The 160,656-acre Sabine National Forest is the easternmost of Texas’s four national forests and is dominated by the massive Toledo Bend Reservoir along the Louisiana border.
Considered the second-largest lake in Texas and the fifth largest man-made reservoir in the United States, Toledo Bend offers extensive recreational opportunities, from boating and fishing to swimming and lakeshore camping. For a comprehensive list of lake services—fishing guides to private resorts to boat launch sites—visit www.toledo-bend.com .
Outdoor recreation opportunities in the Sabine National Forest include fishing, hunting, camping, hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. One of the most popular destinations in the forest is the 12,369-acre Indian Mounds Wilderness Area, designated by U.S. Congress as a site “to allow the Earth’s natural processes to shape and influence the area.” Unfortunately, it was misnamed, since the mounds are actually just normal hills; fortunately, these natural formations shelter beautiful flora including American beech, southern magnolia, yellow lady’s slipper orchids, and broad beech ferns.
Less primitive is the Ragtown Recreation Area, offering opportunities for hiking, fishing, and bird watching atop a bluff facing the lake. Camping with electrical hookups is available only at Red Hills Lake and Boles Field.
Hikers should hoof it to the 28-mile Trail Between the Lakes, extending from the Toledo Bend Reservoir’s Lakeview Recreation Area to Highway 96 near Sam Rayburn Reservoir. Contact park headquarters for a map showing the many miles of roads throughout the forest that are open to mountain bikers and horseback riders.
Anglers have many opportunities for fishing, and although the massive reservoir seems to be the best spot to catch large volumes of big fish (a striped bass fishery on Toledo Bend spawns fish reaching upwards of 30 pounds), it’s the forest’s rivers and creeks that draw many recreational fishermen. Crappie, bass, and bluegill are prevalent in the upper Sabine River, and the approximately 18 miles of perennial streams in the forest support populations of warm-water fish.
Birding is also popular with forest visitors, who flock to the area during the spring and fall to catch a glimpse of migratory waterfowl and other species of neotropical migratory birds such as songbirds, hawks, and shorebirds. As in other East Texas  forests, the red-cockaded woodpecker, an endangered species, receives special habitat management.
To learn more about campsite availability and fees, lake access points, and trail maps, contact the Sabine National Forest headquarters at 201 South Palm in Hemphill (409/787-3870, www.fs.fed.us/r8/texas/recreation/sabine/sabine_gen_info ).