Lost Maples State Natural Area was one of the prettiest parks we’ve visited so far, and one of the more scenic drives as well. It takes you into the heart of the Texas hill country and will amaze with rolling hills, lush landscapes, and plenty more.
Lost Maples State Natural area is west of San Antonio, TX, and was almost three hours from my house. We got up pretty early because our reservation window was from open through 12p.m.
The drive for me through San Antonio is something I’ve done numerous times, and some of it was familiar because of visiting Government Canyon, but as we kept going the hills got higher, and the roads winded more, so we knew we were going somewhere special.
Right off the bat I want to give you a heads up. There is absolutely ZERO cell service at this place. Enchanted Rock has very little, but this place has ZERO. My daughter uses T-Mobile, and she had a little bit outside of the park, but for all that’s holy, print out a map for your way home. I didn’t heed the warning and took a wrong turn heading home which took us to some amazing winding roads, but 30 minutes out of the way. Even with satellite maps in my car, for whatever reason it didn’t send us the right way. Never hurts to be over prepared, right?
When we arrived to the headquarters the lady that checked us in was super friendly and noticed we had the little one with us. Her recommendation was a bit taxing, but nothing we all couldn’t handle. It also gave us some of the spectacular views of this place.
PRO TIP: Park by the birding area. If you park by where the trailhead is you’ll have to walk longer at the end of your hike then at the beginning
There are five main trails here at Lost Maples:
- Maple Trail
- East-West Trail
- East Trail
- West Trail
- West Loop Trail
For our day hike we did a counter-clockwise loop that consisted of most of the trails available. Starting at the Maple trail, it runs parallel to the beginning of the East trail. It just offers a bit more of a scenic view that is more spectacular in the fall when the leaves are just changing.
From there we got back on the East trail and that took us to our first point of interest: Monkey Rock.
Monkey Rock is a limestone formation that, well, looks like a monkey face. It extends out of the wall and greets you with a fun smile. Take note of the plants growing from the wall behind it, and look at the water seeping through the rock. Plenty of room for others to enjoy because this place is sure to get crowded in the warmer months.
Hike through the first primitive camp site and stay left. You’ll see a small rock boundary that will give you a nudge. This is your first restroom break too if need be. From here you’ll head towards the next point of interest, and one the park ranger said that most people miss: The Grotto.
The ranger basically explained the grotto as a former cave that was now opened up. The geological wonder has rock formation that looks like bubbles and stalactites. It was January, but she mentioned that even in warmer months this section does feel a bit cooler.
Stand here and close your eyes and listen to the water dripping down to the water below. Then notice the maidenhair ferns growing and the various colors on the wall. On our last visit someone had scraped their name into the wall for everyone to admire! *sarcasm.
When the ranger was explaining the route she mentioned that the grotto can be easily missed. I can see what she meant by walking right by it. In this direction it’s to your right, but its behind a curve in the trail lower and behind some trees. You’ll see a bench, so be on the lookout for that. While I was down there I did notice some hikers walking by, so not sure if they’d already been there or just weren’t interested.
This is where it starts getting fun.
Right beyond this point of interest is the sign warning hikers about what’s about to follow. The warning of steep terrain, and a rock ladder of sorts welcoming you into the next 300 feet of elevation.
Eat some snacks, do your stretches and get ready.
It’s almost a mile uphill as you ascent to your first scenic overlook. You’ll hit a midway point with a bench to rest and check out the views, but this is just a glimpse. Just beyond that rest area you’ll come to a sign ahead that will signal you to go left for the actual scenic overlook, and to your right the path to keep going. I definitely recommend some trekking poles for this adventure.
This section offers some spectacular views of the hill country. As you walk you’re greeted with various openings to look down at the Sabinal River down below, and then you’ll see the hikers below and realize that’s from where you just came.
It’s pretty remarkable to suddenly notice how high you just hiked, but don’t forget to stop and take it all in. There are plenty of overlooks here to pause and view the majestic landscape.
As the saying goes, what goes up…
You’ll need to hike back down eventually, so be prepared for that. The counter-clockwise way that we went makes the going down part a little less strenuous, so thank me later.
At the end of the descent you’re greeted by a lovely walk through the trees and eventually you’ll come to a swimmin’ hole with another restroom, and places to sit by the water.
The hike was almost six miles, and the hardest part was definitely the climb up, but there are plenty of places to rest along the trail and take in some views.
The remaining points of interest are both springs that are located on the far western part of the park, and unfortunately not where we explored.
Because Lost Maples is a natural area and not a state park the camping accommodations are limited. Just after the entrance there is a 30-spot camping area with water and electric, but most of the visitors here were RV campers.
Every other option here are the primitive camp sites that are sprinkled throughout the park, and they’re all a good distance from the two main parking areas. This is definitely more of a backpacking feel if you’re looking to get your feet wet in that.
This is one of my favorite places to visit thus far. I was blown away by the trip there, the views, and just how gorgeous everything was. I’m sure in the dead of summer the colors aren’t as bright, the water isn’t flowing as much, but for a day trip in January it was perfect.