The View from the Top of Enchanted Rock

One of my goals with this blog is to give you the chance to see pretty outdoor places around our state even if you can’t leave your office cube. So today, a view from the top of Enchanted Rock! We went up there in the middle of January with some friends from Austin. It was risky as far as weather, but we threaded the needle between two freezes, and got a 70-degree day.

Enchanted Rock, for those of you who’ve never been, is nestled in the Texas Hill Country just north of Fredericksburg, two hours west of Austin. It’s in a region where pink granite juts out of the ground everywhere you look, with Enchanted Rock being the largest chunk–a huge beautiful dome surrounded by other smaller domes and rocks. Kind of like the monolith Uluru in Australia, but a big pink Texan version.

It was insanely windy up at the top–50 mph! We all felt like we might blow away.

When you’re up on the top of Enchanted Rock, you are literally up with the birds. You’ll see them right at your level about a hundred feet away, soaring over the valley floor. None of them would stay in one place long enough for my pictures, but you get the idea.

The climb to the top, for those of you who have never been, is about 20 minutes straight up once you reach the base of the rock.

 

Of course, you can stop and take breaks–no shame in that–but man, it is a killer bun and thigh work out. A good thing to do in January when you’re trying to get back on the wagon!

Love that pink Texas granite.

When you get up to the top, there are caves you can go explore, or you can just sit and enjoy the view and give your legs a rest.

On a less windy day, I like to bring a pair of binocs up there and scan the countryside, but we felt like we would blow off the cliff at any moment so sought the wind-break of some nearby rocks.

Enchanted Rock now has a food truck at the base of the mountain, so when you come back down you can get ice cream. It’s glorious! Much needed! Delicious!

Enchanted Rock is one of my top 5 favorite state parks, and you’ll hear me talk a lot about it on this blog. So if you haven’t ever been, put it on your list.

More posts about Enchanted Rock

My Favorite Parks in the Texas Hill Country

I’m a little partial to the Texas Hill Country, I must admit. So I realize I may be a biased when I say all the best state parks are in this part of the state!! The only other landscape that rivals it in terms of drama would be West Texas, but nothing spells natural perfection to me like limestone cliffs, cactus, and spring-fed creeks and rivers. My Austin peeps all know the glory of a swimming hole in July!

This list includes state parks, county parks, and a National Wildlife Refuge. There are so many great places that didn’t make the cut (feel free to remind me of them all in the comments) but these, in my opinion, are the best. Most dramatic and unique landscapes, prettiest water features, and most breathtaking scenic vistas.


6. Colorado Bend State Park

This park is probably the most “remote” feeling of all the parks on this list. It is surrounded primarily by ranches and the nearest town is a solid 35 minutes away, so the hills are pristine and the view is stunning. With civilization so far away, the stars are INCREDIBLE! And Gorman Falls, a highlight of the park, is like something out of a storybook. So why is this place last on my list? Well, the bathroom situation. It’s all compost toilets. Granted, the bathrooms themselves are pretty nice (they have a nice sink, mirror, and tile floor) but the fact remains that it is still a compost toilet.

5. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

This place gets major brownie points on my list because it’s so close to Austin, has great trails, and after your work out on the trails you can go to nearby Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls and eat a delicious lunch and pie! And who doesn’t love that?

Other perks: If you’re wanting to train for an actual climb in the mountains out west (like Colorado) then this is a place you can go for some challenging terrain. A few of the trails go straight uphill!  But, there are PLENTY of flat trails with good views that a kiddo can do too.

Bring a swimsuit if you want to take a dip in the crystal clear creek that flows through it. The wildflowers in this area are pretty spectacular! Only negative: no pets. BOO.

4. Pedernales Falls State Park

This park is great because of the privacy of the campsites, cleanliness of the bathrooms, and drama of the landscape. Probably the easiest camping trip you can do in the Hill Country–all the sites are drive up and spacious, the bathrooms are nearby, and the most scenic part (the falls) are only a short walk.

3. Inks Lake State Park

The reason this park makes my list is the unique pink granite you’ll find everywhere, and the great views on so many of the trails. I don’t like slogging through a forest with no reward at the end, and at Inks Lake you don’t have to worry about that! Especially not when the bluebonnets are out, omg–it is simply beautiful to see bluebonnets against the pink granite. The trails wind around the lake’s edge and up over hills and around boulders, so you never get bored looking at the same scenery along the trail. While the campsites don’t offer much privacy, they are shaded by big oaks and located beside the lake.

