Activities include camping, picnicking, hiking, biking, equestrian, and fishing. Six lakes are easily accessible to fishermen, with piers located at 40-Acre, Elm and Hale Lakes. Visitors are cautioned to pay due respect to alligators, which are numerous in some areas of the park. There are at least three free interpretive programs and hikes offered every weekend. Interpretive staff and volunteers offer weekday guided hikes and programs for schools and other educational organizations. Fees and reservations required. The Nature Center is open Monday - Friday from 11 a.m - 3 p.m. and Sat & Sunday from 9 a.m to 5 p.m. It's "Habitats and Niches" display offers an unusual "hands-on" alligator discovery area, a tactile model of the park, freshwater aquarium, live native snake species, a touch table and an open-captioned orientation video for all visitors including those with hearing impairments. The George Observatory is located in the park and is open Saturdays from 3 p.m. to 10 p.m. For information on stargazing programs/passes and other programs, call the Observatory at 979/553-3400 or at 281/242-3055 (as a satellite of the Houston Museum of Natural Science) or visit the George Observatory web site. Shop for gifts at the headquarters gift shop, the Visitor Center, and at the George Observatory.
We had planned to take some of the trails near Hale Lake on the eastern end of the park, but those were off-limits due to hunting season. We opted to start at 40 Acre Lake, hike around The Elm Lake Loop, then take the long route back via the Pilant Slough Trail (about 6 miles total). The first part of our hike was very picturesque and alligator-filled, but it was a little more developed and populated than I prefer. There are restrooms and developed campsites galore, and tons of folks were running, biking, and fishing near the trails. The Pilant Slough Trail is quite beautiful. The weather couldn't have been better—only drank about 2L the entire outing and debated on whether to bring a light jacket at the outset (we didn't need it). I will definitely be back to explore a little more.
I love Brazos Bend. It's far enough from civilization to enjoy peace and quiet (unless you happen to go on a Boy Scout weekend). There are nice paved trails as well as wooded ones. Not only are there plentiful alligator that the park is famous for, t's also a great place for birding. Be aware of venomous snakes, as well as deer, wild hogs, raccoons, opossum, etc. There is a nature center, places for camping....and there is an observatory that fills up quickly weekend evenings. I don't recommend fishing here as the alligators go after bait. If you are in to geocaching there are plenty of caches there too.
(September 4, 2015) We parked at the 40 Acre Lake parking lot and set out on the 40 Acre Lake Trail around the NW side of the lake. On the other side, we followed the Spillway Trail to Elm Lake. At Elm Lake, we headed north to Horseshoe Lake, where we took the west side of the Horseshoe Lake Loop. We hiked the entire Big Creek Loop, and then followed the same route back to the car. According to the park map, we hiked a total of 6.9 miles, but taking into account a detour at Elm Lake to escape the rain, Endomondo said we hiked 7.6 miles total. With breaks and a rain detour, we were out for about 4 1/2 hours. We each consumed 2L of water and had one snack while out.
The main trails around the lakes are very well maintained, especially around 40 Acre Lake and Elm Lake -- wide, flat paths, except for a small hill near the 40 Acre Lake trailhead.
Big Creek Loop is less so. There is A LOT of damage to the trail created by wild hogs, and since it had recently rained in the area, the trail was muddy. Not a lot of standing water, but plenty of loose, black mud that stuck to our boots, got in our boots, and made a general mess. LOL. We didn't mind too much, but it's something to be aware of if you plan to head back that way.
The loops around the lakes are understandably popular with visitors. Lots of waterfowl. Lots of alligators (look for their eyes in the water). Lots of beautiful swamp scenery.
Big Creek Loop is more woodsy rather than swampy. Certainly more remote and less travelled. Great for finding some solitude. There are WILD HOGS back there, so have an escape plan in case you encounter them. Oh, and there are lots of spiders up in the trees. Shivers. :-)
We got caught by a big rainstorm on the return trip around Horseshoe Lake. While we were soaked to the bone -- nope, no raingear, lol -- nothing dampened our spirits. We'll be back!
LisaMarie N. on Horse Shoe Lake Loop
This is one of the very best parks in Texas... for people watching and grading bad decision making. Yesterday, we went to hike the linked serious of trails that start with 40 Acre Lake, then to the Spillway, Elm Lake Loop, Old Horseshoe Trail Loops, and park of Big Creek Loop (the mud won on that one, it was DEEP).
What always boggles my mind when hiking here are the number of people with their dogs. I love dogs, but so do alligators. And most dogs are perfectly sized gator snacks. Why people would put their beloved pooch at risk has always been beyond me... The winner of our people watching contest was the woman allowing her three little yappy dogs to play by the water's edge when there was a gator only about twenty feet away...
All that aside, it was an awesome day for bird spotting and gator watching. We saw at least twenty gators and several dozen species of birds. Up on Big Creek Loop everything was torn up by the wild pigs roaming the park, but we did see tracks for coyotes, deer, possum, raccoon, and what we think was a bobcat.
A park volunteer told us that there are currently 200-300 wild pigs in the park, and while they have an active trapping program, they don't seem to be able to make much of a dent in the population. They capture about 20 a month... so either more are moving in or they breed REALLY fast.