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Park Pick: Starry Skies & Chicken-Frieds

A sneak peek at Palo Pinto Mountains State Park.

By John Ferguson

This may be the greatest thing to happen to this part of the state.
The Star Party was amazing! We even saw the International Space Station.
Look at the size of that chicken-fried steak! The potato has to come on a separate plate!

What do these disparate statements have in common? They all have to do with Palo Pinto Mountains State Park and the nearby gateway community of Strawn.

Located halfway between Fort Worth and Abilene, just off Interstate Highway 20, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park is still in the development phase, and not yet open to the public — at least not all of the park or all of the time.

Palo Pinto

Lake Tucker, a picturesque 90-acre lake near the center of the park, is already available for your fishing pleasure. The park also hosts special events like semi-annual stargazing parties and equestrian trail rides in the spring and fall. (Check the park’s Facebook page for updated information on nature hikes or to learn more about the First Day Hike on Jan. 1.)

With nearly 4,400 acres, the park holds a bounty of nature’s beauty — 1,400-foot ridgelines, tree-covered hills and 4.5 miles of frontage along Palo Pinto Creek. When rain comes at the right time, Indian blanket, Indian paintbrush and gayfeather flowers blanket the hillsides and meadows; towering pecans and several species of oak trees dig their roots deep into the creek valleys.

The current public use plan for the park includes cabins, picnic areas and many miles of trails for horseback riding, hiking and biking. Most of the facilities will be clustered around Lake Tucker; the majority of the park will be left in its pristine, natural state. Located just 80 miles from Fort Worth, Palo Pinto Mountains State Park promises to become a favorite playground for residents of the DFW Metroplex.

Palo Pinto

Until funding is secured to design and develop the park, the acreage offers limited access. Planning is ongoing, though, and one day park visitors will be able to enjoy a variety of outdoor recreational opportunities.

When you visit, don’t forget  to stop by Mary’s Café and fortify yourself for a hike with one of those fabulous chicken-fried steaks. Be sure to tell Mary that TPWD sent you.

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