In this guide we’re sharing everything you need to know before hiking to Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park in Texas, including trail stats, what to bring, and more!
Before we moved to Washington and eventually started van life, we called Austin, Texas our home together for quite a few years (and the majority of our lives before that). But despite living here for a while, we didn’t really explore too much of the state together outside of the general Austin area.
So during our time home for the holidays, which has now turned indefinite while we wait out the rest of COVID, we have made it a goal to (safely) explore more outdoor areas in Texas. And first up on our list: Colorado Bend State Park!
We visited the park on a Saturday before the holidays, with a list of a handful of hikes we wanted to do, but the Gorman Falls trail was at the top of our list. We had heard about and seen photos of Gorman Falls for years and the photos online of Gorman Falls are pretty spectacular, but seeing it in person is even more beautiful. With cool travertine formations, a gorgeous waterfall, and a fun hike to get there, this is a must-do hike in Texas!
And in this guide, we’re sharing everything you need to know before hiking to Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park, including where it’s located, things to know before you go, information about the trail, and more!
Looking for more things to do in Texas? Check out our Texas guides and videos!
- A Weekend in Austin Itinerary
- 2 Days in Houston Itinerary
- West Texas Road Trip: Marfa and Big Bend National Park
- 5 Things to do at Guadalupe Mountains National Park
Leave No Trace Principles
Before embarking on your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave every place better than you found it, so that others can enjoy these beautiful places for many years to come!
- Plan ahead & prepare. Make sure you research and prepare for every adventure so that you know the rules, stay safe, and to minimize resource damage.
- Travel & camp on durable surfaces. Stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas, as well as the required length away from water sources.
- Dispose of waste properly. Whatever you pack in, pack it out! Make sure to carry out your trash, as well as any trash you find. If you have a dog, please do not leave poop bags on the trail. For human waste, use a trowel to dig a hole far from water sources or use a wag bag (sometimes required).
- Leave what you find. Do not take any items from the trail with you, including rocks, plants, or artifacts.
- Minimize campfire impacts. Know the rules of where you can and cannot have campfires and if allowed, use designated fire rings. Use local firewood to prevent bringing any pests or diseases to the area you’re visiting and make sure to fully extinguish your fire.
- Respect wildlife. Keep your distance from wildlife, control your pets on the trail, and never ever feed them! Make sure to keep your food stored properly as well (we like this bear canister).
- Be considerate of other visitors. Be respectful to others on the trail. Hikers going uphill have the right of way on hikes and it’s always courteous to let those quicker than you pass. Avoid playing music out loud, talking loudly, and having your pets bother others.
- About Colorado Bend State Park
- Gorman Falls Trail Stats
- When to hike the Gorman Falls Trail
- What to bring to hike the Gorman Falls Trail
- Things to know before hiking to Gorman Falls
- Our Experience Hiking to Gorman Falls
- Other spots to check out at Colorado Bend State Park
- Where to stay at Colorado Bend State Park
Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
About Colorado Bend State Park
Colorado Bend State Park is located in Bend, Texas, which is about 2 hours northwest of Austin and 2.5 hours north of San Antonio. The area itself is pretty rural, with the closest larger towns being San Saba (36 minutes), Lampasas (42 minutes), Llano (50 minutes), and Burnet (1 hour).
Beyond the beautiful 70 foot Gorman Falls, Colorado Bend State Park is home to crystal clear springs, the Colorado River, 35 miles of trails, camping, and caves.
The park is open daily, from 6 AM-10 PM and costs $5 per person for anyone 13 years old and over. However, if you have a Texas State Parks pass, which costs $70 a year, it’s free for you and your same vehicle guests.
Due to COVID, you need to make reservations to visit the state parks in Texas, even just for a day. You can make these up to 30 days in advance (they can sell out, so plan ahead!)
Gorman Falls Trail Stats
The Gorman Falls Trail is 2.6 miles roundtrip and has an elevation change of 344 feet. The trail is flat and easy, until the end, when things get a bit steeper and trickier, which we will cover later on in this guide. However, the hike should be doable for kids and adults of all activity levels.
While on the map the trail is an out and back trail, there are multiple trails you can connect to from the main trail if you wanted to add on mileage to your hike. We’ll share a few additional trail options at the end of this guide!
When to hike the Gorman Falls Trail
Colorado Bend State Park is open year round and hiking to Gorman Falls is doable in any season, but there are a few things to consider when deciding when to hike the Gorman Falls trail.
