,” “Raider” and “Aggie,” the rest areas feature display signs with information about history, geology and animals of the area.

One of the most beautiful of such spots is the rest area atop Johnson Peak where most of the lake may be seen, including the landmark Hell’s Gate.

Among the flora and fauna you might see on the trails is the Golden Cheeked Warbler, the only migratory bird that nests solely in Texas. Hyde cautions visitors to not stray from the designated trails, to avoid damaging the surrounding plants and to avoid a possible encounter with sometimes less-friendly critters.

Possum, skunk, squirrels and rabbits make this area their home. It is also a habitat for rattlesnakes, copperheads and occasional sightings of bobcats.

The trails feature plentiful signs, as well as maps at the trailheads, to keep visitors on the right path. Water fountains and restrooms also have been installed at various trailheads.

As part of the project, the Authority took the opportunity to rehabilitate a number of less scenic areas. An old airstrip and an abandoned gas drilling site have been returned to their natural state as part of the system.

In addition to the expansion of the Hike and Bike Trail, restroom and shower facilities that are handicapped accessible were installed at the Sandy Beach and North D&D public areas. ADA accessible restrooms are also available at the main trailhead and South D&D.

Additional camping sites and shelters with grills and fire rings have been added throughout the parks. The Authority also recently opened two new children’s playgrounds at Sandy Beach and North D&D public areas.

PK lake parks are open to the public year-round. For additional information, please click here or contact the Public Information Office at (888) 922-6272. For a map of the trail system, click here.