5 of the best places to see gorgeous fall leaves in Texas – mySA

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A family goes fishing at Tyler State Park in Tyler, Texas. The park is one of the best places to see fall foliage in Northeastern Texas.
Ken and Barbara Whittaker share a moment at Lost Maples State Natural Area on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020. The park is an ideal place to see the fall foliage that Texas has to offer.
People enjoy a walk at Lost Maples State Natural Area on Wednesday, Nov. 11, 2020.
Guadalupe River State Park in Springs Branch, Texas, offers visitors hiking trails and fishing spots for a quick getaway. The park’s beauty is especially noticeable during autumn, when the leaves change colors.
Fall in Texas is synonymous with football and cooler temperatures. As the mercury drops, the leaves start to change into a kaleidoscope of brilliant yellows, bright reds and fiery oranges. And since the landscape and climate vary by region in the vast Lone Star State, the colors of fall leaves in Texas are equally diverse.
If you’re looking for a fun way to usher in fall, we’ve rounded up the best state parks and natural areas for a day trip of peeping at fall leaves in Texas or taking a weekend-long nature escape this autumn.
It’s nearly impossible to predict exactly when the leaves will start falling and changing colors in Texas. A variety of factors, including the amount of rainfall and average nighttime temperatures, can affect the intensity and duration of the color of leaves in each part of the state.
For example, an early frost could weaken bright red colors, while a storm could blow the leaves right off the trees. Depending on the part of the state you’re in, leaves in Texas will turn from mid-October through late November. Plan ahead to avoid missing the leaves by calling the park you plan to visit and asking how the colors are looking, since it can vary widely by location.
Pro tip: If you’re planning to visit multiple state parks in the Lone Star State to see fall leaves and other sights, consider purchasing an annual Texas State Parks Pass for $70. The pass waives the entry fee for you and other people in your vehicle at over 80 parks. Otherwise, an entry fee is charged per person. The pass also provides a discount on camping and equipment rentals.
Lost Maples State Natural Area, located in the Texas Hill Country on FM 187 and along the Sabinal river in Vanderpool, features the Bigtooth Maple in fall color.
Distance from San Antonio: 92 miles
Best time to go: Mid-October to mid-November
Trees: Maple, mesquite 
Camping: 28 sites with electricity, 50 primitive sites 
Located on the banks of the Sabinal River, Lost Maples is arguably the best place to see fall leaves in Texas and is famous for an isolated strand of Uvalde bigtooth maples that explode into a sea of orange. The largest concentration of the trees is along the East Trail. Before visiting, check the park’s weekly fall foliage reports, posted during October and November, for the status of the leaves. To avoid crowds, consider visiting on a weekday and reserving day passes to Lost Maples in advance since they sell out quickly during the fall.
Aside from the maples, explore the park’s steep, rugged limestone canyons and grasslands along 10 miles of hiking trails, including a loop that leads to a 2,200-foot cliff. The park spans 2,174 acres across Bandera and Real counties and is an excellent location for bird watching, fishing and stargazing.
Find it: 37221 FM 187, Vanderpool, Texas 78885
Autumn leaves are seen over the lake at Tyler State Park in Tyler, Texas. The park is one of the best places to see fall foliage in northeastern Texas.
Distance from San Antonio: 324 miles
Best time to go: November
Trees: Oak, sweet gum, hickory, maple
Camping: Six cabins, 29 screened shelters, 57 full-hook sites for RVs, 50 camping sites (20 with electricity, 30 with water)
A fusion of two ecoregions — the Pineywoods and Post Oak Savannah—along a 64-acre spring-fed lake Tyler State Park is a unique fall destination in Northeast Texas. While there are over 13 miles of trails, the flat 2.1-mile Lakeshore Trail is the best for leaf peeping. The path circumnavigates the lake and is perfect for snapping photos of the reflections of 100-year-old trees in the water as they show off those autumn colors.
Consider renting a boat or bringing your own to get views of the leaves from the water. Canoes, paddleboats, stand-up paddleboards and johnboats are available to rent year-round. Fishing is also allowed — rods, reels and tackle boxes are available for loan through the Texas Department of Wildlife’s Tackle Loaner Program. Some trails are also open to mountain bikes.