Has it rained?
As with most waterfalls, rain makes waterfalls even more beautiful! If you have flexibility and day passes are easily available, we’d try to time your visit to be after it has rained for the best chance to see the falls in all their glory.
Unsure if the falls are flowing? We’d suggest reading AllTrails reviews before you go, as well as looking for recent photos on Instagram!
We’d not recommend visiting in the rain though, as the rocks at the end of the hike would be a bit scary to hike down if they were slick.
Beware of ice
While ice and snow in Central Texas is pretty uncommon, we do occasionally get some and we would not recommend hiking this trail if it’s icy. Similar to the rain, it would make the last part of this trail very tricky to hike down without slipping and falling.
If you want lush and green, go in the summer!
We visited in December, so a lot of the trees in the park were dead, including some of the trees around the falls. While this made it easier to see the falls, since we didn’t have leaves in the way, it does make the area a bit less lush and green than you see online.
If you want to have the lush and green experience you see in Google Photos, we’d suggest going in the late spring through the summer. However, this will be a busier time to be in the park.
What to bring to hike the Gorman Falls Trail
As always, we recommend having the 10 essentials on you when doing any hike, but here are a few key items we want to point out that will especially help you during this hike!
We’d highly recommend downloading the AllTrails map for the route you’re hiking before you go. There is not much cell service in the area and it’s helpful to track your progress on the trail, as well as verify the route if needed. You will need an AllTrails Pro membership to download maps, which is $30 a year and so worth it!
While this is a relatively short hike, you may want to bring snacks and food to keep you fueled during the trek. But even more importantly, make sure you have bags to put your trash in so you can pack out what you brought.
Lots of water
We love our Camelbak bladder for hikes because it stores a ton of water and it’s easy to drink while moving. Since the return hike is all uphill, you’ll definitely want some water, especially if you hike on a hot, sunny day!
Things to know before hiking to Gorman Falls
Before making your way to Colorado Bend State Park and hiking to Gorman Falls, here are a few important things to know!
Make a reservation in advance
As we mentioned above, you need to reserve a day pass in advance to visit Colorado Bend State Park. While there may be days they do not sell out and you could show up without one, that is a potential 4 hour drive risk we wouldn’t be willing to take.
You cannot go right up to the falls
There is a rope blocking off the falls area, to preserve the area and keep it pristine, so you cannot go right up to the falls. But there is a viewing deck, as well as many places to admire them along the rope.
Dogs are allowed on leash
Dogs are allowed in Colorado Bend State Park and on the Gorman Falls trail, but they must be kept on leash.
There is a good sized parking lot at the trailhead and when we arrived around 8 AM on a Saturday in December, there were only a handful of cars. It was a bit busier when we finished the hike, but the trail itself never felt that busy.
There is also a vault toilet at the trailhead, so if you need to go to the restroom before your hike, they’ve gotcha covered!
Our Experience Hiking to Gorman Falls
After securing day passes weeks in advance, which we actually had to reschedule due to rain, we hit the road bright and early to make the 2 hour trek from Austin to Colorado Bend State Park. While the drive there was a bit foggy and rainy, things cleared up a bit by the time we got to the park.
We parked in the spacious parking lot and hit the trail to begin hiking to Gorman Falls! The trail starts out very open, with some trees around (and lots of cactus!), but is overall very exposed, so if you are planning to hike in the summer, make sure to bring a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses.
The trail is easy to follow (keep an eye out for the red/orange colored markers!) and the elevation is pretty flat, but it’s a mix of dirt and larger rocks, which can be very slick, so be careful as you walk along the trail!
About 0.5 miles into the hike, you’ll reach a junction with another trail, called Tie Slide, which will take you to a river overlook. This is about a 1.5 mile detour, but totally worth it! The overlook is 200 ft above the Colorado River and has incredible views of both the river and the surrounding Hill Country. It’s definitely one of the best views in the entire park!
After getting back on the Gorman Falls trail, you’ll have about 0.85 miles until you reach Gorman Falls. While the majority of the trail to the falls isn’t too tricky, the last part is definitely a bit more challenging.
Right before you reach the falls, the trail turns into steep, slick rock, which you have to hike down. They have chains you can hold onto to help you get down the rocks okay, but beware that this portion of the hike requires a bit more focus and slower pace.
