After a searing summer, fall is finally here.
In the Lone Star State, while the weather remains unpredictable, one thing that is certain is the presence of colorful foliage and festive activities to mark the harvest season.
These are ten of the most beautiful fall destinations in Texas, whether you’re looking for a relaxing getaway from the hustle and bustle of everyday life or you want to embark on an adventure full of exploration and discovery.
1. Garner State Park
Distance from Fort Worth: 5 hr 11 min (318.2 mi) Location: 234 RR 1050, Concan Attractions: Swimming, hiking, scenery Need to know: Park hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Tickets are $8 daily, free for children under 13. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900.
Concan is one of the best cities to visit in the fall season, with red, orange and yellow foliage as far as the eye can see. Along with easy access to the Frio River, Garner State Park offers many miles of hiking trails and camping options.
Garner State Park is a great place for a swim or hike, or to enjoy a relaxing weekend. With 2.9 miles of Frio River winding through 1,774 acres of scenic Hill Country terrain, the park offers plenty to see and do. Swim in the Frio River, float its waters on an inner tube or operate a paddle boat. You can hike 16 miles of scenic trails. You can camp, study nature, picnic, canoe, fish, play miniature golf, geocache and ride bikes.
Visiting overnight? Stay in a screened shelter, cabin or campsite. The park’s concessionaire sells meals and snacks during the summer, and rents the pavilion in the off season. At the visitor center, learn more about the park’s features and shop for souvenirs. Visitors can rent paddle boats, kayaks and inner tubes, as well as tables, barbecue pits, heaters and fans. The park’s concessionaire operates a tube shuttle and putt-putt golf course.
Before you go for a dip, Texas Parks and Wildlife recommends reading through their swimming safety guidelines. Beware of feral hogs in the park while visiting and do not leave any food unattended, TPWD says.
Nearby, visit the Briscoe-Garner Museum to learn about two famous Texas politicians. Fort Inge, once a frontier fort and Texas Ranger camp, now hosts occasional star parties.
2. Lost Maples State Natural Area
Distance from Fort Worth: 5 hr 7 min (313.6 mi) Location: 37221 RM 187, Vanderpool Attractions: Abundant wildflowers, steep canyon walls and the scenic Sabinal River Need to know: Park hours are 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. daily. Tickets are $6 daily, free for children under 13. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900. Busy season is October to November.
Just two hours northwest of San Antonio lies one of the most iconic fall foliage destinations in Texas, with Uvalde bigtooth maples creating a warm eye-catching display. You’ll find plenty to do at Lost Maples. Take a hike, go fishing, look for birds and other wildlife, camp, backpack, stargaze and hunt for geocaches.
Marvel at the fall leaves on the bigtooth maples and other trees in autumn. Because the show varies depending on weather conditions, check TPWD’s fall foliage report starting mid-October.
Explore over 10 miles of trails, including a loop that takes you along the top of a 2,200-foot cliff. Choose from 30 campsites with water and electricity. Or backpack to one of the primitive campsites. Stay on designated trails, the department cautions, and don’t climb on rocks or hillsides.
Wet a line in the Sabinal River or Can Creek. You don’t need a fishing license to fish from shore or pier in a state park or natural area. The area is home to a wide variety of birds, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the recently de-listed black-capped vireo.
Visit the nearby towns of Utopia and Bandera, or adventure to Medina Lake for swimming and fishing. Don’t miss out on sweets from Love Creek Orchards, a bakery just 30 minutes away famous for its apple pie, apple ice cream and seasonal pumpkin patch.
3. Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Distance from Fort Worth: 7 hr 17 min (477.3 mi) Location: 400 Pine Canyon, Salt Flat Attractions: Hiking, Permian fossil reef, museum
Need to know: Entrance fee $10, annual pass $35.
Campers, hikers, and thrill-seekers can take advantage of a fall long weekend or vacation to experience mountains and canyons, deserts and dunes, night skies and spectacular vistas. Guadalupe Mountains National Park features the world’s most extensive Permian fossil reef, the highest peaks in Texas and an environmentally diverse collection of flora and fauna. In the fall of 2022, Guadalupe Mountains will mark the 50th anniversary of the park’s establishment in 1972.
Guadalupe Peak, the highest point in Texas, is a must-visit destination for hikers. Early hunter-gatherers lived in the area’s many caves, and later the Mescalero Apaches discovered game hunting opportunities on the land. Artifacts that reflect their time there, such as agave roasting pits, can still be located. At the nearby Frijole Ranch, you’ll find a small museum that tells about the making of a national park on the mountain range.