Find it: 789 Park Road 16, Tyler, Texas 75706
Guadalupe River State Park in Springs Branch, Texas, is an ideal place for checking out fall foliage in the Texas Hill Country.
Distance from downtown San Antonio: 39 miles
Best time to go: Mid-October to mid-November 
Trees: Bald cypress, elm, hackberry
Camping: 85 sites with water and electricity, nine walk-in sites
This state park has 4 miles of prime river frontage along the banks of the clear Guadalupe River and is a great destination for fall leaves in the Texas Hill Country. The most photogenic location is the waterfront Bald Cypress Trail, aptly named after the trees that turn tan, cinnamon or fiery orange in the fall. The trail is part of a 13-mile trail network open to hikers and bikers.
One of the best ways to experience the fall color here is from the water. The Guadalupe River is also an excellent place to swim, fish, tube, kayak and canoe. The 5-mile Guadalupe River State Park Paddling Trail begins in the park. Bird-watching and geocaching are other popular activities. Consider one of the guided tours of the adjacent Honey Creek Natural Area. Spanish moss-draped live oaks and Ashe junipers fill this natural area along a 1 1/2-mile spring-fed creek that is only accessible by tour.
Find it: 3350 Park Road 31, Spring Branch, Texas 78070
A man is seen fishing in Lake Raven at Huntsville State Park in Huntsville, Texas. The park is part of Sam Houston National Forest and is a great spot in East Texas to see the colors of autumn.
Distance from San Antonio: 251 miles
Best time to go: October 
Trees: Sweet gum, southern red oaks
Camping: 160 campsites with amenities, 28 screened shelters 
Located in Sam Houston National Forest, this 2,083-acre park in East Texas centers around Lake Raven and was built by the Civilian Conservation Corps in 1956. Huntsville State Park’s forest was logged and clear-cut before World War I. To help with reforestation efforts, the CCC planted pine, sweet gum, maple, oak and dogwood trees.
The current forest consists of southern red oak and sweet gum in the uplands and water oak, white oak, black gum and sweet gum along the streams and creeks. Head to the Prairie Branch area in October and November to find one of the best places to see fall leaves in Texas. When the sun sets over the lake, it lights up the leaves in this entire section.
Huntsville State Park has 21 miles of trails, including access to the Lone Star Hiking Trail, a 129-mile National Recreation Trail across the Sam Houston National Forest. This ecoregion contains an abundance of wildlife diversity — over 250 species of birds have been spotted in the park. (Bird-watchers will especially love the bird blind located a 1/2-mile down the Coloneh Trail.) Fishing is also allowed in the lake, and kayaks are available for rent at the Raven Lodge. Just keep an eye out for alligators!
Find it: 565 Park Road 40 W., Huntsville, Texas 77340
Autumn leaves are seen at Caddo Lake State Park in Karnack, Texas. This park is a popular spot for seeing fall foliage near the state’s border with Louisiana.
Distance from San Antonio: 395 miles
Best time to go: October 
Trees: Bald cypress trees, sugar maples, 
Camping: 46 campsites ranging from full hookup to water-only sites, seven screened shelters, 14 historic cabins
The 25,400-acre Caddo Lake straddles the border between Texas and Louisiana. Not only is the lake the largest natural freshwater lake in the South, it is also the site of the largest cypress forest in the world. The lake’s watershed is a maze of wetlands and bayous, including Big Cypress Bayou, home to the Caddo Lake State Park, a 484-acre lush habitat that’s a scenic spot for fall photos.
While there are four short hiking trails, the best way to experience the park is by boat. Rent a canoe or bring your own to explore the 50 miles of paddling trails in the Caddo Lake area that are beautiful year-round. In autumn, Saw Mill Pond is excellent for photographing the reflections of bald cypress trees and their fiery orange leaves.
Like many state parks in Texas, the CCC built many of the facilities here during the 1930s, including the dining hall and cabins. The Caddo Lake National Wildlife Refuge is adjacent to the state park and another wonderful place for seeing fall foliage in Texas. 
Find it: 245 Park Road 2, Karnack, Texas 75661
Anna Mazurek is a freelance travel writer and photographer based in Austin, Texas. Her work has been published in the Washington Post, Texas Monthly, the Wall Street Journal and AFAR. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @AnnaMazurekPhoto and her travel blog, TravelLikeAnna.com.