So you live in Texas and you want to see these Fall colors you always hear people talking about. You are probably out of luck, right? Wrong! One of the most amazing places to see Fall colors in the COUNTRY is right here in Texas. Lost Maples State Natural Area (also locally known as Lost Maples State Park or even simply Lost Maples Park) is a 2900 acre protected area in the middle of Texas’ beautiful Hill Country!
We first stumbled upon this area by accident back in 2012. We had just moved to Texas and would take weekend drives nearly every weekend. One particular weekend, we decided to go deeper into the Hill Country than we had prior. Most of our prior excursions took us no further than Fredericksburg. But boy were we glad we decided to keep driving! The Texas Hill Country was already known for its beauty, but this area took things to an entirely new level!
So what makes the Lost Maples Natural Area so special? What is there to do? Is it only pretty in the Fall? Read ahead for the answers to those questions and more!
Lost Maples State Natural Area
What To See
What makes Lost Maples so unique are the trees themselves. This area is home to the only maple tree (specifically Big Tooth Maples) forest in all of Texas. Evidence has shown that this maple forest is a remnant of a larger maple forest that existed during the last glacial period when the area was cooler and more damp. Today, the soil and climate of this particular area has allowed this maple forest to thrive, though in a relatively small area.
Between the maple and oak trees, Lost Maples provides outstanding fall foliage viewing opportunities. Traffic at Lost Maples is highest during peak color changing. Peak viewing is typically from mid-October through mid-November. Texas Parks and Wildlife starts updating their color tracker in early October. You can view the report here. Due to the popularity, entry spots often sell out. They recommend you purchase your Day Pass online early. You can reserve your spot here. Once they sell out, no additional visitors are allowed.
Besides the Fall colors, Lost Maples is beautiful all year long. The rugged terrain provides Instagram-worthy photo opportunities at every turn. The spring fed Sabinal River creates an oasis-like feeling during the hot Texas summers. Wildlife abounds at Lost Maples. Whitetail deer, armadillo, wild turkey, raccoon, brown tarantula, and more are frequent sights here. Also present, but rarely seen, are mountain lion, bobcat, coyote, and foxes.
What To Do
While most people choose to visit during the 4 weeks of maximum Fall colors, there is plenty to do at Lost Maples during all times of the year. Some of those things are:
- Hiking- Lost Maples has over 10 miles of hiking trails with ratings from easy to moderate to difficult. Be sure to bring plenty of water. One loop brings you to the top of a 2200 foot cliff!
- Fishing- The Sabinal River flows through Lost Maples Natural Area. This spring fed river almost always flows, even during exceptional drought. Note: You do not need a fishing license to fish from the shore within State Parks or Natural Areas
- Camp- Lost Maples has over 30 campsites with electricity and water
- Stargaze- Dark sky indexes range from 1 (total darkness) to 9 (inner city). Lost Maples has a darkness index of 3! Depending on cloud cover and moon phase, there can be millions of stars to see at night!
- Important Note- There is little to no cell phone reception from any carrier within Lost Maples. If you intend on visiting alone, or even with a group, be sure to inform others of your destination for safety reasons. Communication while in the park will be difficult if not impossible.
Where To Stay
If camping isn’t your thing, there are plenty of cabins to rent in nearby Leakey, Vanderpool, Utopia, and Rio Frio. Many of these cabins are located right along the Frio River. They are also close to Garner State Park, which many would argue is the crown jewel of Texas State Parks. If you are more of the hotel type, you will need to drive slightly further to places such as Kerrville, Medina, or Junction. For even more lodging options, San Antonio and Fredericksburg are just about 90 minutes away. Search for different hotel options here.
When To Go
The short answer…ANYTIME! This location in Texas means warm temperatures nearly year round. Even in January, average highs are in the low to mid 60’s. In summer, temperature highs are in the low 90’s with evening lows in the 60’s. It is relatively dry most of the year. The rainiest month of the year is May with 5 rainy day, with most months seeing just 2 or 3 days of rain.
More Fall Color Options
Depending on where you live, Lost Maples can be quite a drive. If you wish to seek out Fall colors without driving to the far reaches of the Hill Country, here are some more options for you!
- Daingerfield State Park- Located in the dense woods of northeast Texas, the primary trees you will find are pine, oak, sweetgum and cypress. Prime time here is the end of October until the end of November.
- Dinosaur Valley State Park- Located about an hour southwest of Fort Worth, the primary fall colors will come from elm, sumac, hackberry, sycamore, red oak, and Virginia creeper. Viewing time is pretty brief. Peak time runs from the end of October through the beginning of November.
- Tyler State Park- Located in East Texas, this location will provide a huge array of colors. The colors are provided by the changing leaves of sweetgum, maple, dogwood, sassafras, hickory, sumac, and oak. The peak time frame is pretty late into the season as well. Maximum colors typically occur from late November into early December. We have headed out this way when picking up our Christmas tree each year. Win-win!
- McKinney Falls State Park- The Austin area doesn’t provide many opportunities for Fall foliage viewing, but this one is pretty decent. From late October through early November, visitors to this state park can see colors of orange, yellow, and red from bald cypress and red oak.
While Texas certainly will never be a Smoky Mountains or Vermont, and any other place famed for its Fall colors, it can be decidedly said that Texas does present some decent options within its own borders. Depending on where you live within Texas, most people live within an hour or two of prime Fall color viewing. Whenever we have taken Texas Fall color drives, we have always made a weekend out of it. Texas has so many beautiful small towns with great lodging options to make for a fun, exciting, and beautiful weekend.