It had been exactly one year since the last visit to Lost Maples State Natural Area. Not much had changed with the park in terms of layout, but a lot had changed in terms of the world.
In January 2020 I was energized about visiting as many of the parks in our area. Knocking out a new park in the first two weeks of the month, I was stoked to take my family to this hill country gem.
I was in the middle of dry January in 2020, but after a long day of hiking on the trails, I decided that we were going to celebrate on the way home. That was the last time I had a drink of alcohol. You can read more about the journey here.
I was just happy to be out hiking but had no idea what else would change the rest of the year. A deadly global pandemic would sweep the entire planet, and people’s lives were being changed day-to-day.
Fast forward exactly one year. To the day. January 12, 2021.
I was making my way back to celebrate a personal accomplishment, and revisit one of my favorite parks with a new take on life, and maybe see it from a different perspective.
The Park Itself
I’m not going to go into a full recap in this post. You can read that on my original post here. But I do want to talk about some of the fun quirks I picked up that I didn’t really appreciate the first time.
First- Lost Maples is a natural area, not a state park. That detail was lost on me the first time, so the accommodations, especially the parking area, were much smaller to me now. Looking at the map and brainstorming where I could drive around and explore was put to a halt when I realized there is really one main parking area (the day-use area), and then the overflow parking.
And that’s it.
Something else that slipped through the cracks was the limited trail system that’s here when you think about how grand the park is. There were really two loops, and a few off-shoots from there, so I knew that my day was really going to be headed in one direction. If you’ve seen the Monkey Rock once, you’ve seen it a million times. (I mean… you do you)
That being said, there were some landmarks on the first visit that I wasn’t expecting to see on this go-round, including a grotto-like area that resembled the one on the East trail.
But the park itself spoke to me in a way that seemed more natural. More precious in its attention to colors, sounds, and landscapes. The water flowed so perfectly, the birds chirped like they were performing for me, and the leaves were lifted from a painting.
Those are the things you notice when you go into a park prepared, but not quite sure what to expect.
I was at the park a few days after a Texas snow event, and there was more water than I remember at the park, but thankfully not where I didn’t want it.
Creeks were aplenty, and the pleasantries that came with hopping rocks over the water just added to the hiking experience.
There were times on the trail where I felt like I had gone down the incorrect path because you’re basically walking on an empty creek bed. These areas were thankfully dry, but almost around every corner, there was a section of water you needed to get over. And I was totally fine with it.
Lost Maples: The Hike
I wanted to explore the rest of Lost Maples, so I opted to hike the West Trail clockwise. Right off the bat, your natural journey begins. Parking at the day-use area surrounds you by rolling hills that reach far into the sky. (And a great place to use the restroom, fill your water bottles)
There are access points to a few trails here, but you’ll make your way to the overflow parking to get started. To get there you’re going to find your first water crossing, and follow its path to a mystical landscape of mini waterfalls that flow parallel to the parking lot.
The East trail and East-West trail both start at the same trailhead but will offer different experiences. Going clockwise on the East trail gives you plenty of fun elevation changes for your legs, but nothing too steep like you’ll experience on the opposite end of the park.
The majority of the primitive campsites are on this end of the park as well, so be on the lookout for weary travelers at the end of their stay. If that’s something you’re interested in then add some miles and hike into those designated areas to get a feel for the layout, and also to gauge the distance to the nearest pit toilet if that’s something you need.
There aren’t as many specific points of interest on this trail, but I feel that the natural beauty here gets to shine on its own without the distractions of them either. The landscapes here are the draw, and you can just focus on the scenery.
That being said, there are a few things to experience as your walking along; the Mystic canyon takes you a little lower, and you’ll notice a temperature drop as you walk through the trees surrounded by walls on either side. Don’t worry claustrophobics, it’s not that narrow.
One thing to note is the hike to the canyon is elevated, but the reward is the cooler temps, so bring some trekking poles to help distribute your weight on your climb up. If you’re unfamiliar with poles learn more in this post.
There are also two springs here that add additional waterways to take a break and enjoy. One is located in Primitive Campsite G along the West Loop trail, and once you pass that the second spring the other is along the trail about .5 miles from there.
As you continue on you’ll come to a fun rock shelf along the trail that’s a great spot to take a break from the sun if it’s getting a little toasty. When I was there a sizable rock stack was waiting to ponder its purpose. I suppose whoever built it thought that a cairn would be needed to draw attention to the rock formation.
Like I’ve said now a few times, the landscape and scenery were fantastic all around, and I’m wanting to drive this home for Lost Maples because this park is one of those Top 10 parks to visit…. in the fall.
That’s not fun for me. I don’t want to be at a park, or in this case a natural area when a ton of people are there too. Not because I’m entitled, but because I want to be able to enjoy it like everyone else with a little less chaos.
Is this park beautiful in the fall with the changing of the leaves? Yes.
Is this park beautiful after that too? Absolutely.
Try parks at different times of the year, and you’ll be surprised how enjoyable they can be because they don’t fall into the expectations you set for them. That’s when you start seeing things from different perspectives and start noticing the little details about the park that you may have overlooked from previous visits.
Full details about Lost Maples SNA can be found on the official TPWD site.
Want to learn how to reserve a day-use pass or campsite? Check out my recap here.