the Natural Wonder of Lost Maples
Most people associate Lost Maples State Natural Area with the magnificent fall foliage that emerges each autumn. But all this splendor also affords a wealth of recreational activities.
In addition to hiking and photography, there are campsites for those who want to spend the night lost among the trees. Bird watchers come from all over the nation — and the world — to see the more than 200 species of birds that live here or migrate through the region. Swimmers may find the waters a bit cold in the fall, but fishers will find great places to cast a line. And the romantics among us will love staying at one of the nearby bed and breakfast inns that dot the rolling landscape.
Take a trip to Lost Maples, and find all sorts of ways to find your spirit.
A Forest To Play In; A Sight to Behold
Northern winds are blowing through Central Texas, and that means that the first blush of fall foliage is beginning to emerge in the cool canyons of Lost Maples State Natural Area. This 2,200-acre park supports a unique microclimate that produces some of the state’s most interesting flora and fauna. The tree for which the park is known, the Uvalde big tooth maple, came to this area during the most recent ice age. The trees all but disappeared as the climate warmed, and now only the cool, sheltered nooks and crannies of these canyons support them. During autumn months, the red, orange and yellow foliage transforms the steep hillsides into an artist's palette. More than one quarter of the park’s 200,000 annual visitors arrive each fall, eager to get a taste of the scenery our northern cousins take for granted, and they are rewarded with spectacular scenery and a multitude of recreational opportunities.
Hikers will find views like nowhere else in Texas, though they are urged to stay on marked trails because the trees depend on a shallow root system which can be easily damaged. But with 11 miles of paths leading to picturesque ponds, steep hillsides and beautiful overlooks, even the most adventurous hikers won't be disappointed. This is a great place for picnicking and camping — so good that campsites can be booked as much as 11 months in advance.
Casual bird watchers and professional ornithologists have ample opportunities to spot rare feathered finds, including the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo, or the green kingfisher and zone-tailed hawk. If you’re a photographer, this is also one of the best places in Texas to frame the perfect shot. The 40-foot maples are interspersed among pecan, ash, sycamore, chinkapin, oaks and basswood. Giant boulders sit below sweeping cliffs, creating an Ansel-like setting for the nature-loving shutterbug.
If you’re a hardy sort, you may want to take a dip. Swimming is one of the best ways to spend a summer afternoon at Lost Maples, but the water may be a little too cool for some in November. You can still spend some time on the water, however — just go fishing instead. When you cast a line, you may be rewarded with rainbow trout, sunfish or Guadalupe bass.
For those who prefer “camping” of the indoor variety, there are plenty of bed and breakfasts that cater to those who love spending time in nature, but not sleeping in it. The Lodges at Lost Maples is a romantic getaway with individual cabins that sleep up to six under cathedral ceilings, and tempt cooks with fully-equipped kitchens. Just 1 mile from Lost Maples you’ll find Foxfire Log Cabins, seven fully-furnished, 2-bedroom houses that sit on the Sabinal River, offering swimming holes, playgrounds and some of the best stargazing to be had in Central Texas. Frio Springs Lodges are located a few miles away in Leakey; some of the 2-bedroom cabins include a hot tub overlooking the springs — a perfect place to rejuvenate after a long day lost in the beauty of this area.
Sidebar of Related Information
Beauty Takes Time
Lost Maples is the handiwork of time. Starting with the last ice age, nature has been working steadily to craft the landscape we see today. But we aren’t the first people to appreciate this beautiful area.
- There is archeological evidence that Paleo-Indians once lived in the canyon.
- During the Age of Exploration, Spaniards categorized the native tribes and natural features of this area. They found silver, and dug a mine shaft on the east side of Sugarloaf Mountain.
- Juan de Ugalde brought together tribes of Comanches, Taovayas and Tawakonis to defeat the Apaches here.
- One of the first settlers was Capt. William Ware, who arrived with 600 head of cattle in 1852.
- More settlers arrived, and by 1856 the first post office was opened.
- By 1880 the town boasted 150 residents, three churches, two gristmills, a gin, a smithy, a school and a general store.
- The town of Utopia was originally named Montana, but upon learning that another town had already claimed that name, the town was rechristened Utopia in 1884.
- Utopia has improved steadily since Lost Maples was opened in 1979, with over 200,000 visitors bringing much-needed tourist dollars into the area.
- There are now several festivals and rodeos held annually, including one of the best small-town 4th of July celebrations to be found anywhere in Texas.