There is just something about autumn that renews my spirit. I’m not sure if it’s the crisp breeze of the morning air or the delicious pumpkin products that seem to be everywhere I turn, but I do truly love fall. Of course, one of the highlights of fall is the beautiful changing leaves. I just love seeing the greens turn to incredible shades of gold, orange, and red!
While many people head to the northern states to see the fall colors, I love to see the fall colors paint the Texas landscape, especially at the Texas state parks. Granted, this change happens a little later in the season than in other parts of the country, but trust me when I tell you, it is well worth the wait.
Plan a visit to Texas from late September through mid-November (depending on the location) to witness the Texas countryside come alive with the gorgeous shades of fall. The diverse landscape found throughout the state is covered with a variety of trees, each producing glorious fall colors when the temperatures begin to drop.
1. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Salt Flats, Texas
Located in the remote parts of far Western Texas, Guadalupe Mountains National Park offers visitors not only an incredibly scenic drive, but some of the best desert hiking in the Lone Star State. Now, I know what you might be thinking, how can a park that is mostly desert provide the appropriate landscape for fall colors?
Guadalupe Mountains National Park provides a varying environment and the perfect amount of elevation change for maple and deciduous trees to survive in what is otherwise a desert environment. Time your visit just right (generally the last week of October to the first week of November), and you will be rewarded with a breathtaking display of fall colors.
To properly see the changing of the tree during your visit, you will have to hit the hiking trails of Guadalupe Mountains National Park. One of the most popular hikes during the fall is McKittrick Canyon. This hike offers visitors the opportunity to see the bright reds, yellows, and oranges produced by the Bigtooth maple, walnut, and ash trees that are prevalent in this area. For a short-distance hike, follow the trail to Pratt cabin. Just keep in mind that you are hiking on natural terrain, so wear sturdy shoes and bring plenty of water.
Pro Tip: This park gets extremely busy in the fall, so I recommend visiting on a weekday during the day if possible.
2. Palo Duro Canyon State Park
Head into the Texas Panhandle to find the second-largest canyon in the United States, Palo Duro Canyon State Park. The park, which is located about 25 miles south of Amarillo, feels like you have escaped to another universe when you visit.
Nicknamed “The Grand Canyon of Texas” thanks to its enormous size and unique geological features, Palo Duro Canyon State Park is perfect for a fun weekend getaway. With over 30 miles of hiking and biking trails, there is plenty of land to explore in this state park.
Yellow is the color of the season in Palo Duro Canyon State Park thanks to the multitude of cottonwood trees found in the area. The bright yellow is a stunning contrast to the rust-colored soil that covers the canyon walls and floors, making this area a treat for the eyes during the fall season. In addition to the cottonwood trees, there are also juniper, hackberry, willow, and mesquite trees in the park, all of which change color as the cooler temperatures settle into the panhandle.
Pro Tip: This park sometimes undergoes closures for events. Please visit the state park’s website for the most up-to-date trail conditions and to make park reservations.
3. Lost Maples State Natural Area
Lost Maples State Natural Area is the ultimate state park to experience the beautiful fall colors in Texas! The park comes alive with vibrant reds, oranges, and golds thanks to the copious amounts of Bigtooth maple trees found here. The colorful leaves make for the perfect surroundings for visitors to enjoy time hiking or camping in this glorious state park.
The leaves generally begin changing colors here during the last week of October and continue through the second week in November, although this can vary according to the weather. You will find two main hiking trails inside Lost Maples State Natural Area, both of which share the western part of the East Trail. This portion of the trail, where the two trails merge, is my favorite area for some fabulous pictures in the fall foliage. The hike itself is about a mile and is relatively flat, but you will be walking on uneven, natural terrain.
Pro Tip: Lost Maples fills up fast during the fall season, so be sure to get your day pass well in advance to ensure that you get into the park. Visit their website for more information.
4. McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park is a 641-acre state park and is one of my favorite state parks in Texas thanks to the gorgeous waterfalls and fabulous swimming holes found here. While I wouldn’t recommend swimming in the fall, I would recommend visiting McKinney Falls to take in the fabulous fall foliage.
Head just 13 miles outside of Austin and find yourself surrounded by towering red oak and cypress trees. Red and gold are the colors of the season at McKinney Falls State Park. During your time here, don’t miss the opportunity to visit “Old Baldy,” one of the oldest bald cypress trees on public land in the Lone Star State.
If you want to make a weekend trip out of your visit to McKinney Falls, then be sure to reserve one of the 80 campsites housed here. There are also over nine miles of hiking trails and the beautiful Onion Creek to enjoy. For more information, visit the park’s website.
5. Daingerfield State Park
The Pineywoods of East Texas are one of my go-to places for fall foliage. There is just something about the towering pine, oak, and dogwood trees that makes me feel at ease. Of course, this is especially true in autumn as the trees begin to fade from green to shades of yellow and orange.
A visit to Daingerfield State Park rewards visitors with miles of hiking trails all centered around the park’s focal point, an 80-acre lake. Seeing the fall colors reflect off of the water of the lake is such a magnificent sight, and makes Daingerfield State Park well worth a visit!
Hike along the Rustling Leaves Trail to enjoy a 2.4-mile, easy hike around the lake. If you are looking for a bit more of a challenge, then take the 1.2-mile Mountain View Trail that takes you to the peak of the highest hill in the park. This is the perfect vantage point to take in all of the lovely fall foliage in this Texas state park!
6. Garner State Park
Garner State Park is a beautiful state park to visit any time of year, but it is especially glorious during the fall season. The trees in Garner State Park come alive with color in October and November, creating a sea of red, orange, and yellow leaves.
The 16 miles of scenic trails here will have you wandering through mesquite, persimmon, oak, and cypress trees while they transform from lush green to their showy fall colors. The park, which covers over 1,700 acres, is the perfect weekend getaway to enjoy some time out in nature.
Pro Tip: Garner State Park is truly breathtaking this time of year. If you are up for it, consider doing a kayak float down the river to take in all of the majestic scenery of the area. Be sure to visit the park’s website for complete information.
7. Guadalupe River State Park
Spring Branch, Texas
As the cooler temperatures make their way into Texas, the trees in Guadalupe River State Park begin to show their fall colors. While a visit to Guadalupe River State Park usually entails a rowdy float down the river, the fall season brings a sense of calm and tranquility to the park.
For a short and easy hike during your visit, consider taking the Bald Cypress Trail. This 0.6-mile trail provides great views of the river. For an extra special treat during the fall season, the 0.3-mile River Overlook Trail leads you to a cliff overlooking the river and the gorgeous valley below. Just keep in mind that the trails at Guadalupe River State Park are natural terrain trails, so the ground is often uneven and susceptible to ongoing changes in weather conditions.
Pro Tip: Paddling the river is an amazing experience during the fall season. The park is the starting point of the 5-mile Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail if you are up for this experience. Please visit the park’s website for more information.
For more information on traveling to Texas, check out these articles: