If you are looking for a close-to-home camping excursion Lake Ray Roberts is a twofer. Located east of Denton and west of McKinney, Ray Roberts has two state parks to pick from. Isle du Bois is on the south shore. Johnson Branch is on the north side.
Both have more than 150 campsites, most with electric and water hookups. There are hiking and mountain biking trails, some paved, some not. The unpaved trail at Johnson Branch is shared by hikers and bikers, but no horses. Equestrian access is only allowed on some of the trails at Isle du Bois.
Of course the big attraction is the lake. There are boat ramps at both parks for motorboats and jet skis. Kayaks and canoes can be launched from campsites located on the water or at other lake access points in the parks. There are swimming beaches at both parks.
Fishing in Ray Roberts lake is said to be one of the best spots in the North Texas area, with largemouth bass being a fairly common catch, along with catfish, crappie, and white bass.
On the south side of the dam’s spillway there are more hiking trails and a launch site for boaters and paddlers. The area right at the flume is a popular fishing spot.
The parks are heavily forested with several varieties of oak and elm trees. Along the flood plains you will find sycamores and willows. Most of the trails are shaded by a forest canopy, making them cooler even in the hot Texas summer weather.
The parks list wildlife of deer, raccoons, opossums, gray fox and coyotes. They don’t come into the camping area very much. We have never had a problem with them getting into food supplies or coolers.
The Isle du Bois park (1,400 acres) has been open since 1993, the Johnson Branch (1,500 acres) since 1996. In addition to the parks there is the Ray Roberts Greenbelt, which runs 11 miles from the lake to Highway 380. It’s used by hikers, mountain bikers and paddlers. Horses are permitted on the north greenbelt trail, but not the south trail.
There is a full service marina at Sanger, on the south side of the lake. The Lone Star resort is located on the east side of the lake.
Both parks are fairly remote, particularly the Johnson Branch. Convenience stores and gas stations are a bit of a drive. Ice is not available at Johnson Branch, but there is an ice vending machine at Isle du Bois. There are firewood dispensers at both parks that take credit cards.
Camping and hiking are great family outings, plus Texas state parks are dog friendly.
We found the parks to be quiet at night, no one blasting their rap music on the stereo. Everyone can get out and enjoy the scenic trails, dinner by the campfire, and restful sleeping in the woods.