Autumn is a popular time to visit the Lost Maples State Natural Area’s bigtooth-maple crowded hillsides—especially vibrant after an early October cold-streak—but the swimming-hole payoff on this 4.8-mile route makes it a great year-round dayhike or overnight trip.
This clockwise lollipop loop follows the East Trail for 0.3 mile before turning left for a 1.25-mile rise through a maple-shrouded canyon, one of the park’s best fall-color viewing areas. The rough trail criss-crosses a stream before turning sharply uphill for a short, steep climb that ends abruptly at a grassy hilltop overlook. Skirt 2 backcountry campsites before the steep descent into Mystic Canyon where you might spot exotic animals such as whitetail deer, wild pig, armadillos and the free-range Aoudad sheep, a big-game hunting species imported from Africa.
At mile 3, a kiddie-pool sized pond—the “wishing well”—makes a welcome resting point, but don’t throw any pennies into its crystal-clear shallows… two wish-worthy swimming holes are just 0.7 mile farther down the West Trail. Next to a 20-tent backcountry campground, the second, larger (and cliff-shaded) pond is the popular choice for a refreshing dip. The loop’s final mile crosses Can Creek 5 times as it descends toward the parking lot.
For an easier variation on this route: Follow the loop counterclockwise—the more popular direction—for easier, more gradual climbs. Bring your Texas State Park Pass, or expect to pay per-person day-use fees for anyone over the age of 13.
-Mapped by Melissa Stolasz