2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Ok, so this may be one of Texas’ most popular parks BUT it is for such good reason! I love it. Here’s why. A) the view from the top is amazing, B) the workout climbing to the top is exhilarating (short, but great), C) the campsites are private and secluded from the main road, (with the exception of a few), D) the trails all have interesting scenery (even the ones other than Summit trail) and finally E) (yes there is an E) there is so much to do in the surrounding area and nearby B&B’s if camping isn’t your thing! (Think shopping in Fredericksburg, visiting LBJ State Park, checking out charming Johnson City, etc etc.)

1. Lost Maples State Natural Area

Finally, the very tippy top on my list, Lost Maples State Natural Area. I have a soft spot for this place. It is exquisite, a real reason to have pride in our state, and if you ever get to go you will see why. The views are the most dramatic, its trails the most entertaining, and of course, its fall colors the BEST in Texas. The surrounding countryside, which you should take a drive one afternoon to see, is awesome. Warning: you must reserve your campsite early.

The hilltop trails hug the edge of a cliff so you are treated to this panorama nearly the entire time:

And there are charming smaller, easier trails on the “ground floor” for little ones:

The drive there is spectacular:

Random rock formations shaped like a monkey:

And of course, fall leaves:

Honorable Mention

Pace Bend Park, a Travis County Park on the banks of Lake Travis, gets honorable mention. I like their camping area for its spaciousness and last minute availability, love its proximity to Austin, and enjoyed the trails which hug the edge of the lake.

So like I said–you can’t go wrong with a park in the Texas Hill Country, it is one of the most beautiful parts of our state and we are so lucky to have these green spaces! Pack up the family–even if just for a day trip–and go check them out.

God bless Texas!

Indian Lodge: a Must See in West Texas

Have you ever been to Indian Lodge? It is a charming, historic, and scenic lodge set amid the arid mountains of West Texas. A must-see on your next trip to this part of the state!

It even has a pool!

Indian Lodge has 39 guest rooms, but even if you don’t get a reservation (they book far in advance) you are welcome to check out the property.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it is steeped in history. Everything is handmade, from the chairs and tables to the mirror frames and bedside lamps.

I love how the CCC’s work so many decades ago has enriched our national and state parks with history.

Where to Stay Nearby

If you can’t stay at Indian Lodge itself, look into one of these neat options nearby:

Where to Eat

Black Bear Restaurant is known to be delicious! Expect hearty meals.

What to Do

Give me a good book and I could definitely sit here a while!

Scoop from a Whit’s Wilderness Reader

My friend Lindsey stayed here two summers ago, and you can read more about her trip here!

Atmosphere

Very quiet, serene, relaxing. Not a hopping place, but hey–that’s kind of the point of going out in the middle of nowhere, right?

Important things to know

  • Indian Lodge is closed for a major repair project through June 1, 2018 but the restaurant remains open.
  • Book far in advance (up to a year)

I hope you get to visit soon! Safe and happy travels, and be sure to tag me in your pics so I know if you were there!

A Girl’s Getaway to Enchanted Rock

This is the story from our camping trip — tips for visiting the park to come next, stay tuned.

This past weekend I took a group of girls on a camping trip at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and we had so much fun!! If you have never been to this park before, you should stop what you’re doing and make a reservation.

Enchanted Rock is like a mini-Yosemite National Park – a smaller, pinker, Texas version of one of our greatest national park.  Yosemite is known for its rolling rocky slopes and waterfalls; Enchanted Rock has its own rolling hills of pink granite.

The landscape is varied – canyons one minute, summit views the next, and lakeside paths the next.

Except we have bluebonnets! Take that Yosemite…

En route to the park, we stopped in Fredericksburg for a picnic of caprese sandwiches and Thai chicken salad were on the menu! Only the best for these girls.

My goal is to show ladies that the outdoors can be fun, and inspire their appreciation for conserving nature here in Texas and around the world. So to me, every detail that makes our time outdoors better is important, down to the fresh mozzarella!

(Texas was REALLY helping me out by putting on a show of native wildflowers – WOW.)

One of the girls had never been camping before, so I was crossing my fingers she had fun. She is the last person you would think of as an outdoorsy person, but I’ve been working on her over the last few years!! Mwahaha.

The camp sites at Enchanted Rock are very secluded — so secluded in fact, that they can be hard to find, and finding ours was kind of an ordeal!

But that was a good thing. It was nice to feel like we were out in the middle of nowhere: just us, nature, and as many comforts of home as we could fit in our vehicles.

(Including this awesome folding hammock!)

