Lost Maples State Natural Area
Northerners take note: Fall colors—particularly crimson reds and brilliant oranges—are virtually nonexistent in Texas, so don’t be surprised to hear about frenzied and overcrowded conditions at Lost Maples State Natural Area (five miles north of Vanderpool on Ranch Road 187, 830/966-3413, www.tpwd.state.tx.us; Oct.–Nov. fees $6 daily per person 13 and older day use, $3 per person 13 and older staying overnight; Dec.–Sept. $5 daily per person 13 and older day use, $3 per person 13 and older staying overnight).
The main-attraction maples add a welcome splash of color to the region’s normally uninspired fall palate of browns and yellows. They’re deemed “lost” since they grow hundreds of miles away from their native habitats, primarily due to the cooler and wetter conditions provided by the surrounding canyon walls.
The trees hit their colorful peak in late October and early November, resulting in huge crowds and parking capacity issues (limited to 250 vehicles), so visitors are advised to call ahead regarding accessibility, or, better yet, arrive on a weekday when it’s less full.
Even when the fall foliage isn’t taking center stage, visitors are attracted year-round to the park’s limestone canyons, cool spring-fed streams, and wooded trails. Since the beloved maples have a shallow root system, hikers are encouraged to stay on the trail to avoid damaging the trees.
Park amenities include campsites with water and electricity, restrooms with showers, and primitive camping areas. Camping fees are $8 per night for primitive campsites and $15 per night for campsites with water and electricity hookups.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition