Hiked this trail as an overnight with a couple of buddies from Texas Backpacking Network. The trail is very easy with minimal elevation change (typical of the area). I liked the trail because of its proximity to home, but it could really use some work. Lots of stepovers and blown down trees as well as overgrown grass in several areas. Lots of potential however. A trail association could easily clean up the entire trail in a weekend with only a handful of volunteers.
The Four-C trail isnt the most exciting trail, but its one of the only overnight trails in East Texas. Ive hiked it 4 times now one way and its always quiet and a bit wild. You can get dropped off at Ratcliff Recreational area, or the Neches Bluff Overlook, and picked up at the other for a shorter trip. The trail is under maintained in many areas, passing through private property that is often not well marked. The trail can be unmarked in some sections, but if your out for an overnight hike, you've probably got the common sense to find your way. I'd suggest a trip in the early spring or fall, when the mosquitoes and humidity are low. The shack in the middle point was in poor shape, possibly the roof caught fire during a controlled burn from pine needles on top? it rained and i had to sleep all the way to one wall to get away from the rain splatter. I have seen multiple venomous and non-venomous snakes on the trails so use caution. Geocaches are plenty along the trail if you cant find them, often just a pile of burnt plastic from the prescribed burns or just a film canister. Ive only run into 1 group of people the 4 times i've done it, so not too busy of a trail. I recomend plenty of bug spray, a hammock with mosquito netting, and plenty of water. Like I said, its not the ozark trail, but its all we got :)
We hiked the trail March 17/18, 2016. A bridge was washed out by the recent rains but with some effort we made it past that point. No one at the ranger station told us this (we called before we began) and we had placed our water on the other side of this bridge which was 5 miles (about) into the hike. If we hadn't made it past (we ran into others that didn't make past) we would have not had water for the second day. The camp site seems to be farther than 9 miles and the map is not very helpful but the trail is well marked. The further we hiked the more bridges were out. Some had obviously been out for awhile. Lots of trees were down and it seemed that the further into the hike we got the less maintained the trail was. We did not mind since we liked the challenge. Oh, and parts of the forest were still burning from a recent fire but nothing that had us alarmed. We just walked past. We would do it again!
My girlfriend and I did a two day hike on this trail 2/27/2016-2/28/2016. We started at the southern trailhead by Ratcliff Lake and hiked about 11 miles then setup camp. The trail is very well marked and even though there are some places where trees have fallen on the path which require you to make small detours, we never had any issues finding the trail.
I read a few recent reviews that stated the shelter at Walnut Creek Camp was no longer there, however this information is incorrect. The shelter is still there and aside from what appeared to be a burned hole in the roof, is in good shape.
Overall it was a blast hiking this trail. We may start from the northern trailhead next time to get a different perspective.
This trail is a little confusing to me. I think the Neches Bluff Trail is a small portion of the Four C trail, but cannot find what the official Neches Buff Trail is.
We did hike 2.5 miles down to near the water and back to the park road where the trail continues on.
It was mostly easy with a few moderate sections of elevation changes (We are flat-landers). The recent rain left many places on the trail that were flooded. Easy enough to get around.
I was surprised that the trail never took us to a bluff, just down to the water's edge.
It was an enjoyable hike and would love to continue on where we left off someday.
I hiked the 20 miles in a little over two days. The trails were easy to hike and was able to form a steady pace along the way.
The trails were well marked by trees which were placard by white tags and the creeks had well maintained bridges for easy passage.
I crossed several park service roads, none had signs which would have confirmed exactly where I was in relation to the map that I had.
On the third morning, I needed more water and was able to safely filter some water from a flowing creek.
Please note that the area surrounding the trails is also designated for public hunting.
To make sure I wasn't a potential target, wore a bear ball, a blaze orange hat and a basic light weight blaze orange vest that was position over my backpack an draped over the shoulder straps.
Hiked 10 miles up from the south entrance. Trail was well worn, flat, mostly shady and well marked. After the 10 mile sign things got more overgrown. Couldn't find the campsite that was supposed to be 9 miles in and it was getting dark so we had to make camp without finding the site. Be aware that you must bring or cache any water on this trail as heavy metals prevent the water from being filtered.
This was my first backpacking hike, and we carried all our water with us, so progress was slower than average.
Walnut Creek shelter was gone, maybe destroyed in one of the burns? No idea, but it definitely wasn't there.
Wear pants, not shorts, and reapply bug spray fairly often. Check for ticks when you make camp. Some boggy areas near bridge were mosquito nightmares!
Minor hills near the overlook end of the trail.
There were almost no mile markers, so figure out your own way to track your progress. The trail itself was clearly marked.
High humidity after a brief rain shower the first day. Humid and sunny the second day. I don't recommend going in June. The forest would be much prettier in the fall anyway.
Good thing about this trail is you can drive your car up some of the backroads and cache your water ahead, save some weight in your packs. http://www.duprephotography.com/4CTrail/index.htm is a good resource to figure out where to stash it.
We stayed at Group Site B on the Loblolly Loop for a few nights with several other families. The campsite itself was great. The loop was quiet and just the right size for kids to safely ride bikes with minimal supervision. The lake comes directly up to the campsite which made for great turtle looking and "fishing." If we had brought the canoe, it would have been perfect for excursions. The hiking trail was lovely, but the map we found on the forest service website was out of date so left us feeling uncertain on our hike. Everything was wonderful EXCEPT the traffic noise from Highway 7 was completely unreasonable. The kids didn't seem to notice much, but the adults had trouble sleeping. I tried lying out in the hammock to watch the stars and the traffic noise was too distracting to relax! The acoustics of the park and lake seem to amplify the sounds, especially of big rigs but even regular cars, and the sound sustains for an outrageous amount of time as the traffic travels past a quite long stretch of road. I timed it and it sounded like jet airplanes taking off for a sustained 75 seconds. That doesn't sound like that would be too bad, but it really was. Highway 7 doesn't seem like it should be such a busy road, but it certainly is. All night and all day. In the daytime, the noise is more constant, so unpleasant but you can tune it out. At night, there often seemed to be 45 seconds or so between vehicles so it was even more aggravating. It was great to get out into a beautiful area and let the kids have so much unstructured play, but I really wish we had known about the traffic. We would have definitely gone elsewhere. Perhaps the Lakeside loop might be a little more quiet, but I am not sure. When we walked the road through that part of the park, it seemed a little better, but on the water it might have been louder. It's very disappointing that such a lovely place is ruined by the proximity of such a ridiculously loud road. Very sad.
My brother and i hiked this trail together and we both enjoyed it. Scenery changes every couple of miles which was nice. There is a nice shelter we stayed in that is almost at the halfway point. A bad storm came through and the shelter did leak a bit, but we were still able to stay dry.