Texas Parks & Wildlife Magazine   


Take a hike

Climber's Delight

Lake Mineral Wells State Park's Red Waterfront Trail

Distance: 0.8 miles (one-way) • Difficulty Level: 3/5 • Approximate time: 45 minutes

It’s hard to be a rock climber in North Texas. The prairies don’t lend themselves to vertical relief. Lake Mineral Wells State Park offers one of the few outdoor rock-climbing areas in the region. The park’s Red Waterfront Trail offers one way to get there.

The park’s Penitentiary Hollow is a small maze of sandstone conglomerate bluffs that’s one of North Texas’ most delightful outdoor destinations. (You can also drive there, but if you want some lakefront hiking, too, this is the way to go.)

The Red Waterfront Trail starts in a picnic area on the south side of the lake. The trail goes down a hill to the lake’s edge, where a fishing pier can be found (a recent Boy Scout project addressed erosion issues here). Most of the length of the trail skirts the eastern shoreline of the lake. After a second pier is reached, it’s time to follow the trail uphill into Penitentiary Hollow. The hollow is an unexpected wonder of boulders, cliffs and canyons, with cedar elms reaching skyward and rock climbers scaling the 30-foot cliffs (climbers must register, pay a fee and have proper gear).

You can head up to the viewing platform for a view of the lake and canyons, or head back the way you came along the lake.

1. Fishing pier

2. Lakeside trail

3. Canyon overlook

 Russell Roe   Top: Chase Fountain | TPWD; all others: Kuhlken photography

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