The campsite may not have had running water or electricity but it did come with our own private pink granite hill and wildflowers pouring out of nooks and crannies.

Thanks to the seclusion, our neighbors were spared them from hearing our renditions of “Get low”, the “Star spangled banner”, “Texas Our Texas”, and many stories which will not be repeated on this blog.

What happens at Enchanted stays at Enchanted…

I did a little bit of Dutch oven cooking for dinner – Southwest cornbread and apple cobbler. It hit the spot!

Despite a middle of the night adventure that involved wild animals (story coming soon) we enjoyed an incredible starry sky and a good night’s sleep. We woke up early the following morning to take on the main point of our whole trip: hiking to the top of Enchanted Rock!

We headed out around 7:30, coffee in hand, just as the sun was rising, to be some of the first people on the top.

The temperature was still in the low 60’s and the morning sun was causing the granite to come alive in hues of pink, orange, and red. There was hardly a cloud in the sky so it glowed electric blue.

With the sun peeking through the bluebonnets and the pink granite as a backdrop, I felt like I was living in a travel magazine – or Heaven itself. I took photos but there is nothing like the experience of seeing it for yourself.

The hike to the top was pretty much straight up, and we felt the burn in our legs. But fortunately we didn’t suffer long – only about 20 minutes to the top!

We were rewarded with an endless panorama of the Texas Hill Country. We could see birds soaring over the surrounding hills at the same elevation as us, so it was truly like having a bird’s eye view of Texas.

I think we all enjoyed the tranquility of the moment and having the place to ourselves.

On the way home we took the Echo Canyon and Loop Trails, which were incredible and led us through a canyon and beside a lake, past hundreds of bluebonnets, buttercups, Indian paintbrush, and other wildflowers and more panoramic hill country views.

I would totally recommend these trails on your next visit!

I am proud to report my friend Katherine, the one who had never camped, not only survived her first weekend of camping but had fun! Or maybe she’s just telling me that…either way, I appreciate the grace.

The cap on our fabulous weekend was breakfast sandwiches on Texas toast and s’mores! The girls went to town with s’more combinations and ended up coming up with a new one: Croissant strawberry Nutella s’mores, which they report are amazing.

Perfect weekend in the books.

Thanks to all the ladies who came and made this camp out so fun, thanks to our park system for this amazing park, thanks to God for wildflowers, and thanks readers for coming back to the blog! Hope everyone has a nice week and I can’t wait to tell you more about this park in upcoming posts!

Stay tuned for:

  • The Best Trails of Enchanted Rock
  • Tips for Planning Your Visit and Suggested Itinerary
  • A Camping Menu for Enchanted Rock

XOXO

Ps. Affiliate links used.

Ali and Crew Hike the Highest Peak in Texas

When my childhood friend Alison shared a picture of herself and three girlfriends on top of Guadalupe Peak, I was so impressed. Guadalupe Peak stands at 8,751 feet above sea level in Guadalupe Mountains National Park, one of two national parks in Texas.

These girls came, they climbed, they conquered, they celebrated with champagne. Today I’m interviewing Alison about the trip and getting the low down on this mountain. Good news: it’s not as daunting or as difficult as it seems. My only question is now, How come my girlfriends and I haven’t done this?!  (Beware friends, I may soon be recruiting you for a similar adventure.)

So, what prompted this trip?

My friend Katie, actually. She had done Big Bend the year before, but hadn’t really hiked. She mentioned Guadalupe Mountains to me and we decided to do it, and then two other friends, Allie and Shelby, came too.

When did you go?

  • Halloween weekend. I think October is a great time, it’s not scorching hot and you can actually wear pants and not be miserable.

(Whit’s sidenote — This is how Texans describe winter weather: “You can actually wear pants and not be miserable.”)

LODGING

Did you camp? Where did you stay?

  • We stayed in a hotel in Carlsbad, New Mexico. We didn’t do actual tents. I don’t know if you want to say that on your blog! Haha!

Honestly, some of my readers don’t like staying in tents. Not everyone’s hard core.

ITINERARY

Tell us your itinerary.

  • Day 1 – Left Austin at 2pm, drove from Austin to Carlsbad (7 hours)
    Dinner at a hole in the wall Mexican food joint
  • Day 2 – Hiked to the top of Guadalupe Peak
    Dinner at a local pizza place in Carlsbad
  • Day 3 – Toured Carlsbad Caverns
  • Day 4 – Drove back to Austin

HIKING TO THE TOP

How long was the hike to the top of Guadalupe peak?

