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Where to see fall foliage in Texas

Garner State Park / Alamy Stock Photo Garner State Park | Photo by Alamy Stock Photo

The Lone Star State isn’t renowned for autumn color, but you still can see the trees’ bright reds, yellows, and purples in some unexpected places.

These eight locations—both popular and lesser-known places—are well worth checking out. Remember that timing is crucial. The first October cold front can start the leaves turning within hours, so check on their status before you make the drive.

1. Daingerfield State Park

Built in the 1930s by the Civilian Conservation Corps, this park is known as the “Cathedral of the Trees.” Many are pines, but when cooler weather arrives, oaks, maples, and sweetgums start showing their fall colors. A 3.5-mile hiking trail winds around 80-acre Lake Daingerfield, providing lovely views of foliage reflected on the lake waters. 

When to go: Leaves may begin to turn as early as mid-October. November is usually the peak time. Check before you go. 903-645-2921; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/daingerfield.

2. Fort Worth Japanese Garden

Fort Worth Japanese Garden

Photo by Getty Images

The 7.5-acre Botanic Garden’s Japanese Garden (pictured above) grabs the spotlight every November. That’s when the garden’s Japanese maples typically turn a fiery red. Photo ops are everywhere along the winding paths. Five ponds, home to more than 1,000 koi (they look like giant goldfish), reflect the leaves’ brilliance on their calm surfaces. 

When to go: Peak is usually around Thanksgiving, then continues through early December. Call for updates. 817-392-5510; fwbg.org/the-japanese-garden.

3. Garner State Park

Garner State Park

Photo by Alamy Stock Photo

Garner State Park (pictured above) is a beloved destination for generations of South Texas families in any season. So much so that pop and country singer B.J. Thomas had a big regional hit, "Garner State Park," about it in the mid-’60s. He made no mention of the striking palette of the park’s oak, maple, and bald cypress trees, but they are worth singing about. The best views are usually along the Frio River. 

When to go: Late October through November; call for updates. 830-232-6132; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/garner.

4. Lost Maples State Natural Area

The eye-popping “lost” maples are called that because the last ice age left the trees isolated far from their native habitats. Bigtooth maples, plus sycamores and red oaks, create a spectacle that draws huge crowds of foliage aficionados (up to 25,000 visitors in November–about four times the normal number). The Sabinal River canyon and the Maple Trail are two good places to look.

When to go: Peak is usually the two middle weeks of November. Go on a weekday to avoid crowds. Check the website’s Fall Foliage Report. 830-966-3413; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/lost-maples.

5. McKinney Falls State Park

Peaceful, scenic McKinney Falls State Park is within Austin city limits, only 10 miles from the city’s busy downtown. Visitors can fish or swim in Onion Creek, hike, or explore shelter caves hollowed by the creek. When cooler weather comes to the Hill Country, the park’s bald cypress, oak, sycamore, and pecan trees put on a beautiful display. The 2.8-mile Onion Creek Loop Trail takes you up close. 

When to go: Mid-October to late November is usually the peak, but it depends on the weather. Call for updates. 512-243-1643; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mckinney-falls.

6. McKittrick Canyon (Guadalupe Mountains National Park)

6. McKittrick Canyon (Guadalupe Mountains National Park)

Photo by Danita Delimont / Alamy Stock Photo

McKittrick Canyon (pictured above) might be one of the state’s best-kept secrets—until October, when the park is crowded with leaf-peepers. Views of bigtooth maple, oak, and walnut trees in brilliant red, orange, and gold will take your breath away. The canyon, an oasis fed by a seep in the arid Chihuahuan Desert, has been called the most beautiful place in Texas. The best access is the 1-mile-long McKittrick Canyon Nature Trail, which most visitors complete in less than an hour.

When to go: Usually mid-October through mid-November. Check the Fall Colors Report on the website. 915-828-3251; nps.gov/gumo/index.htm.

7. Palestine (Davey Dogwood Park)

Palestine’s 254-acre Davey Dogwood Park celebrates the trees’ spring flowering, but it’s also a lovely place to savor fall color. You can hike or bike to enjoy the scenic views. Or you can take the Pineywoods Autumn Trail, a 145-mile drive on State Highway 19 from Palestine to Athens to check out the surrounding area.

When to go: End of November, but it depends on the weather. Call for updated information. 903-723-3014; visitpalestine.com..

8. Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon is the country’s second-largest canyon (the Grand Canyon is first). The creek-like Prairie Dog Town Fork of the Red River carved this canyon, and the park displays spectacular colors year-round in its yellow, red, and purple cliffs. The waterway also nurtures a band of cottonwoods and Western soapberry trees that adds a solid row of gold at the base of the cliffs in autumn. It’s a not-be-missed sight. The 1-mile round-trip Triassic Trail hike will give you a good view. 

When to go: Usually mid-October through mid-November, but check with the park. The leaves can turn in a week. 806-488-2227; tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/palo-duro-canyon.

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