Known for its magnificent fall colors, Lost Maples State Natural Area (sometimes referred to as Lost Maples State Park) is a rare find in Texas. Lost Maples is located in Vanderpool, Texas, and is home to a rare maple that paints the tree line with oranges and reds every fall.
This incredible state park is quaint and smaller than most, but it makes up for its small size with its remarkable and ever-changing landscape. Lost Maples provides you and your family many things to do to soak in the beautiful landscape that surrounds you.
Another significant aspect of Lost Maples State Natural Area is its proximity to many fun towns and attractions that you can work into your travel plans. There is truly something for everybody in your family to enjoy during your trip to Lost Maples, Texas–and since you almost certainly will need to drive at least a couple of hours to get there, it’s worth making the most of your time.
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In this travel guide, we will cover the best things to do in Lost Maples State Natural Area, as well as tips and advice for visiting, and what else to see in the immediate area.
Whether you’re visiting Lost Maples during the brilliant fall foliage period or simply to take advantage of its beautiful year-round hiking on and around the Sabinal River, here’s what to know before your trip!
State Natural Area vs. State Park
Why is Lost Maples a State Natural Area rather than a State Park?
Though the park is commonly referred to as Lost Maples State Park among Texans, its Natural Area status means that the focus of the protected area is to maintain the natural state of the area, rather than develop park facilities.
While hikers will find the functions near identical–and we use the terms State Natural Area and State Park somewhat simultaneously in this blog post–they are technically distinct (Enchanted Rock is another popular example of a hiking destination in Texas that is technically a designated natural area, rather than a park).
The Best Things to Do in Lost Maples State Natural Area
Go for a hike.
With over 10 miles of trails, there are plenty of hikes in Lost Maples for everyone to enjoy.
You can hop on the Maple Trail to see the Bigtooth Maples that gave Lost Maples its name in their full glory. These magnificent trees rustle in the wind, and their giant leaves are sure to leave you in awe.
After you hike the short Maple Trail, you can then continue onto the east trail to soak in beautiful views of the Sabinal River that flows through the State Park.
No matter what path you decide to hike during your visit, you are sure to see some beautiful landscapes that have you coming back for more.
Admire the best fall foliage in Texas.
Lost Maples State Park is known all over the Lone Star State as the place to go to see fall foliage. The beautiful bigtooth maples within the park put on a show every fall, showing off their bright colors.
You can catch fall color at Lost Maples State Natural Area in fall months ranging from roughly late October-November every year–check the foliage report for updates on the best time to visit.
Enjoy a crackling campfire.
Lost Maples State Park is smaller than most and allows you to enjoy your campsite with plenty of room. One way to enjoy your campsite and soak in the crisp and cool nighttime air is with a warm campfire.
Gather your family and friends and enjoy some smores around the campfire while you make memories that will last a lifetime. Remember that you must bring in firewood yourself or buy it from the visitor center; you cannot collect firewood from the woods surrounding you.
Lay under the stars.
Lost Maples is a Dark Sky Park, meaning that there are adequate measures to prevent outside lights from tainting the stars’ view. When you visit Lost Maples, you can get great views of the stars above, including the MilkyWay.
Grab a blanket and hike to a higher spot on one of the many trails. You can also find a location near your campground to try and catch some glimpses at shooting stars and magnificent views.
Search for geocaches.
Geocaching is a great activity that you can partake in areas all over the state. Geocaching is when someone hides a container or prize based on GPS coordinates. You can download the geocaching app that will guide you with tips and tricks on finding the geocache nearby.
Geocaching is a beautiful thing to do with children because it mimics a treasure hunt and allows them to hide small “treasures” as well.
Grab your fishing pole and pack a sack lunch to have a day devoted to fishing on the Sabinal River. You can choose to throw your lure into Sabinal Creek or Can Creek and are sure to get catches throughout the day.
A significant aspect of Texas State Parks is that you do not need a fishing license to fish within the state parks or natural areas.
Sit back and birdwatch.
Don’t forget to pack your binoculars when you visit Lost Maples because there are plenty of birds to spot. Because of the rich diversity within Lost Maples State Park, there are plenty of opportunities to see birds you may not typically find.
You can pick up a handy bird guide at the Visitors Center to guide you in your bird watching endeavor. A few birds to watch for are the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo, both of which live in Lost Maples State Park.
Stay at a primitive campsite.
Besides staying at one of the many campsites with water and electric hookups, you can also choose to hike into your camp. If you are looking for an escape where you can surround yourself with nature, then Lost Maples primitive campsites are perfect for you.
There are 50 primitive sites where you can your family can go camping at Lost Maples State Natural Area. You can choose to hike out on the West Trail or East Trail and select one of the primitive camping spots located along the route.
Visit Monkey Rock.
The Monkey Rock of Lost Maples State Park is what it sounds like, a rock that strongly resembles a monkey. As you hop on this trail, you will be greeted by a rock that looks like it is carved into the shape of a monkey.
