Two hours northwest of Austin, nestled in a notable six-mile curve of the Texas Colorado River, you’ll find the unspoiled wilderness of Colorado Bend State Park. A striking contrast to the rolling grasslands of surrounding Hill Country, the park is a hiker’s playground.
Explore 35 miles of trails that wind past curious rock formations to reveal hidden canyons, scenic views, and lush vegetation that make you feel worlds away. Here’s a glimpse of some of the natural features that are waiting to be discovered at Colorado Bend State Park.
A Living Waterfall
Trek 1.5 miles over moderately rough and rocky terrain to reach the foot of one of the most striking features of the park. Gorman Falls is a spectacular spring-fed waterfall, surrounded by neon green moss and verdant ferns. At around 70-ish feet, the exact height of the falls depends on whom you ask. That’s because it’s a living waterfall—growing and changing as mineral-rich water deposits layers of calcite that build into travertine.
Be careful―the rocks can be slippery on the descent to Gorman Falls. Wear shoes with good traction and hold the railing on the way down. At the bottom, peek into the clear water that pools between travertine dams to see one of the purest strains of the Texas state fish, the Guadalupe bass.
For a less traveled hike with equally impressive views, try the Tie Slide Trail. Hike up the 2.3-mile path past eye-catching rock outcrops to the summit, nearly 200 feet above the Colorado River. Step out onto the platform of the overlook and take in miles of uninterrupted landscape.
The trail takes about an hour and a half to hike round-trip, so be sure to bring plenty of water. One quart for every hour of hiking is a good rule of thumb.
After soaking in the views above ground, get a glimpse of the world that exists below. More than 400 caves run beneath Colorado Bend State Park, including one of the most visited, non-commercial caverns in Texas: Gorman Cave.
While cave tours are currently on hold, take a stroll along the River Trail and peer into the scenic cave entrance in a bluff on the west side of the river. Peek through the gate that guards the entrance and protects the roosting site of thousands of cave myotis bats.
Post-hike, cool off in the crystal-clear, spring-fed pools of Spicewood Springs Creek. Flowing through a deep canyon at the southern end of the park, the creek is known as one of the best swimming holes in the Hill Country. Follow the Spicewood Springs Trail as it meanders back and forth over the creek until you find the perfect spot to wade.
Colorado Bend State Park is home to fragile rock formations and animal habitats, so remember to follow the Leave No Trace principles and keep the park one of the most unique places to experience pure, wild Texas.