While many associate fall’s natural beauty with the more northern states, you will not want to miss out on what the south has to offer when the seasons change. Texas, the second largest state by size and population, is home to some of the country’s most unique and scenic autumn landscapes. Ranging from rugged desert canyons to enchanting maple forests, this Lone Star State truly comes alive from October through November.
The leaves in Texas may change a little later than the state’s northern counterparts, but if you visit any of these small towns during their peak-foliage, you will realize it was well worth the wait. Along with the exceptional fall hues, adventure can be found at every corner. Whether breathing in the wonders of the country’s second largest canyon at Palo Duro Canyon State Park or walking alongside real dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park, these Texas towns are truly a sight to behold in the fall.
The unincorporated community of Concan, Texas may be quiet, but its gateway to nature is one of the most sought-after in the state–especially during the fall season. For just $8 USD per day (children 12 and under enter free) you can immerse yourself in the wonders of Garner State Park. With 1,774 acres of rugged terrain to explore, and 2.9 miles of the grand Frio River (a tributary of the vast Nueces River), the opportunities for adventure are endless.
The park’s maples, oaks, persimmons, and mesquites take on the colors of fall that we all know and love, and late October is when the foliage is at its best. With limestone bluffs overhead, the forest at your feet, and the river winding throughout, any hike along the park’s 16-mile trail system will enchant and delight. The flat, half-mile Blinn River Trail is an excellent option for easygoing river views, while paths like the Old Baldy Trail (despite its equal distance) offer a more strenuous excursion up the canyon, with fanstastic views every step of the way.
In the town of Daingerfield, you will find another Texas State Park whose community comes alive with the changing seasons. Thriving since its completion in 1939, Daingerfield State Park has some of the best fall hikes in Texas, inviting you to explore its 500-square-acres of unparalleled landscapes, including Little Pine Lake, the 80-acre, man-made marvel. For an easy, scenic hike, loop around its 2.4-mile shore.
For a more challenging hike, take on the 1.2-mile Mountain View Trail and earn the reward of the highest point in the park. Making your way through the park’s “cathedral of trees” on this path, the forest’s towering oaks and dogwoods are especially sensational in the fall. Transformed with reds and yellows, the hardwoods mingle with pines for a scene that is both aromatic and beautiful.
Less than 20 minutes west from Daingerfield, you can find yourself in Pittsburg. Not to be mistaken for the Pennsylvanian megacity, this small town had around 4,400 residents as of the 2020 census, but the population swells in the fall–and for good reason. Lake Bob Sandlin State Park, known for its namesake, the dazzling Lake Bob Sandlin, is forested with sweetgum trees, whose green, maple-like leaves adopt a vibrant ruby hue in the autumn. A visit anytime between mid-October through mid-November will earn you the best views of this magical transformation.
The lake draws its own crowds in the fall, both with the promise of gorgeous sights and spirited fish. For many, the 9,000-acre lake is a blissful 30-minute walk, the Lakeview Loop notorious for its views of waterfowl and the occasional bald eagle. For others, the lake allows for the perfect fall fishing day, catfish and bass thriving below the lake’s calm waters.
If bright fall foliage beckons you this fall, given its mountain desert climate, you may be surprised to hear the Texas Panhandle town of Canyon could be the place for you. This underrated Texas town is a gateway to the majestic Palo Duro Canyon State Park, which is known for possessing the second largest canyon in the United States. For this reason and more, Duro Canyon lures large crowds year-round. The 120-mile-long, 20-mile-wide natural wonder has a massive 800-foot drop, displaying its gorgeous multi-colored geologic layers in what is truly an awe-inspiring display of time's wear on the land.
It is unsurprising, that of its 442,000 annual visitors, most visit the park during the summer. But in fall, you encounter two prominent benefits: one, being the lack of shoulder-to-shoulder crowds, allowing you to experience a more undisturbed visit. Even more exciting though, are the park’s iconic cottonwood trees, whose leaves take on a glowing yellow in the fall. Meander through the easy 1.4-mile (one-way) Cottonwood Trail to take in the vibrant savannah, one of Texas’s more unique autumn landscapes.