More than 80 miles of trails wind from woodland canyons to lush springs. Experienced trekkers can access the more rugged parts of the park via steep switchbacks that zigzag up the mountains, where once-in-a-lifetime photo-ops await. The only other national park in Texas, Big Bend National Park, is about a 3.5-hour drive away. See both for an exploration of Texas’ wild west.
4. Caddo Lake
Distance from Fort Worth: 3 hr 32 min (230.6 mi) Location: 245 Park Rd 2, Karnack Attractions: Fishing, paddling, hiking Need to know: Park hours are 8 a.m. - 4:45 p.m. daily. Tickets are $4 daily, free for children under 13. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900. Busy season is March through November. Towering bald cypress trees draped with Spanish moss encircle the maze of bayous, sloughs and ponds of Caddo Lake. As you paddle the waterways of this East Texas treasure, explore all its twists and turns.
The 26,810-acre Caddo Lake harbors more than 70 species of fish. Oh, and alligators make their home there too. You can venture onto more than 50 miles of paddling trails, or take a canoe or kayak into the water. Several companies offer boat tours to view the area’s wildlife and vegetation.
If you prefer to adventure on-foot, you can hike through the forest. One-quarter mile of the Caddo Forest Trail is ADA accessible. Stay at one of the 46 campsites, screened shelters and cabins built in the 1930s.
Be sure to visit these three nearby cities: Marshall, home of the Starr Family State Historic Site; Karnack, childhood home of Lady Bird Johnson; and Jefferson, once the largest inland port in Texas.
5. Enchanted Rock
Distance from Fort Worth: 3 hr 32 min (213.4 mi) Location: 16710 Ranch Rd 965, Fredericksburg Attractions: Hiking, backpacking, camping, rock climbing Need to know: Park hours are 6:30 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Tickets are $8 daily, free for children under 13. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900. Busy season is September to May.
For centuries, visitors have been going to the massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas. They become entranced by the scenery and rock formations of the area. Over the years, the 425-foot batholith has given rise to myths and legends.
Climbing Enchanted Rock is a Texan rite of passage, where you’ll get once-in-a-lifetime Hill Country views. Hikers will find nearly 11 miles of trails, including the iconic Summit Trail. Relax under the stars at this International Dark Sky Park, which offers one of the best night sky views in Texas. Enjoy interpretive exhibits and cave exploration too.
For a taste of German culture in Texas, visit Fredericksburg, where you can shop, dine, visit museums and take part in outdoor activities. Stop by the “Deer Capital of Texas,” Llano, for museums and music. Drive the Peach Loop, one of TPWD’s Great Texas Wildlife Trails, for some of the best wildlife observation points in the area. Learn about President Lyndon B. Johnson, who was born and raised in the Texas Hill Country, at the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park and the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site.
6. Palo Duro Canyon
Distance from Fort Worth: 5 hr 19 min (352.7 mi) Location: 11450 State Hwy Park Rd 5, Canyon Attractions: Luxury camping, horseback riding Need to know: Park hours are 7 a.m. - 9 p.m. daily. Tickets are $8 daily, free for children under 13. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900.
The "Grand Canyon of Texas" lies in the heart of the Texas Panhandle. Twenty-five miles from downtown Amarillo, the second largest canyon in the country offers both astounding beauty and history. The scenic landscape, with historical sites and miles of trails, was formed by millions of years of water erosion by the Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River. The Canyon Gallery features historical video productions, archaeological and nature exhibits, Southwest art, handmade Native American pottery, handmade Navajo, Zuni and Santo Domingo silver and turquoise jewelry, handmade hunting knives, and a large selection of Comanche and Kiowa tools. For some thrilling outdoor fun, take a zip line across the canyon at the Palo Duro Zip Line Adventure Park. Old West Stables on the canyon floor leads horseback tours for the whole family to Timber Creek Canyon.
Stay in one of three cabins on the canyon’s rim or four Cow Camp cabins on the canyon floor. For a more luxurious experience, rent out of the canyon’s new glamping sites.
While you’re near Amarillo, visit the Amarillo Zoo, Don Harrington Discovery Center, Wildcat Bluff Nature Center and the American Quarter Horse Hall of Fame & Museum. More must-sees: Panhandle-Plains Historical Museum, Buffalo Lake National Wildlife Refuge, Lake Meredith National Recreation Area and the Alibates Flint Quarries National Monument.