  • We started around 9am, and I think it took us about 3 hours to the top.

How did you like it?

  • The hike was really fun. There is an awesome view from the top! Our friend Katie had brought food and champagne. She always likes to have champagne after a hike, and so we went to nearby McKittrick Canyon and had champagne after it was over.

How challenging was it?

  • It was challenging, definitely. There is a 3,000 foot elevation gain. The difficulty is right up front in the first hour. I was winded. Allie was just talking away as we were hiking and I was like, “How are you not winded right now?” Some of us were super fit, but some of us didn’t work out every day. No one complained so I think we all did fine.

Did you feel like you were on a mountain or did it feel like just another hill in Texas?

  • Haha yeah…pretty much another hill in Texas. It was kind of cool though. I think this land is beautiful in its own way, but I much prefer Colorado. The hike was actually really pretty because it had a great mixture of landscapes–arid desert at the beginning of the trail, and then it got rockier, and then there were pine trees in certain areas. Some trees were changing color, and it felt like a wintery day for October.

WILDLIFE

Did you see any wildlife?

  • No, actually. Which was kind of surprising.

WHAT SHE WORE

What did you wear hiking?

  • The other girls wore yoga pants but I wore some Magellan hiking pants and a black work out shirt and then I brought hiking poles.

Sidenote: Whitney and Alison agree that hiking poles are awesome! Super helpful for big hikes.

Did you bring a day pack?

  • I took my Camelbak with water and one granola bar. The hike really wasn’t that strenuous so I wasn’t that hungry.

TIPS FOR WHIT’S WILDERNESS READERS

On your next trip, would you do anything different?

  • I would have loved to camp. But you also have to think about your party you’re with and if you don’t have the gear or the experience it’ a whole different ball game.

Do you have any advice for people going on this trip?

  • Go with a person that enjoys hiking
  • Have hiking boots/shoes – just tennis shoes are not good. Buy them early and break them in.
  • Don’t expect it to be easy like Barton Springs
  • Plenty of water – have a camelback
  • Bring hiking poles

Whitney’s tip: bring a Texas flag to wave in photos up at the top!

All in all, how would you sum up your trip to Guadalupe Peak?

  • It’s a good weekend trip. I thought it was worth the drive. I mean it’s relatively close, it’s here in Texas, so why not go.


DETAILS ON CARLSBAD CAVERNS

Was Carlsbad Caverns awesome?

  • Yeah, it was really pretty. We spent a full day but I mean, we saw a lot of rock. It’s a very impressive cave.

Anything worth doing in the town of Carlsbad?

  • There’s not much to see besides the caverns.

Favorite thing you did at Carlsbad Caverns?

  • We did the lantern tour, where its pitch black except for our lanterns which was really fun. We paid a little bit extra to do that, which I think was worth it. We had this really funny tour guide who was awesome. Then we went around the really big cavern on our own.

Thanks for sharing your adventure with us, Alison! You girls are impressive for making it up the highest peak in Texas. Way to go.

So, who wants to go with me on a girl’s trip?


IMPORTANT LINKS

Affiliate links used

Sunrise on the Texas Coast

As you may have seen here, I’m kind of in love with sunrise pictures. In my mind, the sunrise just might be better than the sunset, because the rest of the world isn’t up yet and there is still some peace and quiet to be had.

That said, waking me up in the morning is akin to raising the dead, and so it’s not all that often I get to enjoy a good sunrise. But in theory, I love them!

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A few weeks ago I got to watch the sunrise at Powderhorn Ranch, a new state park that will be opening to the public in a few years. The sunrise alone makes the trip worthwhile.

Powderhorn sits on Matagorda Bay, and faces the sunrise head on.

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The rays were coming over the water and lighting up the meadow in hues of yellows and oranges.

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As if the scene couldn’t get any more magical, pelicans and birds of every sort were waking up and heading out to the water to fish.

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I happily took my coffee down to the water and sat for a while. Here’s a video:

All in all it was one of my favorite sunrises yet! Where have some of your favorite sunrises been?

PS. See my pics of a sunrise in the Sierra mountains here.

A Sneak Preview of Texas’ NEW State Park!

A big ranch on the Texas coast has just been set aside as our NEWEST state park, and guess what?! Today you get a sneak preview of it here on Whit’s Wilderness! I’m excited to share it with you because A) it is gorgeous, and B) I have a feeling it’s going to be one of our most popular state parks, and you need to be in the know.

