Autumn Colors in the Texas Hill Country 2020

Thanksgiving week is upon us, and I have time to reflect now on the beautiful scenes I experienced traveling through the Texas Hill Country over the past few weeks. The fall colors were a bit of an anomaly for 2020 - vibrant and full color and worthy of celebration - a nice change.

In the western portion of our rolling hills near Utopia and Vanderpool, I found myself along the banks of the Frio River in Garner State Park. As usual, the water was cool and clear and the cypress along the river's edge were glowing in red and orange hues.

Autumn Sunshine on the Cypress 1111-1

Late afternoon November sunshine lights up the colorful fall colors along the Frio River. In the distance, the well-known Old Baldie rises high above the river.

Autumn on the Frio River Panorama 1112-1

From the Frio River in Garner State Park, the water runs clean and cold in the shadow of orange and gold cypress trees on a cool November morning. The soft gurgling of water was the only sound to be heard as most of the park’s visitors were still in their tents in these moments before sunrise.

This panorama from the Frio River is available in larger and custom sizes.

From high up on the East Trail in Lost Maples State Natural Area, the colors of fall shine among the green trees on a November...
Lost Maples from a Bird's View 1110-1

From high up on the East Trail in Lost Maples State Natural Area, the colors of fall shine among the green trees on a November afternoon.

Frio River Autumn Reflection 1112-1

Colors of red and orange reflect in the still water of the Frio River in Garner State Park. The rock face behind the trees is Old Baldie. Cypress and oak made for a beautiful fall morning deep in the Texas Hill Country.

One night I made a trek up just above the Painted Rock Overlook to photograph the South Taurid's meteor shower. My research had shown the slow-moving meteors should appear over the iconic Old Baldie. While the meteors were not plentiful, I did see a few. Here is my favorite:

South Taurids over Old Baldie 1111-1

After photographing the beautiful fall colors along the Frio River in Garner State Park, I hiked up just a little beyone the Painted Rock overlook to get a view of the night sky. Knowing this was during the South Taurids Meteor Shower, I brought along my star tracker and shot some night sky views looking out across the valley and over to Old Baldie, an icon of this park. I had hoped to see a few meteors and even photograph one or two from this vantage point. Fortunately, despite their smaller appearance rate, I did manage to have the shutter open when this slow-moving streak of light flashed across the sky. I had hoped to photograph the Milky Way up here as well, but it was a little too far to the west to fit into this scene. However, the night sky was beautiful and quiet from this lofty overlook.

After my time at Garner S.P., I made the short drive to Lost Maples and enjoyed the brilliant bigtooth maples so full of color. In some places, the fallen maple leaves of red and brown completely covered the trail, making for a crunchy and fairy-tale like walk through the canopy of color.

Autumn Trail - Lost Maples 1112-1

The red leaves of Lost Maples State Park Autumn show turn the path into a carpet of crunchy color. This path is along the East-West Trail and, each fall, it winds through groves of glorious maples trees with leaves of red and orange.

A Walk through the Woods - Lost Maples 1112-1

Red maples leaves show off brilliant red and orange colors along the East-West Trail in Lost Maples State Park. Every few years, the colors can be quite extraordinary, and 2020, it seems is one of those years.

From a portion of the trail high above the valley, the colors of the trees shined in the morning sunlight.

Lost Maples in Autumn from the East Trail 111-1

From high up on the edge of the East Trail in Lost Maples, this view shows the the colorful trees lining the lower portion of the trail as it winds its way back to the Sabinal River.

It was a week of quiet (except for the crowds, but those are easily avoided) and solitude. I was also lucky. I'd reserved these dates a month in advance knowing they parks would be full if I'd waited. And reserving so far ahead make the weather a wild card. Fortunately, I had blue skies with nice white clouds drifting by each day.

Closer to home, I always try to visit Pedernales Falls State Park. I consider this my "home" park since I do not live far away. I tried to go several times in November, but the weather did not cooperate. Finally, despite sketchy gray clouds on a Sunday afternoon, I grabbed my camera bag and, with my daughter tagging along, we headed out. Fortunately, blue patchy clouds appeared for a few hours, though the sunset was a bust. Still, there were some splashes of colors along the river.

Pedernales Falls Autumn Afternoon 1122-1

In the waning afternoon of a late-November day, the orange colors of cypress rest quietly in the still air. Along the Pedernales River basin in the state park, pools of aqua-blue water fill the landscape. This gem of a park is one of my favorite places to enjoy the outdoors near my house, and often by sunset the crowds have made their way back to the city, leaving everything quiet and peaceful.

Autumn Sunset at Pedernales Falls 1122-1

The sun sets along the distant ridge of the Pedernales River basin in Pedernales Falls State Park. The last slanting rays of sunshine light up the orange leaves of the November cypress, making for a colorful end of the day.

I admit I was surprised by the vibrant colors. Central Texas has been in a drought for a while so I was not expecting much. Sometimes things just work out.

Now, if we can just make it to 2021, maybe things will start to improve!

Happy Travels, Texas.

~ Rob