7. Big Bend National Park
Distance from Fort Worth: 7 hr 25 min (502.2 mi) Location: 1 Panther Junction, Big Bend National Park Attractions: Camping, hiking Need to know: Open 24 hours. Entrance fee is $30 per vehicle; $12 per individual.
In Southwest Texas, along the Texas-Mexico border, 150 miles of hiking trails pass through mountainous desert terrain and rivers. There, you’ll find geological structures that are millions of years old, 1,200 species of plants and 450 bird species. Park activities include scenic drives, park ranger programs and stargazing.
Big Bend was designated a national park in 1935, preserving the largest swaths of the Chihuahuan Desert in the nation. The 1,252 square miles boast diverse landscapes: vegetation belts along the Rio Grande, peaks of the Chisos Mountains, and limestone outcrops of Persimmon Gap and Boquillas Canyon.
8. Davy Crockett National Forest
Distance from Fort Worth: 3 hr 6 min (202.8 mi) Location: 18551 Texas 7, Kennard Attractions: Woodlands, streams, recreation areas, wildlife habitat
In October 1936, President Franklin Roosevelt named a new national forest after the “King of the Wild Frontier” Davy Crockett, a frontiersman who died fighting at the Battle of the Alamo. One of four national forests in Texas, Davy Crockett National Forest now encompasses more than 160,000 acres of woodlands used for lumber, cattle grazing, hunting and recreation.
The Ratcliff Lake Recreation Area offers visitors camping, picnicking, swimming, a concession stand, an amphitheater, an interpretive forest trail, boating and fishing. The Piney Creek Horse Trail offers more than 50 miles of developed horse trails. And the Neches Bluff Overlook offers a panoramic view of pine-hardwood forests in the Neches River bottomlands.
On the Davy Crockett National Forest, you’ll witness a wide variety of wildlife, like the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.
9. Martin Dies, Jr. State Park
Distance from Fort Worth: 4 hr 17 min (272.0 mi) Location: 634 Park Rd 48 S, Jasper Attractions: Lake, sloughs, forest trails Need to know: Park hours are 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily. Tickets $4 daily, free for children under 13. Reservations recommended online or by calling 512-389-8900. Busy season is September through Thanksgiving.
On the eastern end of Texas is where the Neches and Angelina rivers meet, creating the diverse habitats of a 1,300-acre park. At the edge of the Big Thicket in the Pineywoods lies a 10,687-acre lake, sloughs and forest trails, making for a deep woods wilderness experience.
Paddle the serene waters of the two rivers, swim in the Hen House Ridge Unit and fish in the B.A. Steinhagen Reservoir. Catch catfish, bass, perch and crappie. A wide variety of trees, plants, birds, mammals, reptiles and all kinds of insects also make their home there, making this the ideal location for nature and animal lovers. A “birder’s paradise,” the park is located on the southern migration route of many bird species.
Choose from over 200 campsites, many of which sit next to the lake or a slough. During your stay, enjoy The Nature Center’s hands-on activities for all ages. Join nature and night hikes; programs on animals, plants and trees of the forest; art activities; paddling tours; star parties; campfire programs; geocaching; and history programs. Walk or bike the seven miles of trails as you wander through the forest. Play volleyball at one of the park’s courts.
Stop by Woodville, “the Dogwood Capital of Texas” and Jasper, “the Jewel of the Forest.” Take a scenic drive or hike in the nearby Angelina National Forest to the north and the Big Thicket National Preserve to the south. Thirty miles west of the park on U.S. Highway 190, visit the Alabama-Coushatta Tribe Reservation. Other lakes to see in the area include the Sam Rayburn and Toledo Bend reservoirs.
10. Dewberry Farm
Distance from Fort Worth: 3 hr 36 min (237.2 mi) Location: 7705 FM 362, Brookshire Attractions: 8-acre cornfield maze, heaps of pumpkins and sunflowers, 40+ family activities Need to know: Fall Festival at Dewberry Farm began Sept. 24. Buy tickets on dewberryfarm.com. Tickets are $34.95 on non-peak days and $38.95 on peak days.
An hour west of Houston, Dewberry Farm in Brookshire is an autumn oasis with all the seasonal festivities you could ask for. It has one of the best pumpkin patches in Texas, with hundreds of unique pumpkins sitting on multiple acres.
Take a free hayride, pick out some pumpkins, and enjoy the many family-friendly fall activities the farm has to offer. Those include a train ride, corn maze, firepits and lots of delicious eats. Special events are held throughout the season, like live entertainment, pet adoption, trick or treating and a beer fest.