Austin, TX: Area B, Lost Maples State Natural Area

Elsewhere in the country, hikers are putting away their boots and packs for the winter, but here in Lost Maples, I’m about to set up a picture-perfect campsite on an outcrop 400 feet above the fall scenery. BY JUDY PAUL
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Elsewhere in the country, hikers are putting away their boots and packs for the winter, but here in Lost Maples, I’m about to set up a picture-perfect campsite on an outcrop 400 feet above the fall scenery. BY JUDY PAUL

Can Creek cuts a vein through the woodlands, twisting through the vermilion bigtooth maples and out of sight to the horizon. It’s the only feature that gives the expanse of color any definition. Elsewhere in the country, hikers are putting away their boots and packs for the winter, but here in Lost Maples, I’m about to set up a picture-perfect campsite on an outcrop 400 feet above the fall scenery. Tomorrow, I’ll tour the woods, limestone canyons, and crystalline streams that set this area apart from other Texas wilds, and, since it’s just a few hours from Austin, I can take my time, just like the seasons.

Trip stats
Distance: 6.5 miles
Time: 2 days

Turn-by-turn
From the East-West trailhead

(1) Head .4 mile north on the East-West Trail to a fork.
(2) Stay right to complete the loop counterclockwise (for a longer first day, go clockwise) and reach a junction at mile 1.1.
(3) Head .4 mile north (hiker’s right) on the East Trail to another fork; split left and take the .4-mile path toward Area B.
(4) Retrace your steps .7 mile to an intersection of the East and West Trails.
(5) Peel off to the west and follow the West Trail 1.1 miles.
(6) Turn south at the junction to stay on the West Trail as it wraps 2.8 miles back to the trailhead (merge with the East-West Trail near mile 6.1 and retrace your steps .4 mile to close the lasso loop).

Campsite
Area B (mile 1.9)

Pitch your tent beneath the oaks in Campsite B. The steep, 400-foot climb to the top of the hillock is enough to deter most hikers (who instead opt for the pond area), so expect solitude. There are a handful of established spots ($10; online reservation recommended), and don’t forget to top off your water at Can Creek before making the climb; it’s dry up here. Keep an eye out for red-tailed hawks overhead.

Foliage
The park’s namesake bigtooth maples turn in November. Expect a killer bird’s-eye vantage from the overlook in Area B, but check the Lost Maples Foliage Report for current information on where and when at bit.do/LostMaplesFoliage.

Canyon detour
From basecamp at Area B: Head about a mile east on the East Trail to the Grotto, where maidenhair ferns cover limestone canyon walls. Continue about .5 mile to aptly named Monkey Rock.

DO IT
Trailhead 29.814899, -99.575830; 6 miles north of Vanderpool off Ranch Rd. 187 Season September through May; late fall for foliage, mid-spring for flowers Permit None Custom mapbit.do/BPmapLostMaples ($15) Contactbit.do/LostMaplesTrip databackpacker.com/LostMaples

Trail Facts

  • State: TX
  • City: Austin, TX
  • Distance: 6.5
  • Contact: bit.do/LostMaples
  • Land Type: Other