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Hues and Views

It’s showtime when colorful curtain falls from park’s thousands of bigtooth maples

The stage is set, and one of the most spectacular outdoor shows in Texas is about to make its annual debut.

The setting for this show, Lost Maples State Natural Area, is as spectacular as the fall display it hosts. Cedar-topped limestone bluffs tower over the Sabinal River, forming a canyon that shelters the stars of this pageant: thousands of bigtooth maples, whose bright red, yellow and orange couture emerges in midfall. If you want to get a good seat, arrive early at this park deep in the Hill Country, about 50 miles southwest of Kerrville.

Packed houses abound, especially on weekends in October and November, peak season for fall color. During this busy period, the parking lot’s limit of 250 cars is often reached, and its 30 water-and-electricity campsites are spoken for almost a year in advance. Less popular are the primitive campsites, which require backpacking equipment and at least a mile hike-in. Weekday trips with no overnights may be your best bet if you don’t have reservations. Call before you go: (830) 966-3413.

If you prefer solitude over throngs of fellow nature lovers, the park offers beauty, if not fall colors, the other 10 months of the year.

To enjoy it, take a walk and open your eyes and ears. In the spring, winds blowing through the canyon give voice to maples, sycamores and oaks crowned with verdant leaves. Accompanying the soothing rustle of their leaves is the gurgle of the water sliding over rocky waterfalls and the sweet songs of scores of birds that shelter in the park.

Three distinct habitats—grasslands, woodlands and floodplain—exist at the park, attracting a wide variety of species and making it a birding hotspot year-round. Ponds along part of the more than 10 miles of hiking trails offer a cool respite from summer heat.

While autumn provides the scenery that brings the lion’s share of visitors, this Hill Country gem offers a good show anytime.

Kevin Hargis, food editor