Best Places to See the Changing Fall Colors Around Central Texas

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Photo by Russell J Bennett

With record high temperatures in early November, summer nearly edged out autumn this year, but there’s still time to check out the fall foliage here in the Lone Star State. While transplants from the north sometimes reminisce about how they miss the changing colors of fall, Texas does have its fair share of scenic woods of oak, maple, mesquite and cypress trees that undergo a beautiful transition from green to red, orange and yellow each year.

Feeling ambitious, but not sure where’s the best place to see the changing colors yourself? Here are a few ideas to get you started; all are located within a three-hour drive of Austin:

Garner State Park – Located in Concan, about three hours southwest of Austin by car, this park offers lots to see and do, including 2.9 miles of cool, clear Frio River and 1,774 acres of Hill Country terrain. Hiking trails abound, and visitors can also canoe, fish, play mini golf, geocache, ride bikes and more. Overnight visitors can stay in screened shelters, cabins or campsites; large groups can rent the screened shelter or group campsite.

Lost Maples State Natural Area – Also around three hours from Austin/two hours northwest of San Antonio and located in Vanderpool, Lost Maples protects a special stand of Uvalde bigtooth maples, which is why it’s a particularly popular destination for people hoping to see the colorful leaves of fall. Campers can choose from 30 campsites with water and electricity, or backpack to one of six primitive campsites. Before you hop in your car, be sure check out the foliage color change report, as the show varies depending on the weather!

Dinosaur Valley State Park – About 2.5 hours north of Austin, this park has the distinction of being where dinosaurs once roamed! They left footprints in the mud at the edge of an ancient ocean, and today, visitors can walk in their tracks in the bed of the Paluxy River. You can also explore 20 miles of trails, mountain bike, swim, and fish in the river – and if you have a horse, you’re welcome to ride it while you explore the 100-acre South Primitive Area. The park features 46 campsites with water and electricity as well as eight walk-in primitive campsites and seven backpack campsites.

McKinney Falls State Park – This park is located in Austin, just 13 miles from the capitol, so it’s much less of an undertaking for Austinites who can’t commit a weekend to their tree gazing but still need a little nature fix. Check out an early Texas homestead, listen to Onion Creek flowing over limestone ledges and splashing into pools below, and hike, fish, go bouldering, or mountain or road bike on the 2.8-mile hike and bike trail. Stay at one of 81 campsites, all of which have water and electrical hookups, or rent one of six newly remodeled cabins. 

Take some time to breathe during this busy time! We hope this list provides you with some inspiration.

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