The falls. Go to the falls! Check out the falls! That’s what everyone wants to talk about when hyping up Colorado Bend state park. So let’s get one thing out of the way; the falls are AMAZING. But this state park is much more than the falls. The hiking here was intense, the views of the hill country are majestic, and the river itself is a definite draw.
Ranch land or state park?
Getting to the state park is a unique experience because you need to traverse a few ranch roads just to get to the entrance.
You see the arrow pointing where to go, but then you go through an open gate, and over the cattle guard and it’s almost like you’re at one of those drive-thru safaris. Well, except it is cows.
The park itself used to be part of the Gorman and Lemons ranches, so thankfully the owners understood its importance and broke off a piece to give to the state of Texas, and the parks department.
One thing to note; this park does close during the winter on select days for hunting. Please check ahead for times it’s open/closed. It’s a long drive, and not much to do close by.
The terrain is filled with trees, water, and limestone rocks jetting out on either side of you and up from the ground, but more on that in a bit.
And this state park features points of interest that are more visual rather than historical, but they are all grandiose in comparison to other parks.
Right off the bat, if you have the opportunity to snag a campsite on the river- DO. IT.
The only concern would be for a flash flood from the river because you’re literally on the bank of the Colorado River, but you know, minor detail.
Except for the back-country primitive camping, the campsites are all relatively close to the water. Some more sites above the riverbank are a little roomier and allow for RV’s, but it’s important to know that there are zero dump stations at this park. You’re literally taking it all out with you.
The camping area feels airy and roomy, and just one big community of campers. On the far ends of the campsites are day-use areas for picnicking and swimming/fishing opportunities, and the Colorado River is very grand with the stone wall as its backdrop.
Here is where you’ll also find your gift shop area for souvenirs and campsite information.
You can learn more about the campsite fees here.
Colorado Bend Primitive Camping (Backcountry)
There are two sections of backcountry primitive sites: Backcountry River and Backcountry Windmill.
The park recommends limiting these sites to only four people as they are low-traffic areas, but it’s worth noting that the Windmill campsite is the farthest away from the river, so it may feel like you’re deeper into the backcountry. The River site is near the water, and closest to the other sites and headquarters.
The Windmill site is about a mile away from the parking lot, so not super far if you wanted to hike back in forth, but as they are primitive sites, neither have restrooms. But you should know that.
Not sure how to make reservations for your favorite park? Learn more in this reservation guide.
Recommended Points of Interest:
Overall there are seven points of interest at Colorado Bend State Park. These sights were visited and highly recommended:
1) River Overlook– This overlook is accessible from the Falls & Tie Slide Trail
2) Tinaja– Amazing bowl formation in the middle of the hill country
3) Gorman Spring– There is a spring trail where you can hike along the flowing spring water and it’s lovely
4) Gorman Falls– Read Below
There are 14 trails here.
12 of those are over one mile, and two of them are almost five miles.
This wasn’t apparent before heading to the park, so reading the trail map was a little more daunting than expected.
The Tinaja Trail (2.8 mi.) is considered the most challenging trail at the park, but the Dogleg Canyon Trail (1.3 mi), The Gorman Falls Trail (1.5 mi one way), the Spicewood Canyon Trail (3 mi.), and the Spicewood Springs Trail (1.3 mi.) are all considered challenging as well.
Bring plenty of water
Wear. Comfy. Shoes.
Trekking Poles (optional)
So here are some recommendations: Bring plenty of water, and wear. comfortable. shoes.
Not just sneakers for cushion; you’ll need to bring suitable footwear that will hold up to the rigors of the limestone rocks that you’re going to run your toes into all day long.
The lugs on the soles should be grippy and be spread out evenly so the pointed edges don’t push directly into your feet either.
Some may say, ‘I hike to Gorman falls in my flip-flops’, well, good for you!
The recommendations are for longer hikes, and just a great way to protect your feet.
You should also have some trekking poles ready to go just in case. A lot of this terrain is fairly even, and there are only a few sections where the elevation changes drastically, but there are sections when the gravel is loose and having something to balance your weight on is helpful.
The following is a personal account of the following trails; Gorman Falls, Tie Slide Overlook Trail, Tinaja, Gorman Spring
Gorman Falls- Tie Slide Overlook
The Gorman Falls trail is the big draw, but it’s also the first one after entering the park. When I arrived the ranger said that most people do it first as opposed to backtracking because it’s best to do it earlier in the day when it’s cooler.
When I arrived it was a brisk 36 degrees, but I figured I would hike down there and check it out before the rest of the crowd arrived.
You drive down a dirt road to get to the trailhead, and there you’ll see the gate and trailhead signage.
The trail starts fairly reminiscent of a hill country park. Open spaces, mesquite and oak trees, and hills off in the distance.
After half a mile you’re greeted with a sign pointing left for the Tie Slide Overlook Trail.