5,050-feet-high in the foothills of the Davis Mountains, you will find Fort Davis, “the highest town in Texas”. But before you settle in to experience everything this mountain town has to offer, consider heading off on the 75-mile Davis Mountains Scenic Loop for one of Texas’s most scenic road trips. Find yourself on gorgeous mountain roads, taking in the sights of the vast desert prairie. Pass the Limpia and Madera Canyons, Mt. Livermore, Sawtooth Mountain, and eventually–back in town–reacquaint yourself with the sights of Miter Peak and the Puertecita Mountains off in the distance.
Fort Davis itself is brimming with epic landscapes, many of which can be viewed at Davis Mountains State Park. As with the Palo Duro Canyon, you may be surprised to learn the Davis Mountains host some of the state's most unique fall foliage. Head-to-head with mighty canyon walls, take in the brightly transformed oak trees scattered throughout the grassy terrain. A hike to higher elevations, on the other hand, may reward you with views of the pinyon pines, a tree not generally seen in Texas’s western desert region. The 2.4-mile Limpa Creek Trail is one of the more popular autumn paths, guiding you through Limpia Canyon for a slow 550-foot incline. At the trail’s end, you are welcomed with breathtaking views of the mountains.
Guadalupe Mountains National Park is one of two national parks in Texas, and the town of Dell City will grant you entrance to the splendor of this Chihuahuan Desert setting. To experience a scenic mountain escape alive with the colors of the season, head toward the northern end of the park, as the McKittrick Canyon Trail is famous for its fall foliage. From mid-October through mid-November, the park’s oaks and maples take on a life of their own, oranges and reds creating a picture-perfect fall setting.
With over 80-miles of winding trails, you will also want to experience the landscapes the park is loved for year-round. It is worth noting, the Guadalupe Mountains contain 4 of the tallest peaks in Texas–the highest of which is accessible through the Guadalupe Peak Trail. This conifer forest hike may be challenging, but it is well worth the effort once you reach the top. The views of the southern El Capitan peak are jaw-dropping, to say the least.
Driving through Texas Hill Country in the fall, the picturesque community of Vanderpool will definitely catch your eye. The first thing you will notice are the magnificent views of the rolling Sabinal Canyon, but this is just the beginning of Vanderpool’s charms. The main feature luring visitors to town in the fall, is the Lost Maples State Natural Area, a park renowned for its incredible hiking trails, some of which include the uncommon Uvalde bigtooth maple.
The bigtooth maples generally adopt their signature scarlet leaves in the last 2 weeks of October through the earlier weeks in November, so this is when the park is at its busiest. They suggest attending on a weekday if possible, as parking is limited, and the crowds will be pouring in. Out of the 10-total-miles of hiking paths at the Natural Area, the 3-mile East Trail is one of the more difficult paths, but it is also one of the more popular hikes, for good reason. The trail follows the spring-fed Sabinal River, bigtooth maples dotting its shores, before ascending a rugged slope with spectacular views overlooking the park.
Finally, for those seeking a blend of natural bliss and exciting family fun, make your way to Glen Rose, the "Official Dinosaur Capital of Texas". Witness the incredible fossilized dinosaur tracks at Dinosaur Valley State Park, and walk the same paths these fascinating creatures walked so long ago. Keep in mind, the iconic footprints are located in a riverbed, and are not always visible, so you will want to call ahead to confirm.
Fall is an especially great time to visit the park, as the summer crowds thin and the weather cools to a more ideal hiking temperature. The Limestone Ledge Trail is favored for its access to the site where the world’s first sauropod trackway was discovered (but be ready to get a little wet, since you will be crossing the Brazos River’s tributary, the Paluxy River). For dryer trails surrounded by the season’s colors, opt for the Oak Springs Trail (a woodlands path with springs) or the Overlook Trail for a bird’s-eye view of the river below.
From its colossal canyons to its heavenly lakes and rivers, these small Texas towns invite you to experience the tranquility of bidding summer farewell in some of the country’s greatest landscapes. Whether hiking Daingerfield’s cathedral of trees or driving the Davis Mountains Scenic Loop, Texas’s fall season is as spirited as it is striking. While the changing leaves may require a little more time and patience, allow the season’s reds and yellows to bewitch you this season–you will not be disappointed.