Desert plants in the Big Thicket? Even though it rains frequently, the soil in this part of the forest is sandy and does not hold much water. Plants like prickly pear cactus and yucca, typically found in arid climates, do well in this unusual environment. Longleaf pines grow tall in this open, sunny part of the forest.
9 miles roundtrip (out-and-back & loop combination)
Overall, this hike is 9 miles roundtrip. The Sandhill Loop is 1 mile but to get to it, you’ll need to hike 4 miles along the Turkey Creek Trail.
The hike begins at the Turkey Creek Trailhead on the south side of Gore Store Road. To get there from Kountze, take US 69/287 north for about 10 miles until you reach Gore Store Road. Turn right (east) onto Gore Store Road and go about 3.5 miles. Drive past the northbound Turkey Creek Trailhead, cross the bridge over Turkey Creek, and then you will arrive at the southbound Turkey Creek Trailhead on the right.
Heading south on the Turkey Creek Trail, you’ll hike past cypress sloughs, some of which can be fun to explore off-trail. Continue over several small wooden bridges across small streams. Along the way, you’ll pass through very dense, shaded, dark parts of the forest where little sunlight reaches the ground.
After 4 miles, you’ll reach the junction with the Sandhill Loop, marked with a couple of benches. Take the left fork to go clockwise on the loop. Notice how the forest canopy opens—suddenly, you’re in a very sunny part of the forest with tall pines looming above. Look for desert plants growing among the pine needles on the forest floor.
Continuing clockwise on the Sandhill Loop, you’ll reach a junction with a large metal bridge over Turkey Creek. Take the right fork to walk past the bridge. (If you were to cross the bridge, you would end up at the Kirby Nature Trail.) Continue heading north until you reach the familiar Turkey Creek/Sandhill Loop junction with the benches. Take the left fork to go north on the Turkey Creek Trail for 4 miles to return to the trailhead at Gore Store Road.
The Turkey Creek Trail is marked with red trail blazes; the Sandhill Loop is marked with yellow blazes. The short section where the two trails overlap is marked with both colors.