It’s not too hard, but since the rocks were pretty slick for us, we were moving our body in weird ways to stay upright and gripping on to the chains. It makes the hike a lot more fun though!
After getting down this portion of the trail, you’ve officially made it to Gorman Falls! To the right of the bottom of the rocky section you’ll see a nice viewing area with crystal clear water, a small waterfall, a gorgeous green color, and the super cool travertine formations, which are formed from the mineral calcite in the spring water.
If you keep walking forward from the end of the trail, you’ll have a few great spots to marvel at the incredible, 70 ft tall Gorman Falls. While we haven’t seen many waterfalls in Texas, this one definitely takes the cake for us. We got very lucky that there was a decent amount of water flowing and the mix of the waterfall, plus greenery around it made us feel like we were back in the Pacific Northwest for a second.
One important thing to know, which we mentioned above, is that you cannot go up to the falls, but only see the falls from behind a rope, as well as a wooden deck overlook. However, it’s still a great view!
After admiring the falls for a while, you can either return the way you came, or connect with other trails in the park, such as the Tinaja Trail, but we’ll share about a few other trails in the next section!
Other spots to check out at Colorado Bend State Park
There are a total of 35 miles of trails at Colorado Bend State Park to explore before or after hiking to Gorman Falls. You can see all of the trails here, but here are a couple spots we’d recommend!
Hike to Dogleg Canyon
After hiking to Gorman Falls, the next trail we explored at Colorado Bend State Park was Dogleg Canyon. This is a cool little canyon with views of the river and hills in the area. There are a couple ways to get to Dogleg Canyon though, depending on how much you want to hike.
Tinaja + Dogleg Canyon
Elevation Gain: 695 feet
Trail Map & Conditions
Elevation Gain: 360 feet
Trail Map & Conditions
This is what we did…well sort of. We got a bit lost because we didn’t read a sign and forgot to download the map beforehand. But we found our way back!
Cedar Chopper, Dogleg Canyon, & Gorman Falls
Elevation Gain: 554 feet
Trail Map & Conditions
This is a great option to combine Dogleg Canyon with Gorman Falls! However, this route takes you a different way to Gorman Falls and you will not go by the Tie Slide trail overlook (which we highly recommend!)
See Springwood Springs
Spicewood Springs is a gorgeous spring in Colorado Bend State Park with crystal clear water that gives off a blue-ish green hue. We only hiked a portion of this trail because we were exhausted, but what we did see was absolutely beautiful!
Elevation Gain: 288 feet
Trail Map & Conditions
Where to stay at Colorado Bend State Park
While we just did a day trip to Colorado Bend State Park, if you want to spend more time in the area, here are some options of places to stay, including inside of the park, as well as in some of the neighboring smaller cities, like San Saba, Llano, Lampasas and Burnet.
Colorado Bend State Park is home to a variety of campsite options! Compared to other state parks we have been to in Texas, Colorado Bend’s campsites are more primitive and a bit different than the typical state park campground layout.
There are 15 drive-up sites, which are suitable for RVs up to 30 feet, but do not have potable water or electricity at each site.
There are 28 walk-in sites along the river. These sites have no privacy, but you do have a killer view! You will have to park about 50 yards from your campsite and there are restrooms nearby as well.
There are multiple backcountry campsites, which do not allow fires or have water or restrooms. If you want a more remote experience, these would be a great option!
There are 3 group campsites which can accommodate between 16-48 people and all have a fire ring and tables to sit at. If you have a ton of friends and want to get away for the weekend, this would be a blast!
Tranquil Farmhouse (Lampasas): A 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom house comes with access to a pool, sport court, and fire pit.
Relaxing Texas Hill Country Ranch Retreat Cottage (Lampasas): This 2 bedroom, 2 bathroom house is great for a family that wants to explore the area.
Rockin’ G River Camp (Lometa): This 2 bedroom, 1 bathroom cabin is located on 4.5 acres and has Colorado River access!
Luce Carriage House (Llano): This studio bungalow has a lot of charm and is walking distance to downtown Llano.
Llano Line Shack (Llano): This studio Airbnb is located in the Railroad District of Llano and was a former “line shack” that provided shelter and rest for railroad workers. The inside is really cool and there is a great seating area outside too!
Perry’s Cottage (Llano): This studio cottage is absolutely adorable!
Lake Buchanan Tiny House (Burnet): This tiny house is located on Lake Buchanan and has kayak rentals available!
Ready to hike the Gorman Falls Trail?
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