Lost Maples is one of the most popular Texas State Parks during autumn. Visitors flock to the hills and witness the changing colors of the season. Lost Maples State Park is about 30 miles west of Bandera, and 90 miles west of San Antonio, inside Texas Hill Country. We visited this beautiful landscape the day following Thanksgiving. Unfortunately, the hills were all fogged up.
How to Get to Lost Maples State Park
Address: 37221 RM 187, Vanderpool, TX 78885
Fees: $6 without a Texas State Parks Pass
We drove to Lost Maples State Park from San Antonio, which took more than two hours. The most scenic part of the drive takes place on FM 337 between Bandera and Vanderpool. Although it was not raining, the weather was damp, humid and overcast. Prior to arriving at the park, the clouds appeared to rest on top of the hills. Our Rhodesian Ridgeback, Abbey, anxiously waited to exit the vehicle late in the morning.
Abbey has conquered many trails around Texas Hill Country, but this would be her first under these conditions. Lost Maples State Park is dog friendly and has elevated trails full of scenic views (on most days). However, slippery rocks, mud and fog pestered our adventure. At least we captured some unique photos, and placed more miles under our paws.
Lost Maples State Park contains nearly 3,000 acres, but there are only two parking areas beyond the headquarters. The parking area to the east contains picnic tables and public restrooms. It doesn’t matter which area you choose because they are close together. However, I suggest parking where you plan to finish your hike.
At the visitors center you will pay the $6 entrance fee if you do not carry a Texas State Parks Pass. You will also find portable toilets, educational displays, gifts and walking sticks. The $12 walking sticks seemed to be popular during our visit. Visitors were preparing to hike rocky creek beds, and climb steep hills.
Things to Do at Lost Maples in Texas
- Walk your dog
- Camping (primitive and full hookup) sites
- Picnic areas
- Hiking and biking trails
- Count the maples
Before you bring your bike consider the limitations. Bikes are only allowed one mile from each trailhead. The potential distance is about three miles. The steep and rocky areas are for hiking only. You may want to choose another park for biking purposes.
We were not the only ones prepared to get wet and muddy on this hike. Despite the weather, Lost Maples State Park was near maximum capacity before noon. Abbey leapt from our vehicle anxious to put her nose and paws to work. We began our hike on the East Trail near the picnic area. Multiple colors complimented the cliffs near the parking area.
Trails at Lost Maples State Park
There are four possible loops you can hike at Lost Maples. The West Loop is 2.4 miles, the West Trail is 3.6 miles, and the East Trail is 3.1 miles. There is also a one mile trail which connects the East and West trails, as well as a few short trails leading to campsites.
The total hiking distance at Lost Maples State Park is close to 11 miles. It may not seem like much on paper, but the steep areas will increase your heart rate, and the difficulty. Most of the trails have challenging areas. In fact, each loop has steep inclines. You must go up one side, and down the other.
You will climb to an elevation of approximately 2,200 feet in these areas. The highest peak at Lost Maples is 2,300 feet, but there are no trails near it. This is the highest elevation at any state park in Hill Country. Most of the trails follow creek beds between the hills. We followed the East Trail up the Sabinal River, and came to one of the steep areas after the first two points of interest (Monkey Rock and Grotto).
On the north side of this hill the climb is very similar to going up stairs. However, during our visit the climb was risky with slick surfaces. The higher elevations were lacking in scenic views because of the fog invasion. As we hiked up the hill the fog seemed to meet us halfway. Eventually we made it to the top without any issues, but the elevation will be moderately difficult for less experienced hikers.
Unfortunately, as soon as we reached the top there wasn’t much to see. The foliage had been dominated by low-lying clouds. We were surrounded on all sides, not by any hostile army, but by blankets of gray which threatened to hold our adventure hostage. Autumn is the most popular time to visit Lost Maples, but this is one of the downsides.