The good news is it’s not coming online for another five years, so you have plenty of time to renovate an Airstream trailer and become a professional outdoorswoman before it opens. 🙂

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The park is called Powderhorn Ranch, and it is located near Port O’Connor, Texas just up the coast from Rockport on Matagorda Bay.

We were there on a camp out with Stewards of the Wild, a group for young people in their 20’s and 30’s who are into the outdoors and conservation. This is a GREAT group to join, they always have fun activities that show a “behind the scenes” look at Texas Parks and Wildlife happenings.

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At 17,000 acres, Powderhorn is pretty sizeable (Memorial Park in Houston is 1,400 acres, for comparison) and it’s right on the beach in prime fishing, hunting, birding, and kayaking territory.

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We got to camp right on the water, with the soothing sound of the waves to put us to sleep and a killer sunrise to wake up to the next morning.

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We felt totally spoiled to get to see this park before it opened to the public, and had so much fun driving around looking at wildlife, kayaking, and fishing on the coast.

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The lodge on the property has a huge wraparound porch, and will be open for group reservations in the future. (You will want to get in on this!)

Panoramic beach views and an entire row of posts just for hammocks make it simply heavenly. Brandon tested out the hammock situation just for you all, and he reports that it is up to his napping standards.

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While a lot of land along the coast is flat and marsh-like, this ranch has such diverse scenery, from freshwater ponds that the birds and alligators love, to oak thickets, tall grass prairies, and beautiful grassy coastline.

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It was seriously so pretty.

In the future, a huge portion of this land will be used for public hunting and about 2,500 acres of oceanfront property will become the state park.

The prime part of the coastline is going to be the heart of the state park, and campsites are going to be strung out along the waterfront.

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I think this is going to be the part of the park that makes Texans fall in love with their state all over again.

The sunrise from this point is simply beautiful and there’s not a building for miles to ruin the view.

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You will want to bring your kayaks (or rent them from the park) because the fishing and sightseeing along the coast is something out of a magazine.

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{This coastline is Stewards of the Wild tested and approved!}

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As a wildlife lover and so was avidly photographing all of the deer, herons, pelicans, and shorebirds.

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Texas is a huge haven for migrating birds, and given how large our coastline is, we are a major part of their migratory route. They love the freshwater ponds and estuaries along the coast, and after a long gulf flight they love hanging out here and refueling on the fish, plankton, and plants in marshes and wetlands before continuing on their journeys.

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One morning I watched about a dozen pelicans dive-bomb their breakfast of fish just under the surface.

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Later that day I made everyone apple cobbler on the dutch oven and it hit the spot.

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We had a big bonfire on the beach that night, and I was reminded how much I love beach bonfires.

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Beach bonfires are the best.

But of course, not every camping trip is perfect. Ha. A huge thunderstorm pelted us with rain and wind Saturday night and we made a fun little discovery that our tent was not “waterproof” at. all. Water came through the roof and puddles formed around the edge of our tent, soaking our belongings. We layed awake from about 2am to 5am as the thunder and lightning passed overhead.

But despite it all, we had such an incredible time and I once again was wow-ed by the natural beauty of our state. We are so lucky to have places like this to enjoy and I am so excited for the many Texans who will get to visit this ranch and make memories in years to come.

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One day I’ll get to tell my kids, “Your father and I came here before it was a state park, before there were restrooms, roads or any of these fancy amenities!” We’ll tell them about how we got stuck in a thunderstorm and how we had sticker burrs in our sleeping bags. I’m sure they will roll their eyes. But I still can’t wait to share this slice of pristine Texas coastline with them.

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How YOU Can Go to This Park Before it Opens!

  • If you are between 21 and 45, and live in San Antonio, Austin, Houston, or Dallas, you can join Stewards of the Wild. They will be making one last trip to Powderhorn next year and you can join them.

Things to Know

  • Location:

powderhorn-map

  • 3 hours from Austin, Houston, and San Antonio
  • Lots of sticker burrs, beware! Bring a tarp to put under your tent. We had sticker burrs and thorns poking through the floor of our tent.
  • Bring bug spray
  • It can be windy

A Bit About the Public Hunting

I personally can’t wait to sign up for public hunting down at Powderhorn. Public hunting will open in 2018, before the rest of the park is open to the public. Those of you looking to put wild game on your table can look forward to that! See my instructions for how to hunt Texas park land here.

Where the Name Comes From

A “powderhorn” is what they used back in the old days to hold gun powder, and was typically a cow or buffalo horn with the ends sawed off and stoppers at both ends. It was worn around the waist/cross body. The lake near Powderhorn Ranch is shaped like a powderhorn, hence the name.

