After years of listening to my youngest complain that he just wasn’t a bike rider, we had finally had enough. As a family of recreational riders, we were tired of always needing to stay on paved trails to accomodate his training wheels. At eight-years-old, we decided it was time he learned to ride a bike.
We packed up all our bikes and headed to McCown Valley Park on Lake Whitney for the weekend. An Army Corp of Engineer owned park, it’s never as crowded as nearby Lake Whitney State Park, and on a sunny January weekend it was the perfect place for us to turn our stubborn child into a bi-ped!
He had some initial luck on the flat road around the swim area, after we gave him the goal of getting to play in the wonderful but painfully-empty playground, if he could ride there on his own. Like most beginners, staying on the bike was easier than getting started, but the gentle sloping road at the top of the hill was the perfect place for him to use gravity to help him learn to do it on his own. By Sunday morning, as I cooked breakfast under the leafless trees of winter, I was all smiles watching as he was zipping up and down the road with his brother and sister!
Of course, there is plenty more to do in McCown Valley Park than just learn to ride a bike, although it’s not a bad way to spend a quiet weekend.
Know Before You Go
The entrance gate is open from 6am to 10pm.
Ice, firewood and supplies can be purchased in Whitney, but are not sold at the park.
Check on fire bans before heading out.
It’s always windy at Lake Whitney, which makes it a great place to fly a kite!
A National Parks Pass will not only give you free admission into National Parks, but also ALL Army Corp Of Engineer owned parks! If your child is in 4th grade, they get a FREE pass!
Picnic or cook out at one of the numerous sites overlooking the lake. Most come with grills, so don’t forget the hot dogs!
Of course, my kids loved the playground! There is a restroom nearby, too.
There is a roped off swim area, but no lifeguards so don’t forget life jackets for younger and weak swimmers.
Don’t forget your water shoes.
A fishing license is required at all Army Corp of Engineer Parks for anyone 17 or older. There are plenty of places to fish along the banks of the park, especially in the cove.
There aren’t any trails at McCown Valley Park, other than the 5 mile equestrian trail. The park staff, which was great, allowed us to ride on it as long as there weren’t any horses using it. Don’t count on this, however, as it’s a very popular horse trail!
Lake Whitney State Park has two hike and bike trails.
The Hopewell Trail is a 12.5 mile hike, bike and equestrian trail on the west side of the lake that connects with several parks and, supposedly has a nice elevation change at Powell Mountain. The trailhead on the North side of the lake is across from Kimball Bend Park. We visited the trailhead, but it was too rough a ride for our newbie.
We encountered both wild turkeys and some deer during our visit! Please don’t judge my picture, unless you’ve ever tried to take a focus a camera while chasing turkeys on a bike!
Shelters and Campsites
McCown Valley offers 5 screened shelters and over 40 electric and water campsites for both RV’s and tent camping. Each site has a grill and fire pit.
I like campsites #55-60, which are all waterfront on the little cove.
There is a boat ramp in the park.
The cove, protected from much of the lake wind, is a great place to allow the kids to paddle around in their kayaks. There are no rentals in the park.
Proof that beauty is also below the surface!
There are horse trails and campsites for those who are lucky enough to have a horse.
Army Corp of Engineer Parks
There are 8 Army Corp of Engineer Parks at Lake Whitney.
An annual Day Use pass is available, and gives you access to over 203 parks in Texas.
Things to do at Lake Whitney
Dick’s Canoe has rentals for river trips down the Brazos from the Lake Whitney dam. Click HERE to visit their website and plan your own adventure!
Brazos Bluff Ranch in Elm Mott offers horseback riding along the Brazos River. Click HERE to visit their website.
Lake Whitney State Park has two hike and bike trails. Click HERE to read more.
Texas Great Country Cafe has a yummy, hand-breaded chicken fried steak that they will even pan-fry on request! Click HERE to visit their website.
McCown Valley Park
283 McCown Valley Park Rd, Whitney
Click HERE to visit their webpage
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