Nov. 1, 2016

Autumn weather has been slow to arrive in North Texas this year, but cooler weather is expected anyday now. With the cooler temps comes beautiful fall foliage if you know where to look. 

Take a drive through the Texas trees or spend a spell in a state park. Perfect time to recoup energies before the fall holiday season starts. 


Few trees do autumn better than maples. See the spectacular Japanese maples at the Fort Worth Botanic Garden's Japanese Garden. Especially beautiful from a distance framed against the gardens. The Japanese Garden Fall Festival is well timed at Nov. 5-6.

Another sight for Japanese maples is the Nancy Rutchik Red Maple Rill at the Dallas Arboretum in East Dallas. Sit a spell along the creeklet and listen to the waterfalls. Look for a very large weeping Japanese maple nearly 100 years old. 

If you’re up for a long drive, go to the Hill Country near Kerrville and view the massive bigtooth maple trees at Lost Maples State Natural Area. The color is legendary. Plentiful Maximillian sunflowers add to the gold. It gets very crowded on weekends in October and November when up to 50,000 people visit the park. 


White Rock Lake offers both a short scenic drive and ambling opportunities, especially with the cottonwoods on the north end. Or take it in by bicycles or kayaks. Get deep down into the woods by going north on the White Rock Creek Trail. A good trailhead to catch the deep forest is at Fair Oaks Park.  

Few forests within Dallas County are as beautiful as Spring Creek Forest in Garland, which has some of the largest and oldest trees around. Lots of trails lace through the forest and along Spring Creek, with the wilder woods located in the section east of Holford. There’s even a short paved trail for folks who want to be near the forest, but don’t want nature on them. 

Upper Spring Creek. Courtesy of

Enjoy the subtle colors of red and orange of post oaks amid dark green cedar at Cedar Hill State Park in southwest Dallas County. The park has several miles of roads that makes for enjoyable scenic drives, often with blue vistas of Joe Pool Lake, and lots of lovely picnic areas. 

For an up close amble, go next door to the quiet Cedar Ridge Preserve operated by Audubon Dallas in southwest Dallas County. Nearby Dogwood Canyon should also be spectacular.  

The Ray Roberts Greenbelt stretches for 20 miles along the Elm Fork Branch of the Trinity River from the dam at Ray Roberts Lake State Park near Denton to Lake Lewisville. Mid-point access is at FM 428.   


East Texas abounds with fall foliage choices to view yellow sweetgums and orange-red post oaks amid dark green pines. Autumn events and driving tours are a longstanding tradition. 

If you’ve only time for a day excursion, take I-20 east of Dallas for an hour until Tyler. Take the gorgeous TX 14 south to Tyler for lunch. Then backtrack north past I-20 to Tyler State Park and explore the park’s loop road around the lake at a leisurely pace. Stop for a while and take a hike. Here you have two choices. Continue and cross the Sabine River bottomlands, then take US 80 west to Mineola. Or turn west on TX 16 for a slower drive. Either way, detour south to the 2,911-acre Mineola Nature Preserve for more fine hiking. Or continue north to Winnsboro, which has surprisingly good color. 

Courtesy of Tyler State Park. 

But a better approach would be to pick a city in the deep East Texas region, which is south of I-20 and east of TX 19, to base your explorations. Head out on any state highway or farm-to-market road and great vistas are pretty much guaranteed. The area around Rusk and Palestine is known for its hills. East of Athens is beautiful; here’s a recommended car tour that even takes you down small county roads, bringing the autumn color right outside your car window. The area is promoted as the Texas Forest Trail Region.


Autumn is the perfect time for the Texas State Railroad that runs between Palestine and Rusk off of US 84. Deep hardwood and pine forests alternate with river-crossing vistas. Dotted along the way are historic towns and landmarks. For a truly deluxe rail experience, sign up for the Palestine Fall Foliage Brunch Train.

Courtesy of the Texas State Railroad. 

The train leaves from both Palestine and Rusk at 11 a.m. for a round trip that lasts three hours. There’s a 90-minute lunch layover at the opposite depot for a total 4.5-hour trip. You can choose from standard or premium seating, or take the Streamliner Diner car. Pack a picnic for the layover or pre-order a boxed lunch. A concession car offers beverages and snacks. 


Have a forest home for a day with the cabins and lodge at Daingerfield State Park. A concentrated amount of fall sweetgum, oak and maple foliage in a variety of hues makes for one sweet place. It’s made more splendid by 1930s-era Civilian Conservation Corps stone and metal work. The park enjoyed a spiffy upgrade recently. 

Courtesy of Daingerfield State Park.

This little known gem has more than 500 acres of woods around a lovely 80-acre lake and is chock full of trails. The park rents boats, paddleboats, kayaks and hydrobikes. Bring food, cooking and serving ware and stay at a cabin. Makes it very easy to spend an enjoyable weekend here. 


The hilly countryside west of Fort Worth doesn’t usually come to mind for fall foliage, but it does it marvelously. The desert plants turn interesting colors, too. Ground zero is Mineral Wells in Palo Pinto County. Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway offers fabulous scenic drives, or get closer by riding the beginner-friendly trailway on bicycle. 

Also in the area is Cleburne State Park, Dinosaur Valley State Park and Possum Kingdom State Park, all of which offer nice hiking. 

For scenic drives, be sure to take FM 4, which runs north-south just west of Mineral Wells, and TX 16 by Possum Kingdom Lake. Make a weekend of it by staying at the Lodge on Lake Palo Pinto.  

Courtesy of Palo Duro Canyon State Park.

Go even further west to the Panhandle to immerse yourself in the brilliant yellow cottonwoods against the red rock at Caprock Canyons State Park & Trailway and Palo Duro Canyon State Park. Spectacular scenic drives and the trailway makes for relaxed and easy bicycling. 


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