Chasing Fall Colors in the Texas Hill Country

November 2019

My friend, Mike and I, set out on a cold gray Wednesday in mid-November to seek out the Autumn colors of our Texas Hill Country. We do this every fall, and a few years ago one of the images from Garner State Park ended up on the cover of Texas Highways Magazine.

Mike lives in the San Antonio area and I’m just west of weird (Dripping Springs), so we met in Kerrville for an early lunch at the Cracker Barrell.

I know this chain may not be a favorite of everyone, including my family, but I do love their cornbread and biscuits. But I digress…

After a good home-style meal, we said a prayer that the clouds would break as expected and headed south to explore some of the roads around Medina, Bandera, Vanderpool, and Utopia. At one point, I even flew my drone beneath a canopy of orange cypress along the Medina River.

Fall Colors along the Medina River 14-1

Between Bandera and Medina, the Medina River rolls slowly along, winding through colorful Cypress trees on a cold November afternoon.

But our real destination was Garner State Park. This area along the Frio River is lined with cypress and oak and offers amazing Autumn colors in good years. This year we were not disappointed. We started out by making the walk up to Old Baldie. Sitting at 1,849’ above sea level, this little limestone hill towers above the river valley below.

The winding of the river in the distance is easily seen, and the orange colors of the cypress outline its meandering path.

Up top on Old Baldie, it was cold as a front was passing through. The temperatures were in the 40s and the wind was crisp. The clouds seemed to be constantly changing, not really sure what to do with the change in temperatures.But thankfully, more blue sky was beginning to show!

Garner State Park from Old Baldie in Autumn 1114-1

From high atop Old Baldie (1,849’) this photograph shows the Frio River lined with fall colors - the oranges and reds of cypress - on a cold November afternoon.

After spending some time taking in the views as well as a few photographs, we headed down. Mike then spent some time along the river while I hiked up Old Baldie’s counterpart, Painted Rock. From this vantage point, I found some great views of Old Baldie.

Old Baldie Autumn Pano - Garner State Park 1111-2

Old Baldie at Garner State Park in the Texas Hill Country rises to 1,849’ and offers great views of the surrounding landscape. In its shadow flows the clear and clean Frio River. This panorama shows the area in mid November full of fall colors.

This panorama from Garner State Park is available in larger and custom sizes.

I ran up here late in the evening for a little painted sky, as well.

Old Baldie at Sunset - Garner State Park 11

The view of Old Baldie from the Painted Rock trail was so good I had to return at sunset for the amazing fall colors along the Frio River. The evening clouds were just a lucky addition and accented a beautiful Autumn Hill Country landscape at Garner State Park.

This panorama from Garner State Park is available in larger and custom sizes.

I met back up with Mike and we discussed our options for sunset with the hopes of having a colorful sky. After a lot of talk and exploring, I figured my best angle was, unfortunately, standing just below a small dam in the frigid water and shooting upstream. I will say the water was really cold as I tried to balance my tripod on some loose and wet rocks. After a while, you just have to accept the coldness of the water, which I did. Anything for the shot, I guess.

Frio River Fall Sunset 114-1

A beautiful sunset lights up the skies above the Frio River in Garner State Park on a cold November evening. I’m not a big fan of wading through really cold water when the temperatures are in the low 40s, but sometimes that’s what it takes to get the shot. This photograph hopefully shows a little of the beauty of Autumn in the Texas Hill Country.

And I was happy with the results.

We continued to explore for the last 20 minutes of daylight, and my final exposure times were 30 seconds long, made possible only by the now calm winds.

Quiet Fall Evening at Garner State Park 111-1

The crowds had gone and the river was quiet on this fall evening at Garner State park. The canoes were stacked and the water was calm and clear. The fall colors of the cypress were still visible in the waning Hill Country light, and it was a beautiful, cold evening.

Throuigh the Autumn Cypress 111-1

Through the Autumn cyprress trees, the Frio River is clear and still in Garner State Park. This November evening was beautiful - cold and crisp - and the fall colors were on full display.

It was a good day followed by a long drive home in the dark.

The next day found me at one of the places I know well – Pedernales Falls State Park. I set out early – well before sunrise when everything was still dark. About five minutes into my drive, I hit a deer – the 4th deer I’ve hit in the past 5 or so years. Very frustrating. I couldn’t see any damage, so for that I was grateful. In the past, the repair jobs have cost several thousand dollars (and thank goodness for deductibles). However, later that day I found a crack near the front left light, and my blinker still isn’t working. My wife has reminded me several times me I need to get that fixed.

Nevertheless, I pressed on, walking down to the river in the dark. Again, I was fortunate to have calm winds and colorful skies for sunrise. Here are some images from that cold, 30 degree morning…

Hill Country Sunrise in Autumn 1117-1

Along the river in Pedernales Falls State Park, the orange glow of fall colors add vibrance to the clear water. Cypress all along this portion of the river show off their reds and oranges during the November transition from summer to fall to winter.

Autumn Morning in the Hill Country 1117-1

The sky was painted in pink and blue on this cold fall morning along the Pedernales River. A mist of fog rose from the clear water while Cypress trees showed off their Autumn colors, making for a peaceful morning of exploring one of my favorite places in the Texas Hill Country.

Also, that morning, the sole of my shoe came off. I’ve never had that happen before! And my camera started giving me an "Error 20" message. I was able to finish shooting, but later googled that means my shutter is dying. As a side note, I was able to head out a few more times the next week, experiencing the same error message a few times, but did get the shots in that I needed (including in Palo Duro and San Antonio). Now, my camera is on the way back to the Canon hospital to see if it can be salvaged. Fingers crossed that the price is reasonable.

In the meantime, I hope everyone has a safe holiday and new year.

Thanks for reading!

~ Rob

Images from Texas

Along the river in Pedernales Falls State Park, the orange glow of fall colors add vibrance to the clear water. Cypress all along...
Hill Country Sunrise in Autumn 1117-1