I recommend checking this trail out to enjoy the scenic overlook that’s at the end.
There’s a wooden deck that sits high above the Colorado River below. The bend here is noticeable, and the view is quite remarkable.
The deck has plenty of space for people to gather and get their photos for ‘the Gram’, but on this day I took my pictures in peace- all alone.
Hiking back to the Gorman Falls trail from here puts you at almost two miles right off the bat.
Once you’re back on the falls trail you’ll start to notice a slight descent, and see more trees, and start to feel the rocks in the bottom of your feet.
If you have visited, or read the Longhorn Cavern post then you may remember reading about the Karsts. These geological wonders that form with soluble rock material that lets water flow through and create caverns.
You get a sense of that at Colorado Bend State Park. The rocks on this trail start to get a little flatter and smoother, and then suddenly… through the trees… the sound changes.
No longer are you hearing the wind blowing through the leaves, but something more steady. The sound of rushing water.
You get the false falls first. Just beyond a large boulder is some runoff water from the spring up above. A few more steps and then you see the rock stairs.
There is a wrapped cable to hold you steady, and you’re going to need to pace yourself here. The limestone rocks have been smoothed down with years of foot traffic, and they are slippery.
But the sound of the water becomes louder and then you see the water flowing out from the trees to your right.
You make it down to the bottom and there it is; the Gorman Falls.
65 feet of water flowing from the spring above and forming the travertine formations. There is also a wooden deck here to enjoy the view as thankfully the water here is roped off to protect its fragile environment.
From here you can walk over and check out the Colorado river as well, but the falls and the water flowing from it are really, really pretty.
Tinaja Trail (2.8 miles)
Where do you go after seeing something that majestic? Well, you tighten your laces and head over to the most difficult trail at the park. This description is what I read on the map almost halfway into this hike.
From the falls you’ll cross over a dry creek bed (at the time of my visit) and wind around to a trail crossroads. If you just keep going straight you’ll hop onto the Tinaja Trail.
This trail starts as the rest; pretty flat and through some trees, but then the trail becomes narrow, and the hillside to your right gets a little higher, and then some sections start to feel like you’re hiking next to a wall.
The difficulty rating from this trail is probably because of the rocks. There are a ton of rocks that jet out every which way, but this is also where you’ll see some elevation changes.
Eventually, you’ll start to notice the trees get lower and lower, and you’ll arrive at a scenic overlook that shows an open, carved-out, tree-covered section of the park.
It’s really neat to see the rocks through the trees, and the birds cascading below. There are oaks, cacti, and armadillos all over this park, so there’s such a nice blend of wildlife.
Continue and you’ll start to descend a bit and come upon the Tinaja. According to the map, it’s a bedrock depression, carved by springs and seeps. So over time, the water would flow down and into the canyon leaving this bowl behind.
The water was a bit stagnant, but you could see plenty of growth, and the birds were flying all around enjoying a quick bath.
The trail continues back up to the opposite side of the canyon, and here the rock walls start to take a bit more shape to your side. Watch your step and enjoy the views!
At the end of the Tinaja Trail, you’re smack dab in the middle of the park. Eventually, you’ll come to the Cedar Chopper Loop and have some decisions to make: Hop on the Cedar Chopper Loop (2.3 mi) and head towards the Lemons Ridge Pass (4.9mi), or stay on the loop and either choose the Dogleg Canyon Trail (1.3 mi.), or the short route to the Old Gorman Road Trail (1 mi.).
Because I was still parked at my original falls trailhead, I opted to hop on the Gorman Road Trail so I could loop around back towards the beginning.
At the end of the road, you’ll see an inconspicuous building in an open field. That is the conference center, and it seemed like it hadn’t held a motivational team-building meeting in quite some time, but here is where you’ll see water again.
I don’t condone going behind barriers, BUT if you listen closely, and follow the water, you can figure out where the spring flows and turns into the falls at this location. Just be mindful of the signs.
Gorman Spring Trail
Right behind the conference center is the trailhead for the Gorman Spring Trail (.5 mi). Cross the footbridge and walk along the spring-fed creek through what I felt was the prettiest part of my day.
The clear rushing water through the trees, the leaves falling, the armadillos foraging for food in the dirt, the warning sign for mountain lions that live at the park…
All quite nature-y!
Stop and take it all in-it is picturesque indeed and a great way to end the day out on the trail.
The creek is the home for ‘one of the purest strains of Guadalupe Bass’, but alas, you cannot fish on the creek, so leave the fish and take the memories.
Other trails to visit:
The other trails I’d like to hike on my next visit would be the Spicewood Springs Trail (1.3 mi.), and the full Lemons Ridge Pass (4.9 mi.). I feel like each would showcase some of the best aspects of this park with one being the water, and the other being the hill country respectively.
What are your favorite hikes at Colorado Bend State Park? Comment below!