When it comes to outdoor recreation, San Angelo residents are blessed with the Concho River, two reservoirs, and an excellent civic park system. The highlight is San Angelo State Park, 3900-2 Mercedes St. (tel. 325/949-4757; www.tpwd.state.tx.us), at O. C. Fisher Lake on the city's northwest side, attracting mountain bikers, hikers, boaters, anglers, and equestrians. The park sits at the nexus of four distinct geographical areas -- Hill Country, Trans-Pecos, the rolling plains to the east, and the high plains to the north -- in an area that has been inhabited by humans for over 10,000 years. Admission to the park is $3 per adult and free for children 12 and under. The day-use hours are from 8am to 10pm.
The park's trail system is one of the best in all of West Texas, with more than 50 miles of multiuse trails (hiking, biking, horseback riding). Certain trails provide access to the only ride-in, equestrian campsites between El Paso and San Antonio. The trails connect the north and south shores of the reservoir and range from flat and smooth to rocky and rugged; a detailed map is available at the entrance. There are ample opportunities for birding and wildlife-watching, with 300 avian and 50 mammal species (including pelicans, cormorants, Texas longhorn cattle, and buffalo), and a significant population of horned lizards. In season, hunting and fishing are popular.
On guided tours, visitors can take a look at the petroglyphs in the park, go on a 3-mile hike to fossilized footprints, or learn about the history of buffalo and Texas longhorn. The tours are informative, engaging, and offered on demand (fees are charged).
There are 85 campsites with water and electric hookups here, and more than 100 tent sites. The campground on the north shore, shaded by massive pecan trees, is especially isolated and attractive, while the southern campgrounds are closer to the reservoir and playground. Nightly camping fees, in addition to park entrance fees, are $8 to $18. There are also a few simple cabins that can accommodate six guests for $36 to $45 a night.
Six miles south of downtown via Knickerbocker Road, the city-owned Lake Nasworthy is a fishing, hiking, and boating hot spot. Below the nearly 1,600 surface acres of fresh water, two nonnative saltwater species (hybrid trout-corvina and red drum) have thrived alongside native bass and catfish. Spring Creek Marina & RV Park, 45 Fisherman's Rd. (tel. 800/500-7801 or 325/944-3850; www.springcreekmarina-rv.com), has campsites with full hookups ($30-$38 nightly), tent sites ($25 nightly), cabins ($70-$100 nightly), boat rentals, and a convenience store.
The San Angelo Nature Center at Lake Nasworthy, 7409 Knickerbocker Rd. (tel. 325/942-0121), is a small museum with a garden, a library, and a short interpretive trail system. The center is open Tuesday through Saturday from noon to 5pm.
The Pictographs of Painted Rocks, called a "museum, library, and art gallery" of ancient American Indians, is another noteworthy excursion near San Angelo. Located 22 miles southeast of the city near the town of Paint Rock, the site features a natural limestone wall adorned with more than 1,600 pictographs. On the winter solstice, rays of light reflect off of an ornate, otherwise invisible painting known as "Sun Dagger." For information on tours, call tel. 325/732-4376.
The municipal park system in San Angelo is a cut above average, with the River Walk and Civic League Park, West Beauregard and Park streets, featuring the International Water Lily Garden. This garden displays lily species from all over the globe that bloom both day and night during the spring and summer. Call San Angelo Park Headquarters at tel. 325/657-4279 for additional information on the city's park system.
Boating & Fishing -- In addition to O. C. Fisher Lake and Lake Nasworthy , there are three other reservoirs within a 40-mile radius of San Angelo: Twin Buttes Reservoir (tel. 325/657-4206), located immediately west of Lake Nasworthy; Lake E. V. Spence (tel. 432/267-6341), known for its striped bass, situated 35 miles north of San Angelo via Tex. 208 and Tex. 158; and Lake O. H. Ivie (tel. 432/267-6341), the largest body of water in the region at nearly 20,000 surface acres, located 40 miles east of the city via farm roads 765 and 2134.
Golf -- The 7,171-yard Quicksand Golf Course, 2305 Pulliam St. (tel. 325/482-8337; www.quicksandsanangelo.com), is one of Texas's best (and toughest) 18-hole courses, with greens fees around $30 to $40, cart included. There's also the 18-hole Riverside Hills Golf Course, 900 W. 29th St. (tel. 325/653-6130), with greens fees of $21 to $27, cart included.
Hiking -- The top hiking area in the region is San Angelo State Park, with 50 miles of trails. The trails are easy to difficult, with the loops between the north and south shores and the hike to the Highland Range Scenic Lookout (less than a mile) being the most popular.
Mountain Biking -- The most popular mountain biking spots in the San Angelo area are the trails at San Angelo State Park and around Twin Buttes Reservoir. Bike rentals are not available in town.