Natural Swimming Pools

Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Area–Two Texas Favorites

Lost Maples State Natural Area
Visit the Lost Maples State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country. Photo credit: Catherine Parker

After a great trip exploring Big Bend National Park, the carful of kids made it to Del Rio, Texas, in time for bed. From Del Rio, we’re driving through the western edge of the Texas Hill Country with stops at Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Natural Area. A couple of very popular state parks, it takes a reservation a year in advance to secure one of their campsites during the busy seasons. Since the carful of kids are in the area, we’re checking them out to see if we’ll add them to our Wish List.

Garner State Park

Dedicated in 1941, Garner State Park was named after Jack Nance “Cactus Jack” Garner, the Vice-President of the United States from 1933-1941. It features 1,774 acres to explore and tops the list of state park destinations for generations.

Developed by the Civilian Conservation Corps(CCC) during their stay from 1935 until 1941. Created by President Roosevelt, the CCC employed young men during the Depression. The CCC is responsible for much of the construction in national and state parks in the 1930s.

Garner State Park has 335 campsites, 37 screened shelters and 17 historic stone cabins to reserve for the night. This park is busy during the summer weekends, it can close except for those that have reservations.

The activities include miniature golf, hiking up Old Baldy orfloating along the Frio River in a paddleboat or kayak. Garner also features aplayground.

At the concession building next to the Frio River, I found a grill, a sundry store and the outdoor dance floor. Couples dances the night away under the bald cypress today just as years ago.

Garner State Parkhas a lot to offer but I could see how it would get crowded in the summer. Reservations for popular weekends book up ONE year in advance. This is NOT the park to try and camp without a reservation. Looks like fun but the carful of kids like to enjoy the outdoors with less people so we probably won’t camp during a school break.

We duck into a vacant shelter for a quick lunch before we load up to check out our next park–Lost Maples State Natural Area.

Located 10 miles north of Concan, Texas, at234 RR 1050, Garner provides 2.9 miles of Frio River access for kids to play and splash.Admission is $7 for adults and kids under 12 get in free.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Along the scenic byway, a beautiful vista awaits at every bend. The carful of kids have heard great things aboutLost Maples State Natural Areaso we wanted to check it out.

Opening to the public in 1979, it’s a smaller park with just 2100 acres, including eight campsites with electricity and 40 hike-in sites. Located on the pristine waters of the Sabinal River, southwest of Kerrville, it provides 11 miles of hiking trails.

The carful of kids park the SUV and head out for a quick hike, a .8-mile round-trip walk that’s good for kids but not strollers. We find the lost maples along withsycamores, bald cypresses, walnuts and several varieties of oak; all leftovers from the last ice age. The visitor center has Junior Ranger Explorer Packets for the kids.

Lost Maples State Natural Area gives visitors a dose of Fall Color. The color flares in November when the trees reach their peak color. Located at 37221 FM 187 near Vanderpool, Texas, admission is $6 for adults and free for kids 12 and under for a day pass.

Back in the SUV, the carful of kids continue driving along the scenic byway FM 187 Texas and Highway 39 to Kerrville, Texas. Driving through Hunt along the banks of the Guadalupe River offers some spectacular scenery.

Know before you go:

  • Driving through the Hill Country at dawn, dusk or during the night can be treacherous with the deer–they’re everywhere. If this makes you uncomfortable, please plan accordingly.
  • Lost Maples State Natural Area can reach capacity during the fall weekends, call ahead if arriving after noon.
  • Make camping reservations for busy weekends well in advance for both parks.

Catherine Parker has a passion for travel and seen all 50 U.S. States. As a former flight attendant with one of the largest airlines, there isn't a North American airport that she hasn't landed in at least once. Since clipping her professional wings after 9/11, she combines her love of the open road with visiting architectural and cultural icons. She is based out of Central Texas dividing her time between writing and restoring a pair of 100-year-old houses. She shares her life with her three kids and her husband.


  1. I actually don’t live that far from here! I’ll definitely be sure to check out both Garner State Park and Lost Maples State Area next time I’m visiting Hill Country. Thanks for the very useful tips!

  2. Love the Hill Country. I don’t get there that often these days since I am in Houston but always enjoy visiting. I heard Garner hasn’t been kept up recently but always enjoyed it and Lost Maples is a great place.

    • Catherine

      It’s a bit of a drive from Houston. We visited after exploring Big Bend National Park. It’s a easy drive from Kerrville too.