Forest Trail Region


The area around Jacksonville in Cherokee County became a major producer of tomatoes during the first half of the 20th Century, and earned the epithet “Tomato Capital of the World.” Today, the annual June Tomato Festival draws large crowds. Back in the day, the tomato was so revered locally that the Jacksonville Independent School District named its football stadium the Tomato Bowl. It’s one of the more unusual structures in East Texas, built by the WPA and completed in 1940. Located downtown, the stadium is carved into an earthen bowl. Visitors climb wide steps to the raised entry plaza then pass through large timber doors and across the breezeway to reach the bleachers. Annual events include the "Tomato Fest" celebration in June and the "Tops in Texas Rodeo" held in July. Another downtown attraction is the Vanishing Texana Museum. Housed in the Jacksonville Public Library, the museum displays Native American artifacts, old farm implements and photographs.

Just north of town, Love’s Lookout, a roadside park known for its spectacular views, rides a high ridge on U.S. 69, rising 240 feet above the surrounding terrain. On a clear day, you can see 30 miles across the forest and valley below. The scenic spot was a popular picnic area when farmer John Wesley Love bought it in 1904 and planted a 600-acre peach orchard—before Jacksonville fell in love with the tomato. Love died in 1925. His family donated part of the farm for the roadside park. In 2004, the Texas Department of Transportation gave the park a one-million-dollar makeover as a safety rest area for travelers.