What to Do in the Area

Thanks to PBS’ The Daytripper for these tips!

I hope you all get a chance to enjoy this beautiful park some day! Until then check out our many great state parks on the coast, like Mustang Island and Galveston Island.

Falling for Fall at Lost Maples State Natural Area

Brandon and I finally got to experience Fall and all its orange and red glory on a camping trip to Lost Maples State Natural Area a few weeks ago!

Given that we don’t get much of a Fall here in Texas, and given that my Fall clothes are still packed away in boxes, it was a huge treat to get a small taste of the season.

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Lost Maples is located in Southwest Texas, in the direction of Garner State Park, Leakey, and Medina. It is THE place to see the leaves change in Texas and you should not miss seeing it at least once in your life!

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We made the reservations over ten months ago (you have to reserve very early for this time of year as it is extremely popular!) and got up early on Saturday morning to head down there. Thanks to a tip from a friend, we knew to stop at the Love Creek Orchards Apple Store in Medina on the way.

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They sell cute gifts and every form of apple you can imagine, so it turned out to be a delicious stop. They have a patio and restaurant where you can order breakfast and lunch. We got two apple turnovers filled with fresh Medina apples and we were pretty much in breakfast heaven.

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So delicious.

The drive from Austin was beautiful but the stretch between Medina and the park was truly the most stunning part.

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I took so many pictures and videos outside the car window!

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When we arrived we set about putting up the tent.

This is where Brandon takes charge. I follow orders and take pictures. I’ve learned this is my better role when it comes to building or arranging things, whether it’s the tent or the dishwasher. His mind is like one gigantic Tetris game and this is where he shines.

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Five seconds later…

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Ta da! Campsite done.

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With all of that set up, we headed out on the Maple Trail, which was very cute and had some of the best colors of the park.

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It was charming and perfect for kids, and reminded me of something out of a children’s book.

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Trooper loved it!

From there we continued on East Trail, which is 4.6 miles and leads up to the top of a ridge. East Trail is THE trail you come to the park to see, and do not miss it!

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This path starts out innocently enough, with wide and flat walkways…

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Passes Monkey Rock, which is shaped like a monkey…

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passes by a beautiful cave and creekbed…

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Through lots of fall leaves…

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and deposits you here:

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The infamous stairs.

For 1.5 miles, the trail is pretty steep as you reach the top of the hill. No mercy and no rest for the wicked.

By the end of it, I was carrying Trooper and was hoping someone would carry me. Brandon and I were asking each other “How did we ever make it hiking in the Sierra?”

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It was so worth it though, because the views were absolutely breathtaking.

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I couldn’t get over how pretty it was. The trees down in the valley were starting to turn orange, and the Sabinal river which cuts through the park was forming a pool beside some campsites.

We rested our weary bones (and our weary dog) up here and had a picnic…something I would definitely recommend doing. Every Texan needs to have a picnic up on this hill!

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Lots of folks were up here just enjoying the view and there were clearings all along the ridge, so you could commandeer one and sit for a while.

This was a high point in our trip.

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Get it, high point?

🙂

On the way back, we had to stop and observe a water feature of some sort my husband found, because he’s an engineer and that’s the kind of thing that really rings his bell.

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“Take my picture,” he said.

There?” I asked, thinking he would certainly want a better backdrop.

“Yeah I want the bridge in it,” he said.

I should have known.

I suppose I shouldn’t have teased him too much because I did ask him to take this picture, after all:

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and he didn’t ask a single question.

(We former ballerinas have our quirks too.)

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Later that afternoon we came back and made s’mores, cooked chicken on the dutch oven, and hung out and read. We were exhausted! Climbing up that hill did us in.

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The next morning, Brandon got out his fishing gear and we all went down to one of the ponds along the East Trail to see if he could catch something.

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Sadly nothing was biting but it was a very tranquil start to the morning!

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We packed up shop and headed back towards Austin, with one minor detour to see this overlook…

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Oh Texas, you so pretty!

We had such a fun-filled, FALL-filled weekend at Lost Maples and will be coming back again. I could see us making this an annual thing! The campsites were spacious, the restrooms tidy, and there were plenty of hiking trails and fishing holes. This has the most varied landscapes of any of the state parks I’ve visited thus far and is one of my favorite state parks. Plus, it makes my autumn loving heart so happy.

Y’all should check it out.

