Hike the East Trail at Lost Maples
San Antonio › East Trailhead, Lost Maples Natural Area
Added by Sarah Vaughn
Fall Foliage...in Texas!5.3 mile Loop Hike740ft Total Elevation GainScenic Overlooks2-3 hour Hike Time
Lost Maples State Natural Area is the go to place if you want to escape to New England-like Fall scenery in Texas, which is hard to believe for some. Tucked away deep in Hill Country near Vanderpool, TX, Lost Maples has a unique supply of Maple trees thanks to the deepness of the canyons found in this area. Although you can visit and hike at Lost Maples year-round, the most popular time is from mid-October through November when the vibrant Fall colors draw the crowds. The park maintains a Foliage Report (http://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lost-maples/foliage-reports) complete with photos so you can plan the best time to visit and catch a glimpse of the most color. In order to book a campsite during this time you most likely have to book up to a year in advance! If you find yourself out of luck for a campsite don't fret too much, nearby Garner State Park (www.theoutbound.com/san-antonio/hiking/explore-garner-state-park) has over 200 campsites available, and is only a 30 minute drive from Lost Maples. If you simply show the ranger your tag from Garner, they will admit you into the park for free. A word to the wise to those visiting the park in the Fall, arrive as close to the opening of the park at 8am as you can. Otherwise you may find yourself parked in a line of cars waiting to get inside the park that can be two hours long.
Once you've gotten into the park and are ready to hit the trails, you will want to head north on the main park road past the headquarters and campground. There are two parking lots you can park at, for the East Trail however you will want to park at the second lot, which is at the end of the main park road. From the parking lot starts both the East Trail, and the Maple Trail. I would suggest taking the short Maple Trail that leads back into the East Trail if you want a chance of seeing more Fall color.
After joining back with the East trail you will come across a series of crossings from the crystal clear Sabinal River. Even in the spring crossing should not be an issue as it is very low. Soon you will come to Monkey Rock and the Grotto, two limestone features that make for a nice stopping point to take in the scenery and unique plant life. Next you will start to make a somewhat steep ascent towards the top of the canyon- about 350ft of elevation gain in a little less than a mile. At the top you will be met with a number of scenic viewpoints of the park and surrounding Hill Country before heading back down on the West side. Finally at the bottom, there is a popular spot for swimming in the Sabinal River met with limestone bluffs that you may see some cliff-jumpers on (although is very much frowned upon by park rangers).
Technically at this point the East Trail is at its end. What I would suggest is taking the East-West Trail back to the parking area to give yourself a nice 5 mile loop hike. The East-West Trail also has some of the most colorful Fall foliage we saw in the park, so you don't want to skip it! When you come off the East-West trail you will find yourself in the first parking lot of the park, but a short walk down the road will lead you to your original starting point. To help plan out your hike, check the park trails map provided by Texas Parks & Wildlife here: http://tpwd.texas.gov
- Hiking Shoes
- Texas Parks Pass or $6 for Entrance Fee
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well worth the drive.
Lost Maples is truly an awesome park. Two short loops are great for easy day hikes or for testing new gear in the back country. The best part is, if worst comes to worst, you’re only a couple of hours walk from the car. They have several primitive sites, both on high ground and down in the valley. There is plenty of access to water, just bring your filter. Ground fires are not allowed in the back country but the dogs are. There are several fire pits in the car camping area and all the hook ups needed for the RV. I would suggest you bring everything you need (including Fire wood) because there is only a small corners store near the park and it’s almost a 45 min drive to the nearest “real” store. Plenty of trees for hammock campers and no shortage of views.
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