An adventure is never far away if you head to Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway where the fun ranges from rock climbing to hiking to capturing images of wildlife with your camera while kayaking.
Nestled by its surrounding hills, Lake Mineral Wells is much bigger than first meets the eye when visitors pull in near the dam and visit the Trailway Trading Post where they might find someone like Dillion Caudill behind the counter.
Caudill has been “at best job he’s ever had” for three years, and he’s handy with the information about local lore or what the fish are looking for in the way of bait.
“We have a little bit of everything in the store,” Caudill said. “If people forget something or want to buy some bait we have it on hand for them.”
The trading post has a little bit of everything from tourist knickknacks to fishing poles and just enough of everything else to keep someone from having to drive into for things like sunscreen.
For folks who haven’t been to the park or are visiting again, but need some direction the trading post is an excellent place to find it.
“Yes, the lake is a lot bigger than most people realize,” Caudill said. “Once you get around the corner over there – you see the other 75 percent of the lake.”
Several people are trying their luck on a fishing dock just outside, and five more docks are scattered around the lake’s shore. There’s no need for a fishing license as fishing is included in the park’s entry fee just like all other Texas state parks.
There are at least 10 species of fish to try your hand at and Lake Mineral Wells has produced some good-sized ones, and there are records for anglers to try and break.
The most recent record was set by 11-year-old Tucker Martin when he landed a 25-pound Flathead Catfish July 5, 2017. The fish measured 38.5-inches and was caught on a minnow.
While Martin landed a great fish, it only weighs half the lake record of 51.5-pounds that was landed by Jeff Marr who used a Warmouth to catch the 49-inch whopper in May 2004.
With no water skiing or jet skis allowed the lake is ideal for fisherman of all skill levels and physical abilities. You don’t need to be a professional fisherman to land a bass, catfish or perch and the record book proves a whopper can be caught with bait as simple as earthworms.
There’s even a tackle-loaner program that allows families to find out if they have a youngster who is ready to get hooked on the sport of fishing without going through the expense.
Smaller motorboats, kayaks, and canoes are allowed on the waters and campers can bring their own or rent one at the trading post.
There’s probably no better way to see Lake Mineral Wells than by kayak. It’s a low-impact and effortless way to move oneself around the shoreline without making much noise. Kayaking allows for some prime photo opportunities as the lakeshore is often covered in wildlife, especially in the early morning and late evening.
A quiet and stealthy kayaker can find deer, raccoons, roadrunners rabbits and even an occasional porcupine coming down to the water’s edge to drink. There are native wildflowers around every turn.
Hikers will have many the same opportunities for wildlife viewing and photography along the 12.8 miles of trails in the park which range from easy to challenging. Most of the trails are open to hikers, bike riders and horses. If almost 13 miles of trails are not enough for you, the Trailway has 20 more miles to explore.
Whether it’s a day-trip over an overnighter, Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway has accommodations with ample campsites and screened shelters. Many of the sites are very private and give campers a real sense of being in the outdoors.
There are campsites within a few feet of the water to nearby hilltops which give magnificent select views of the lake and surrounding area.
At Penitentiary Hollow, those who seek adrenaline rushes can do so by scaling and rappelling off sheer cliffs in an area that looks like it just came out of the old west.
Popular rumor has the hollow getting its name after cattle rustlers were penned up in the area by lawmen and cattlemen seeking to stop their wicked ways.
Tall oak trees push their way up past hollow’s edges screening climbers from the sun and providing an ideal setting to practice one’s rock-climbing skills. Registration is required at the front gate for those heading into Penitentiary Hollow, and it is not an area for inexperienced or first-time climbers – unless they have highly-skilled supervision.
To find out more details about Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway visit https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lake-mineral-wells online where you will find information about entry fees, campsites and more.