Recently we took a quick trip to Davy Crockett National Forest to do some backpacking. We had been reading about the 4C hiking trail that runs through the Davy Crockett National Forest and the Big Slough Wilderness Area. The 4C is a 20 mile hiking trail that starts at Ratcliff Lake and travels up through the National Forest to Neches Bluff Overlook. It runs through Big Slough Wilderness Area during the middle portion of the hike. This hike is a good alternative to a float trip on the Neches River if the conditions aren’t ideal when you arrive. There is a primitive campground at Walnut Creek around the 10 mile mark. There are tent pads and a small shelter here. The trail is pretty well developed throughout and marked with white rectangular tags.
The Forest Service uses prescribed burns in the southern pine forests here to keep this area in prime shape for wildlife habitat. The prescribed burns make this a pretty cool area to hike through. There is mostly grass undergrowth because the thicker bushes and shrubbery had all been burned down. There are also many blackened pine trunks that make for some interesting photography options.
Instead of camping at Walnut Creek, we decided to set up our own hammock campsite a ways off the main trail. We found a spot with a couple logs to sit on and some sturdy trees to set up our hammock camp. The weather this time of year was perfect for hammock camping. I brought my sleeping bag and an extra blanket to put underneath the sleeping bag to retain some heat. It was still too cold for the bugs to bother us so we were able to fall asleep staring at the night sky. There is a ton of native wildlife in Davy Crockett National Forest so listen and see what species you can hear.
Make sure you bring plenty with you on this hike, especially during the summer months when it is extremely hot. The Forest Service advises that the water in Davy Crockett National Forest is not safe to drink, even with filtering and treatment systems. The trail outlet is at Neches Bluff Overlook. From the overlook you can see the tops of the hardwood forest and the Neches River below. You can get to the trailhead here by taking Forest Road 511 off Texas Highway 21. You should go down a dirt road for about half a mile and then take the first left up to the overlook trailhead.
Overall the 4C trail and Davy Crockett National Forest is a pretty solid hike if you’re in the area. It doesn’t really offer any exceptionally spectacular views or amazing waterfalls, but it is one of the few multi-day backpacking hikes in East Texas. Early spring when the temperatures are still cooler and the dogwood trees are blooming is definitely the time of the year to go. Questions about the hike? Let us know in the comments below!