Things To Do at Colorado Bend State Park
September 12, 2020
Colorado Bend State Park is an amazing gem at the northern edge of Texas hill country. Located three and a half hours from Dallas and two hours from Austin, I found it to be less crowded than state parks that are closer to the major cities. The most popular spot to visit in the park is Gorman Falls, a stunning 70 foot waterfall. You’ll also find spring-fed streams to swim in, caves to explore and over 35 miles of hiking and biking trails. This park is incredible and definitely worth the trip!
Please make it a priority to Leave No Trace when exploring the outdoors. This includes leaving nothing behind, respecting wildlife, minimizing campfire impacts, respecting those around you, planning ahead and traveling on durable surfaces. For more details, read about the seven principles at lnt.org.
Hiking to Gorman Falls is a must-do in Colorado Bend! The trail to this 70 foot waterfall is 3 miles round trip and mostly flat until you get right up to the waterfall. As you arrive, you’ll descend down into the canyon on a steep natural rock staircase. The railings make this trek not too difficult but the rocks can get pretty slippery. While Gorman Falls is the focal point, I was really impressed with all of the other smaller waterfalls on the sides. There are also green moss-colored rocks that make the entire area feel like a tropical jungle oasis. Not what I expected to find in the middle of Texas! Pack a lunch and admire the waterfall for a while when you arrive.
You can combine the Gorman Falls hike with the Gorman Springs trail for extra sights. This trail was closed when I visited due to heavy rain, but it looked like a nice hike for admiring the vegetation around the spring that feeds into the waterfall.
Gorman Falls is unlike anywhere else I’ve been in Texas. I love how the hike takes you through a rocky and cacti-filled plain and then suddenly you descend upon an epic waterfall that is so majestic yet serenely calm. Definitely add this to your Texas bucket list!
You can’t swim at Gorman Falls, but you can swim in other spring-fed watering holes in the park! Spicewood Springs is located right next to the campgrounds and a wonderful spot to swim. The water is refreshing as you swim among lush vegetation, trees and rocks. Go early if you want the place to yourself! If you hike the Spicewood Springs trail, expect to cross back and forth over the water. It is a 1.3 miles out and back trail.
The Spicewood Canyon Trail is an enjoyable trail that overlooks Spicewood Springs and offers views of the Colorado River Canyon and waterfalls. The hike is 3 miles out and back.
Many of the trails in Colorado Bend connect through to each other so that you can pick your own adventure based on how much time you have. The Tinaja and Dogleg Canyon trails are a great combination if you are looking for something a bit more challenging. You can also connect your Gorman Falls hike with these trails! The Dogleg Canyon trail has a steady incline and offers amazing views of the canyon rim and cliff walls. The Tinaja trail has a lot of elevation changes and is rated as the most challenging in the park. Here you’ll find an impressive rock formation carved away from water. You may also see wild hogs on these trails if you go early!
Going on a cave tour in Colorado Bend is a really special and adventurous activity! There are over 400 caves in the park and cave tours are offered at three levels of difficulty. You are required to go with a guide and can book your tour here. There are no lights installed in the caves so you’ll only be exploring by the light of your headlamp or flashlight. Bring sturdy shoes and prepare to crawl around and get dirty and wet!
Colorado Bend has six miles of frontage to the Colorado River, making it a great place to explore by kayak! The park usually offers kayaks to rent, but is not offering them at this writing because of Covid-19.
Driving in and out of the park, you’ll also drive through a private farm full of cows that graze right on the road. I felt like I was on a little safari driving among the herds.
Right outside the park, you’ll find the Bend General Store. On site you’ll often find food trucks serving burgers, a beer garden and live music. You can also buy supplies and gifts in the shop. This is a great spot for a well deserved meal and a drink after a day of hiking!
Only a 20 minute drive from the park, you can visit a peaceful little hidden gem. Fiesta Winery in Lometa offers wine tastings, pizza and cheese boards and has a large outdoor seating area where you can sit back and relax among the vineyard.
I recommend camping in the park to make the most of all of the amazing trails. Most of the campsites are on the south end of the park right next to the Colorado River, but there are also primitive sites accessible by backpacking. The campsites at the south of the park are mostly located in a big field, so you can’t pull up right to them, rather they are a short walk down some stairs from your site’s reserved parking spaces. There’s a lot of space to spread out, but you can also see the other sites. I recommend choosing a campsite close to the edges to have the most seclusion.
You can also camp at a couple different private campsites right outside the park. Swim in a spring-fed pool, go tubing, play volleyball and have breathtaking views of the Colorado River at Sulphur Springs Camp. Barefoot Camp and RV Park also offers campsites with great views and places to swim.
The closest cabin accommodations to the park are located at the Bend General Store. They are pretty closely packed together, but they are right outside the park. Give them a call to make your reservations. Outside of that, I recommend searching on Airbnb for nearby cabins. This secluded cabin on Airbnb is one of the closest, about a 40 minute drive north of the park. You may also want to stay in Lampasas, a town about 40 minutes east of the park. This charming farm stay Airbnb is located in Lampasas and you may wake up to horses and longhorns right outside your window.
If you are traveling south and want to combine more of Hill Country into your trip, stay on Lake Buchanan, about an hour south of Colorado Bend. There are many beautiful cabins along the lake and lots of things to do. You can rent a boat or a jetski on Lake Buchanan, visit other parks, visit wineries or just enjoy the peaceful lakeside views. The Hi Line Resort and the Painted Sky Inn both offer adorable cabins right on the water. Also check out this tiny home Airbnb for a unique stay also on the lake.
If you want to stay at a cute town that is north of Colorado Bend, pay a visit to the self-proclaimed Pecan Capital of the world, San Saba. San Saba is a 40 minute drive from the park. I recommend staying at the Dofflemyer Hotel, a historic building that used to be a bank in the early 1900s. This charming hotel has historic decor but modern and nice amenities (lots of reviews mention how comfortable the beds are!). Be sure to try some pecans while you’re in town!
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