Penitentiary Hollow via Red Waterfront Trail

Mineral Wells, Texas

based on 7 reviews



1.44 miles

Elevation Gain

249 ft

Route Type



Added by Korey Taylor

Hike the 1.5 mile Red Waterfront Trail on the Eastern shore of the beautiful Lake Mineral Wells to the unique Penitentiary Hollow. Here you'll find four huge Elm trees shooting out of the rocky canyon floor.

Lake Mineral Wells is one of the closest state parks in the area located less than an hour and a half from Dallas and only 45 minutes from Fort Worth. It sits in the heart of cattle country and offers several outdoor adventures.

The trail starts from the Eastern parking lot and heads straight towards the water before it bears to the right and follows along the shore. There are several docks that lead off of the trail over the water that provide a great view of the entire lake. After .52 miles you will reach Penitentiary Hollow- a unique geological feature that resembles a small canyon. Inside the hollow are four huge Elm trees that grow out of the rocky floor and offer a spectacular sight to walk among.

This is a perfect day trip from the DFW area, but there are tons of established campgrounds as well primitive sites if you want to make it an overnight trip!

Lake Mineral Wells State Park Map

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Dog Friendly
Easy Parking
Family Friendly

Penitentiary Hollow via Red Waterfront Trail Reviews

This is one of my favorite DFW adjacent State Parks, and it’s primarily because of this trail. There is plenty of parking at the trailhead and a restroom. The trail itself is rocky, but no major elevation changes. The trail is lakeside mostly with many beautiful views of the water. Once you get to Penitentiary Hollow, you will see rock climbers and some very impressive rock formations. Coming from DFW, this kind of terrain is very interesting to me. The first time I did it, I wasn’t wearing the right shoes, so I encourage you to wear hikers. It has made a big difference! I highly recommend this park and this hike.

Really nice hike. Great state park with nice campsites.

Was just here two days ago, even during the winter the hollow was beautiful and offered some great hiking. Saw a few people rock climbing and repelling as well!

Lake Mineral Wells is an excellent day trip from Fort Worth. The drive is about an hour (depending where in FW you are coming from). I went in Spring 2017 when the bluebonnets were in full bloom. I have not explored the adjacent trailway yet, but I did the waterfront trail described in this adventure. The waterfront trail is a good trail that as the name implies, is pretty much entirely along the shore of Lake Mineral Wells. The trail ends at Penitentiary Hollow which is a big rock formation. You can apparently climb this, but I mostly explored the different passages and cracks in the formation. There's also an observation area at the top with a great view of the lake. Highly recommend this place if you're looking for a quick day trip from the Dallas/Fort Worth area.

This was really fun and if you take a adventure themed vacation down there you will love it!

Essentially the only climbing area near Dallas, Mineral Wells is a worthwhile drive to get some top-roping in. This easy approach is just down the dirt trail that starts to the right of the parking lot. If you get hungry, you can easily trot back up for snacks and water.

Leave No Trace

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!


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