Lake mineral wells hiking trails penitentiary hollow north Texas trails

Lake Mineral Wells State Park

Review: Lake Mineral Wells State Park is about an hour west of Fort Worth, and offers a few unique things making it worth a visit. Rock climbers can enjoy Penitentery Hollow, there are some cool rock formations to explore, and glimpses of a military base! There’s a lot to see here, you should make time for a visit!

Distance: About 12.8 miles in the park, with another half mile connection to the Trailway, a 20 mile trail connecting Mineral Wells to Weatherford

Area of The State: About an hour west of Fort Worth

Facilities: Restrooms, camping, playgrounds, picnic areas, etc

Suitable for: Hiking, Biking, Horseback Riding, Rock Climbing

Type of Trail: Natural trails

Shade: It’s variable. Penitentiary Hollow has high rock structures which provide shade, but other parts of the park offer more limited protection from the sun in the Cross Timbers trails section.

Where to Park: There are multiple trail-heads in the park, with places to park. Check the map below

Official Website: Official Site

Nearby Trails: Dinosaur Valley State Park

Official Texas Parks map

Outside the immediate DFW area, Lake Mineral Wells is still close enough for a day trip of exploration and adventure. About 30 miles west of Fort Worth, or an hour and a half from Dallas, this state park not only offers the standard hiking and fishing opportunities, but also rock climbing as well! This is not very common for the North Texas area, so a key selling point for the park!

There are two main sections of trails in this state park, to the right after the entrance you’ll find Penitentery Hollow, where some trails (and off-trail) adventures await, as well as the rock climbing area. To the left you’ll follow the road around the lake, to where the primitive camping, Cross Timber trails, and the Fort Wolters military base (see link for more information).

Penitentery Hollow

Rocks for Climbing and Exploring

This is my favorite part of the park! At the top of the stairs, you’ll have a beautiful view of the lake and park from your relatively high vantage point, before you descend into the Hollow. Coming down the staircase, you’ll have a few options to explore. If you head to the left into the Hollow, you will wander through magnificent rock formations. Whether you want to climb there or just explore, there’s a lot to see down here. I’m not a climber, but there were quite a few people there going up and down the rocky columns having an absolutel blast.

If you head to the right of the staircase, the trail ends but there is SO much to explore over there. We had alot of fun explroing the rock formations on that side of the lake, and went quite a distance. There are plenty of places to climb over, go down into, and have the chance to take some great photos. I would definitely be cautious of snakes and insects, as it’s much wilder in here, and be aware of tree roots and slipping. I could see somoene getting hurt back here if not careful, but we had a blast exploring back in this section.

Cross Timber Trails

The Other Side of the Lake

Once you are done exploring the rocky area, it’s time to head over to the Cross Timber Trails. The time we were there it was still a bit wet, so we didn’t explore too much. We took the Primitive Camping Trail up the hill, and were rewarded with views of the lake, and stopped on a ledge for lunch. Once we got to the top of the area, we hit the Cross Timber Trails. I really need to get back out here again, when I visited the trails were still a bit wet in places (although the trails were open, remember, never hike closed trails!), and it was early enough in the year that the trees hadn’t yet started to green up. Due to that, it’s possible that we hit it when it wasn’t looking all that pretty. Many of the trails were quite wide, so it felt more like country roads than back-country hiking. From the map, you can tell there are several parts of the trail so you can get quite a bit of distance should you choose. We ran into a few people on horseback on these trails, and got a climpse of Fort Wolster through a chain link fence, which looked like some sort of training facility. This part of the Lake Mineral Wells state park was not as exciting as Penitentery Hollow, but worth exploring, esepcially for the views of the military base.

Blue Waterfront Trail

Lake Side Views

Finally on the way out of Lake Mineral Wells state park we stopped by the Blue Waterfront Trail to see what kind of views were available, before we headed back to the metroplex. We parked by the Plateau Camping Area, and took the trail down towards the shoreline. This is not a difficult trail, and you can take it for about 1.5 miles out (then 1.5 miles back). We wandered around a bit on the trail just down to the shoreline to take a few last pictures before we wrapped up our visit to the state park and lake.


Long Distance Trail

We didn’t have time to explore the Trailway. The spur, located in the park, is a .6m trail that connects to the 20 mile Trailway between Mineral Wells and Weatherford. This is an out and back trail (40 miles round trip), built on an old railway route. I’ve read about the trail, but never explored it personally. Not sure how scenic it is, if you’ve been on it, let us know on the comments below!

Overall Review

Is Lake Mineral Wells Worth My Time?

I really enjoyed my time at Lake Mineral Wells State Park. There was a lot to do to here, and Penitentiary Hollow offered a chance to explore off the trails a bit through a very rocky environment you don’t normally encounter while in Dallas. Yes, it’s a bit of a drive from the metroplex especially if coming from Dallas, but it’s completely worth the time investment!

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Bill Ory
Bill Ory
July 7, 2021 7:05 pm


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