2,200 Feet High with Nothing to See
We headed toward the third point of interest which is a scenic view on top of the hill. It was doubtful we would be able to see anything in the distance, but we hiked to the viewpoint nonetheless. The ground was very wet and muddy at this elevation. The clouds were so low it might as well have been raining. Clearly, we chose the wrong day to reserve our spot at the park.
As we followed the “scenic” trail toward the overlook the fog looked like smoke flowing through the trees. It accompanied us as we marched forward, but remained just out of reach. I didn’t expect to see anyone else on this trail, and my thoughts were correct.
We reached the end of the trail and were confronted by clouds as they touched the hills. It was wet, muddy and we were anxious to get off the hill. Most people swarm the hills at Lost Maples State Park, but the peaks are more likely to be avoided in the fog.
The History of Lost Maples
As we hiked through the mud in order to get back to the bottom, I wondered what role these hills have played in history. It is thought that Apaches and Comanches have threatened past settlements, but there is no current evidence on the trails. However, there is evidence of previous ranches nearby. In addition to the fences within the park, we passed many ranches on the drive from San Antonio.
The exact history of Lost Maples is either difficult to find, or forgotten. The maples seem to draw a lot of attention which scarcely survive in wet valleys here in Texas. Valleys were colorful as if skirmishes had taken place here, but they were somewhat difficult to see. Fortunately for us, we could see some of our surroundings as we hiked downhill toward the pond.
The south side of the hill was easier because of the decline and distance between the “steps”. We exited the cover of the clouds and continued along the West Trail. The pond in this area was calm in front of the cliff. Fishing is permissible at the pond, but no one was in the mood. The scenic overlooks were behind us, and the springs were in front.
The Springs of Lost Maples
We followed an unknown creek toward the fifth point of interest, which was the first area of springs. The humidity had not improved and the clouds had not retreated. However, it seemed like most of the visitors at Lost Maples State Park had vanished by mid-afternoon.
Abbey showed no signs of tiredness so we continued hiking. The springs along the creek are somewhat difficult to spot. They seem to flow through the limestone a short ways above ground. If you hear trickling water, look closely to find one of these springs. In this fog, the springs had the best view of the park.
I saw at least two streams exiting the rocks prior to reaching the West Loop Trail. From this point there are two more steep climbs ahead. There was no sense in climbing the hills when nothing could be see from them.
Instead, we decided to backtrack to the pond and take the connecting trail to the parking area. Although the creeks were a pleasant hike, I would not recommend hiking at Lost Maples in the rain, or fog. The changing colors are nice, but the surfaces will be slippery. Furthermore, visibility will be low and the rocks will be more dangerous, even with hiking shoes.
Elevation Gained and Autumn Colors Acquired
Our total hiking distance was 8.5 miles, which includes 40 floors worth of elevation gain. Not only is Lost Maples State Park good for foliage, but its elevation gain is also above average. Surprisingly, Lost Maples is third best in terms of elevation in Hill Country. Although each trail climbs higher than any others we have found, two nearby parks have more changes in elevation.
The fog may have stolen some views at Lost Maples, but the day was not a waste. We captured the colors of the season, and it will be exciting to see how they differ in the spring. The trails may be challenging, but they can be completed in a few hours. It may not be an all-day hike, but it is a nice workout.
What to Do Near Lost Maples State Park
If you are looking for things to do nearby there are not many. However, Lost Maples Winery is very close to the park entrance. You cannot miss the vineyard along the road. Even the grape vines matched the color of the season during our visit. We stopped in for a drink on their dog friendly patio after our hike. I imagine, many other hikers do as well.
You could also drive down FM 187 and FM 337 for some amazing Hill Country views. Garner State Park and Hill Country State Natural Area are two of the Texas State Parks nearby. Each having more potential elevation gain, and far-reaching views. They are my favorite parks to hike in Texas Hill Country.
Have you visited Lost Maples with your dog? What colors did you see? Which trails did you take? Let us know about your visit by commenting below. Do you plan on visiting Lost Maples soon? Come back to Places for Pups and share photos of your visit!
I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it.
We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site.
Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly. I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.