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Just an hour north of Houston, Lake Conroe was built on the west fork of the San Jacinto River in 1973 as an alternative water source for that metropolis. But over the past four decades, it has developed into a bustling lakeside destination ringed by wooded parklands and attractive residential neighborhoods, many of which have tennis courts, golf courses, and marinas. The lake covers 21,000 acres, offering ample opportunities for swimming, boating, and fishing. In addition to the standard speedboats, pontoons, party barges, kayaks, and paddleboards, you may also spot some less expected watercraft, like the paddle-wheeler, a cruising tiki hut, and pedal-powered cycle boats. You may even see thrill seekers propelled high over the lake in futuristic, water-jet-powered boots.
The nearby city of Conroe, southeast of the lake, has a lively historic downtown full of 1920s and 1930s brick buildings that now house art galleries, restaurants, shops, and breweries. While many of Lake Conroe’s waterside eateries provide live music and other entertainment, Conroe has a jam-packed cultural calendar worth checking out that features concerts and theatrical productions.
George Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) in Houston is just thirty minutes to an hour south of Lake Conroe, depending on traffic. While there is some public transportation in Conroe, and the city is very walkable, it’s easiest to get to and around the lake in a car. From the southern end of the lake, which is closest to Conroe, it can take 30 minutes to reach parts of the Sam Houston National Forest on the lake’s northern side. You can also reach many restaurants and parks by boat; quite a few lakeside businesses have docks, piers, and other places to tie up while you venture onto land.
The waters of Lake Conroe are most refreshing in the summer, when the days are very hot and humid, so it’s no surprise that’s the busiest time of year here. But Lake Conroe is really a year-round destination. The coldest season, which would still be considered shorts and sunglasses weather in most places, only lasts from the end of November until mid-February. May and June can be rainy, but early spring and fall, when the weather is warm and dry, are beautiful. However, things can get a bit busy for a week in early spring, during the annual county fair.
On the north side of Lake Conroe, the Sam Houston National Forest contains a portion of the Lone Star Hiking Trail, the longest continuous trail in Texas. The 40-mile Lake Conroe section has four connecting loops of varying lengths that can be explored separately. Hikers may spot local wildlife including deer, bald eagles, and red-cockaded woodpeckers.
Lake Conroe is teeming with catfish, bluegill, and crappie, but with its long, winding shoreline, it’s best known as a bass fishing destination. Grab a fishing license at bait shops or sporting good stores, then cast a line from public piers in Lake Conroe Park or hire a local guide service to take you out in search of a trophy catch. There are bag and size limits on largemouth bass, so be sure to check before you head out.
Join the locals for a lively afternoon at Ayers Island, a small patch of sand, grass, and trees on the southeast end of Lake Conroe. The family-friendly spot is popular with lake regulars, who anchor around the island and go for a swim, or beach their boats and relax on shore.