Make sure to grab some pictures and reflect on just how incredible nature is. While you are there, you can also see plants growing all over the limestone wall.
Hike to the scenic overlook.
Begin your hike on the East Trail, and as you go along, you will soon find the trail will turn into a bit of a rocky uphill climb. Make sure to take your time as elevation climbs, but know that you will be rewarded with remarkable views once you get to the top.
When you get to the top, make sure to take a minute to catch your breath on the bench provided and soak in the beautiful scenery.
Tips for Visiting Lost Maples State Park in Texas
If you know one thing about Texas, it is that summers are sweltering.
No matter when you visit Lost Maples State Park, there are a few tips to help you make the most of your visit.
Bring plenty of water.
Water is a must when you are hiking anywhere in Texas; even if it does not feel hot, you will still likely be sweating. Grab a reusable water bottle to ensure you have water for your entire adventure.
When packing water, do not forget to bring enough water for your dogs! If you are hiking with your dog in Texas, you must always remember that they will need water as well.
Lost Maples State Park is an incredibly diverse area that boasts an immense variety of plants and animals. Tuck your binoculars in your backpack to make it easier to catch a glimpse at some wildlife.
Pack shoes with traction.
When you are hiking the East Trail and the trail to the scenic overlook, you will be walking over rocks and uneven surfaces. Having good hiking boots with excellent traction will keep your ankles protected and ensure you have a great hike.
Load up your fishing poles.
After a long day of hiking, you can sit back and enjoy the views with a fishing pole in your hand. There is nothing quite like the quietness of fishing that allows you to soak in the incredible sound of nature all around.
Pack a light jacket.
As you hike Lost Maples State Park, you travel from a lower to a higher elevation, and the weather can change frequently. Nights at Lost Maples also tend to be chillier, so it is recommended to pack a light jacket in your backpack.
Where to Stay in + Near Lost Maples State Natural Area
Outside the Park
If you want to explore the great outdoors from the warmth of a cabin or hotel, there are plenty of spaces to choose.
One unique stay is in the town of Utopia, which is just up the road from Vanderpool and offers you a chance to stay in a cabin with amazing views.
The River Bluff Cabins, located 12 miles from Vanderpool, allow you to rent a cabin and enjoy ac and heat while still exploring Lost Maples.
Inside the Park
Twenty-eight campsites offer electricity and water as well as primitive campsites to choose from during your stay at Lost Maples State Park.
You can choose to bring your RV or tent and set up at one of the 28 campsites to allow yourself the luxury of being close to hiking and have a perfect view for stargazing.
How Long to Spend at Lost Maples, Texas
Your length of stay at Lost Maples State PNatural Areaark depends on how you want to spend your time. You can drive out to Lost Maples for the day and soak up the fall colors on a hike or two.
You can also decide to spend longer in the area to camp and truly immerse yourself in the park.
If you want to check off most of the hikes on your list, it is recommended to come for at least a couple of days.
More Places to Visit Near Lost Maples State Park
Want to check out a few more beautiful places in Texas when you make the drive out to the Vanderpool area?
Consider combining your trip to Lost Maples with some of these spots!
Garner State Park
Garner is another Texas State Park that is a must-see and is near Lost Maples State Park. Plan to spend a day driving around 30 miles to Garner State Park and swimming in the ice-cold water or hiking Mt. Baldy.
People come from miles around to see Garner State Park, and for a good reason. Garner offers the Frio River that you can bring a picnic and let the day pass by while floating in the river.
Stop by the Cowboy Capital of the World and explore everything Bandera has to offer.
You can visit to see the sweeping landscapes that Bandera offers, decide to go horseback riding for the day, or even check into one of the town’s well-known dude ranches overnight.
Sip some wine at Lost Maples Winery.
Lost Maples Winery is located just down the street from the state park and has the most beautiful setting. You can participate in a tasting to truly experience everything they have to offer or grab a glass to enjoy.
Throughout the year, you can also stop in for the Farmers Market that they hold throughout the year. Pack a picnic and sit back and enjoy your dinner among the vineyard.
What is the best time to visit Lost Maples State Park?
You can genuinely visit Lost Maples throughout the year to enjoy the beautiful landscapes. Summer in Texas is usually very hot, so planning is essential.
If you want to see fall color and visit Lost Maples at its absolute best, late October through November is your best bet.
Although the fall color at Lost Maples is remarkable, it is also fun to go back at different times of year to see how the landscape changes and develops.
Lost Maples State Park is a small state park that boasts a lot of diversity and change that you are sure to find something new every time you visit.
Cost of Visiting Lost Maples Natural Area
If you plan to travel to multiple state parks, then the annual Texas State Park Pass is the best option. If you have a larger family or visit parks often, the pass will pay for itself in no time.
If you are simply coming in from out of town and want to explore for the weekend, a day pass for an adult is 6 dollars, and kids 12 and under are free.