East Texas: land of towering loblollies and rust-red clay roads, moss-draped swamps and cypress forests, peace and quiet and—yes—the mysterious unknown. Despite the fact that it’s our own neck of the woods, for many Houstonians, the region remains sequestered behind that famous Pine Curtain.

Well, we at Houstonia like a mystery. It’s what beckons us onto the highway on a blue-sky weekend, propelling us away from city life, toward something brand-new.

For this story, we slipped through the Pine Curtain to explore the best of the region’s 11 state parks, where pristine forests, inviting campsites, well-marked trails and fish-stocked lakes are preserved for all Texans—if they know where to go and when. Summer is high season, so make sure to reserve a campsite ahead of time at these, our seven favorite state parks in the Piney Woods.

No matter your level of camping experience, or even your interest in the great outdoors, there’s a state park in the region for you to enjoy. Read on, and that much, at least, we’ll demystify for you. The rest is waiting to be discovered…

In This Feature:

For the Fishermen (And the Wannabe Fishermen): Lake Livingston State Park

Think you can beat the record catch at Lake Livingston? You'll have to hook a 115-pound catfish first.

04/28/2016 By Catherine Matusow

For the Gung-Ho Glampers: Daingerfield State Park

For those times when you just can't camp without a hot shower at end of the day.

04/28/2016 By Sarah Rufca Nielsen

Another Excuse to Go Hiking: Geocaching

The upside of camping with a cell phone? The resurgence of geocaching.

04/28/2016 By Katharine Shilcutt

For the Casual Campers: Martin Creek Lake State Park

It may be the loudest state park in Texas, but it's still one of our favorites—and here's why.

04/28/2016 By Katharine Shilcutt

The Flora of the Piney Woods

Did you know? Spanish moss is neither a moss nor a lichen.

04/28/2016 By Roxanna Asgarian

For the History Hounds: Mission Tejas State Park

More than mounds abound in this part of Texas, where the Caddo Indians once reigned.

04/28/2016 By Alice Levitt

Cowboy Coffee & Chili: Campfire Cooking 101

Need tips for cooking in the wild? Ask a cowgirl.

04/28/2016 By Alice Levitt

For the Canoers and Kayakers: Caddo Lake State Park

A potential Bigfoot sighting is far from the only reason to visit Texas's largest—and only—natural lake.

04/28/2016 By Roxanna Asgarian

The Fauna of the Piney Woods

From water moccasins to woodpeckers, what to watch for—and what to watch out for—in East Texas.

04/28/2016 By Roxanna Asgarian

For the City Slickers: Huntsville State Park

Horse stable? Check. Spec's for champagne? Also check.

04/28/2016 By Marianella Orlando

For the Happy Hikers: Martin Dies Jr. State Park

Don't mind the alligators—no, seriously.

04/28/2016 By Nick Esquer