Plan Your Visit

Recommended itinerary

Friday

  • 3pm leave Austin
  • 6pm Stop in Medina, Texas at Love Creek Orchards for dinner, and pick up apple turnovers for the following morning’s breakfast
  • 7pm Arrive at Lost Maples (30 min from Love Creek Orchards)
  • Set up tent, stargaze

Saturday

  • Morning: hike Maple Trail and East Trail
  • Picnic Lunch at top of hill on East Trail
  • Afternoon: games and nap at the camp site
  • Saturday evening: campfire, Dutch oven cooking maybe?, s’mores!

Sunday

  • Adventurous option: hike up West Trail (this one is strenuous!)
  • Laid back option: take a scenic drive west on HWY 337 (see map) and look for scenic view
  • Stop by Love Creek and pick up your very own Lost Maple seedling to take home!

Alternatively, leave early Saturday morning like we did and stop at the apple orchard for breakfast. 

Things to Know

  • Nearest General Store: There is a handy general store at the corner of Hwy 187 and 337. Details click here
  • Lost Maples State Natural Area Website: click here
  • Reserve 10+ months in advance!
  • No hand towels in the restroom

Map to the Overlook

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Head west on 337 and you will see it on the south side of the road. (There are lots of good overlooks around here!)

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Glamp Your Heart Out at this Texas Tipi Retreat

When Reservation on the Guadalupe asked me to come stay at their glamping retreat and do a review, I was more than happy to oblige. Me? Glamp? Why if I must!

This cute tipi-style resort was already on my list of places to visit. With pristine hill country surroundings to bask in, hammocks to swing in, the Guadalupe river to dip in, and one of my favorite Texas hikes nearby, this place has the basics of what my heart desires–and it is all within an hour from my front door in Austin.

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I grabbed my friend Cassandra, a jewelry designer and fellow Austinite, and we headed down there last week. I’m in love with this place and think you will be too!

First things first, on the way there we stopped in Gruene for a bite to eat.

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Gruene is a historic town, with a dancehall, water tower, and a general store. If you’re coming from Austin, Dallas, or Houston, you will pass by Gruene and it would be a shame to not see this quintessential Texas town.

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What to See In Gruene

We had a big plate of onion rings at the Gristmill and my day was made before I even arrived at the tipis.

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Mmm. Follow me on Instagram for stories from my travels.

After dinner, the entire drive from Gruene to the tipis was full of sunset views.

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(We may be a bit biased, but we think sunsets are better in Texas.)

Though we arrived at the tipis just after dark, I could tell this place was already right up my alley. There are eight individual tipis around a central area, each one complete with its own kitchenette, memory foam beds (hello), air conditioning, wifi, television, dvd player, and coffee maker.

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We had tipi #2, called Deer Run.

Cassie and I both love Europe and so we spent the remainder of our night watching A Good Year, which is set on a vineyard in France. Sigh.

Both Cassie and I run our own businesses–hers a jewelry company and mine this blog–and our noses are always to the grindstone, so we felt so spoiled getting to sit and watch a movie on a midweek vacation. It was a total break from adulting we needed.

See Cassie’s jewery line here: CassandraCollections

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The next morning we woke up and ventured down to the riverfront.

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This spot was just MADE for sipping coffee.

If you go, I recommend taking a good book and a cup of joe, and enjoying the peace and quiet of this serene spot before the day gets crazy. It will start your day off right.

That done, we finally got our much needed hammock time.

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Not bad for a Wednesday, eh?

On our way back home to Austin, we took the scenic route on River Road, which follows the Guadalupe River all the way back to Gruene.

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This trip was just the getaway we girls needed. I can’t wait to come back, and bring people! I see a Whit’s Wilderness reader glamp out in my future…

What We Loved

  • SUPER UNIQUE – Only a couple of places like this exist in Texas and so it’s truly something special
  • GREAT FOR GROUPS – With a big central open area and plenty of fire pits, picnic tables, and grills, this place just screams group getaway.
  • SUPER CONVENIENT — located between Austin and San Antonio just 30 min. off I-35
  • AFFORDABLE – $129/night on average, and each tipi can accommodate six guests
  • LAID BACK AND CASUAL – glamping hair don’t care
  • SEAMLESS AND STRESS FREE – There were no hills to climb, no people to impress, and no crazy hidden fees.
  • LOTS TO DO – See suggestions below
  • GOOD SLEEP – Memory foam mattresses make this easy!
  • STOCKED KITCHEN – Kitchenettes are well equipped with a mini fridge, utensils, kitchen tools, dish soap, etc.
  • TREEHOUSE community room – so cute, with sofas, chairs, and poker table (pics at end of post)

