Hill Country Weekends, Vol. 1

One thing I love about Austin is the surplus of great outdoor activities in and around the city. Within a 150-mile radius, you can find all manner of natural destinations that defy stereotypes at every turn. Some might even be surprised to learn that Fall actually exists in Central Texas, courtesy of the autumnal foliage at Lost Maples State Natural Area.

ponds along campsite CEvery October, crowds flock to see this small slice of Yankee seasonality cast its crimson glow over the Sabinal River. The park goes somewhat underappreciated the rest of the year, though, making it an ideal place to enjoy a quiet April weekend amid Hill Country splendor. Lost Maples has about 12 miles of well-marked trails, with enough elevation changes to pose a stimulating single-day hike or relaxed two-day exploration. The East Trail provides scenic canyon views and access to the renowned Maple Trail, while the West Trail involves a remarkable (and tiring) transition from grassy plateaus to spring-fed valleys.

For weekend camping, be sure to reserve space in advance. The 30 drive-in sites were booked solid last weekend, as RV warriors and Winter Texans like to camp where pavement and hook-ups are plentiful. Primitive sites are usually available to those willing to make a 1-to-2 mile hike over moderate terrain. Group C offers sites along the shores of a gorgeous pond, ensconced in a scenic canyon. Other sites, notably F and B, are more remote but have access to interesting trails and views.

It’s worth visiting Lost Maples for the hiking and scenery, but the drive from Austin is quite a trip unto itself. The typical route leads West through Dripping Springs and Blanco before turning South on Hwy 281. Those who crave local flavor

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