Hiking to Gorman Falls at Colorado Bend State Park (Texas)

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!

Reminder: Leave No Trace

Before starting your adventure, please review the Leave No Trace principles to ensure you leave the places you explore even better than you found them.

  1. Plan ahead and prepare: Know the regulations, prepare for different weather conditions, and pack the 10 essentials.
     
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces: Travel on designated trails and camp at designated sites at least 200 ft away from water sources.
     
  3. Dispose of waste properly: Pack it in, pack it out. Carry ALL trash with you and dig a 6-8″ cat hole for human waste, 200 ft away from water.
     
  4. Leave what you find: Take only pictures, leave only footprints.
     
  5. Minimize campfire impacts: If fires are allowed, use established fire rings. Keep fires small and put out fires completely.
     
  6. Respect wildlife: Do not approach or feed wildlife, keep pets under control, and store your food properly.
     
  7. Be considerate of others: Yield to hikers going uphill and keep noises down.

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 in Texas

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 in Texas

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

Colorado Bend State Park in Texas

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!

Offline Map

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! 

Food

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!

Headlamp

Having a headlamp is not only one of the 10 hiking essentials, but is especially important if you plan to start your hike before sunrise or finish after sunset.

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.

Parking

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 

Gorman Falls Trail at Colorado Bend State Park

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. 

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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

Colorado Bend State Park in Texas

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

Miles: 6.4 
Elevation Gain: 695 feet
Trail Map & Conditions

Dogleg Canyon 

Miles: 3.4
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

Miles: 6.4
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!

Miles: 3.8
Elevation Gain: 288 feet
Trail Map & Conditions

Where to stay at Colorado Bend State Park

Airbnb Llano

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.

Camping

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.

Drive-Up Sites
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. 

Walk-In Sites
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.

Backcountry Sites
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!

Group Campsites
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!

Airbnbs

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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about us

Hi y’all! We’re Adam, Kathryn, and Kona, an adventurous married couple (+ pup!) living on the road in our self-converted sprinter van! You can often find us driving all around the US and Canada, scoping out the best coffee shops, eating tacos and ice cream (we’re a 5+ taco and 2+ scoop household), and enjoying nature.

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