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Who Would Love this Trip

  • GIRLFRIENDS looking for a fun and affordable getaway (that’s extremely Instagram friendly)
  • COED FRIEND GROUPS who want to tube and hang out somewhere casual and affordable
  • MOMS looking for a quiet spot to sleep, read, and enjoy the peace and quiet
  • FAMILIES BIG AND SMALL looking for a place that is accessible by all ages with a great feeling of community.
  • KIDDOS WITH AN IMAGINATION – Your kid will feel like he/she’s staying in a fort or pretending to be Pocahontas for the weekend. Plus, there’s a tree house!
  • GIRL SCOUT TROOPS – all of the tipis are within eyeshot of each other and there are plenty of lessons in nature to be had, from building a fire to swimming to arts and crafts.

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Our Tips for The Best Vacation

  • Go in colder weather. Flannels, moccasins, blankets, and fire pits are the little joys of glamping and best experienced in cooler temps.
  • Get up before the day starts and enjoy the peace and quiet of the riverfront
  • Arrive before dark, the entrance can be hard to spot from the road at night
  • Bring your own towels
  • Bring slip on shoes to run to the bathroom
  • Don’t forget a flashlight!

What to Do in the Area

  • TUBE THE GUADALUPE – Rent tubes at the intersection of Hwy 306 and FM 2673 (5 min drive)
  • FLY FISH – Contact Gruene Outfitters for a list of guides
  • VISIT GRUENE – Shop, eat, stroll, dance, repeat (20 min drive)
  • HIKE CANYON LAKE GORGE – one of my favorite hikes in the Hill Country, you can see pictures here (5 min drive)
  • BOAT at nearby Canyon Lake (5 min drive)
  • SWIM / dip a toe in the water on the property – the paved landing by the water is perfect for little kids

To Reserve

  • Visit Reservation on the Guadalupe

When to Go

  • I recommend winter time. It can get a little hot and muggy in the summer.

A Word About Checking In

Before your arrival, Best Texas Travel sends you a link to an app which you will need for check in. At first I was annoyed about having to download another app (inevitably this means deleting something from my phone), but it ended up being one of the nicest parts of the experience. When I was packing, it told me exactly what to bring. On our way to the property, it gave us directions. And when we got there, it had our entry code to our tipi. Seriously made our trip so stress-free.

Room for Improvement

My complaints are fairly minor, I was definitely impressed overall.

  • The bedspreads were not as clean as they could have been. I’m a clean freak and so just pulled them back.
  • The towels weren’t either…eek! Bring your own.
  • No full length mirror
  • No water bottles – there’s a faucet and plenty of room for your own coolers instead

Everything else was tidy and wonderful, and I’m not just saying that because they comped my stay.

Remember this is still camping

Glamorous is a relative term. It is not glamorous compared to the Ritz, it’s glamorous compared to camping. As long as you go in with the same expectations you would have for camping, you will be beyond pleasantly surprised.

A Few Final Snaps Before I Go…

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The perfect set up in my book

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Path Down to the River

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Treehouse Community Room – with a poker table, sofas and chairs, a grill, and plenty of outdoor seating

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River views

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Our Bathroom

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Bathroom building

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ping pong table

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Views from River Rd.

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South Austin Trail Gets Exercise Stations

Today I wanted to share a fun new development at one our Austin parks that is the result of a City Council member, Ellen Troxclair.

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I love this story because it involves two things I love–the outdoors and resourceful Texas women.

Back when Ellen Troxclair was running for City Council, I started following her campaign because I liked seeing a young, polished and articulate woman run for office.  She won the election, and has been holding her own in City Council.

At the end of last year, Troxclair announced that she had saved 10% ($30,000) of her office’s budget to reinvest in the district, and would be using it to revamp the fitness stations along a trail at Dick Nichols Park.

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I knew I liked her for a reason! One of the reasons I love outdoor activities is because they are a pleasant form of exercise, far more appealing than the gym, to me at least. Naturally, I love seeing these fitness stations along the trail.

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The park itself is located in South Austin; super convenient, relatively scenic, and dangerously close to a place that sells chips & queso. (Santa Rita on Slaughter Ln.)

Post workout snack anyone?

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So this Spring, South Austinites, make a date with Dick Nichols if you haven’t already!

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I’ve heard Ellen is looking for ways to better fund other Austin parks, and I’m behind her on this. Thanks Ellen for giving us a better space to get outdoors.

Plan Your Visit

  • Dick Nichols Park Website and Map: Click Here
  • Note: restrooms here get a D-. Go before you go!