Also known as the Piney Woods region because of its towering trees, East Texas has a variety of natural attractions that draw visitors from across the country. In addition to the area's natural beauty, East Texas also features the oldest town in Texas, the Texas State Railroad, numerous historic sites and much, much more.
East Texas' "Big Thicket" was the first area in the United States to be dedicated as a National Preserve. Covering over 100,000 acres, the Big Thicket National Preserve is home to a diverse group of plants and animals and plays host to thousands of nature enthusiasts annually. Visitors to Big Thicket National Preserve have the option of enjoying several outdoor recreational activities including hiking
, jogging, mountain biking, birding, canoeing, kayaking and fishing. Regardless of how they spend their time at Big Thicket, visitors always come away amazed at the massive cypress trees and myriad of wildlife contained within the preserve.
While East Texas is best known for its trees, it is also renown for its flowers. Among the most celebrated flowers in the region is the azalea. And, each year there are several azalea trails and festivals staged throughout East Texas. Among the most popular are the Tyler Azalea Trail, held from mid-March through early April, and the Jasper Azalea Festival
, held each year in March.
Running between Palestine
and Rusk, the Texas State Railroad uses steam engines to run the rails just as they have since 1896. However, instead of moving timber and other cargo, these days the Texas State Railroad takes passengers on a scenic trip through the Piney Woods of East Texas. Tours on the Texas State Railroad are particularly popular during spring when the flowers are in full bloom. In fact, the Texas State Railroad is an official (and important) part of the annual Dogwood Trails Celebration. The combination of nostalgia, natural scenery and historic charm combine to make a trip on the Texas State Railroad the highlight of any East Texas vacation.
Few people realize the oldest town in Texas is actually located deep in the heart of East Texas. However, Nacogdoches, formed in 1779, lays claim to that title. Originally a Spanish settlement, Nacogdoches is a surprisingly dynamic town. Obviously being the oldest town in Texas makes Nacogdoches historically important. The town is also located close to the famous Caddo Indian Mounds, Lake Nacogdoches, Lake Sam Rayburn and other attractions. Nacogdoches is also home to Stephen F Austin University, named in honor of the "Father of Texas."
Outdoor recreation is big in East Texas and no outdoor activity is bigger than bass fishing. The East Texas Region is home to no fewer than three of the top bass lakes in the nation - lakes Fork, Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend. In addition to these legendary bass lakes, East Texas has countless smaller and lesser known lakes scattered across its landscape - almost all of which feature great bass fishing.
As mentioned earlier, flowers are a big a draw in East Texas. While flowers such as azaleas and dogwood blooms are expected by visitors to the region, one of the area's biggest attraction is a flower that comes as a surprise to be found in such great numbers in Texas - the rose. The East Texas town of Tyler claims the title of Rose Capital of the Nation. It is estimated one-half of the rose bushes found in the United States are packaged and shipped from this area. Tyler's amazing rose garden, which blooms from March until the first frost each year, features 40,000 rose bushes representing 500 varieties of roses. Tyler also hosts an annual Rose Festival each October and is home to the Rose Museum.