Lost Maples SNA, Texas – Backpacking with Children

Last Friday I took my nine year old daughter on her first backpacking trip. We headed down to Lost Maples State Natural Area (SNA) for a short one night trip.

Entrance to Lost Maples State Natural Area

This time of year Lost Maples is alive with fall color and we hoped to take it all in. With this being my daughter’s first backpacking trip I was real worried about mileage. But Lost Maples SNA provided the perfect place.

We arrived at Lost Maples SNA around 3:30. We planned to hike less than a mile along the East Trail to Primitive Campsite A. I supplied my daughter with a TPWD map and allowed her to follow our path as we hiked. We stopped at every water crossing and trail junction to see where we were on the map. My main concern was her getting tired and wanting to quit. By allowing her to see our progress and how quickly we were arriving at our campsite kept her spirits high. We made sure we took our time following every possible adventure and side route along the way. This helped keep her interest up and provided a lot of great bonding time. Lost Maples did have lots of color but seemed to be in a strange transition stage. The Maples had lost the majority of their leaves and the Red Oaks were just beginning to change their color. My daughter didn’t seem to care about any of that…she was just happy to be “backpacking” with her dad.

One of the large limestone bluffs along the Sabinal River
A strange rock formation that my daughter thought resembled a monkey

We arrived at Primitive Campsite A just before 5:00 pm. We set up camp and headed back out for some more adventures along Sabinal River. We climbed up and over big rocks, followed stepping stones to small islands, and tried to see how many fish we could spot. About 6:00 pm we headed back to camp to cook dinner. I had brought along Backpackers Pantry’s Spaghetti and Sauce hoping it would suite her picky appetite. We boiled 2 ½ cups of water and waited the 13 minutes for it all to cook. While we waited we gathered sticks and made small wooden crosses to pass the time.

Our Campsite
A compost toilet located near Campsite A…the trails and back-country at Lost Maples are well developed.

Exploring before dinner
A small pool along the Sabinal River near our campsite

After Dinner the sun really started sinking fast. By 6:45 it was almost completely dark. With the sun down, and it getting colder, we had nothing better to do then climb into our sleeping bags. The next couple of hours were the hardest with her little mind not ready to go to bed and nothing to keep her entertained. We played “There’s something in my father’s store” until about 8:00 pm. At that time I insisted we close our eyes and try to sleep. We had a few too many sips of water on the hike in which proved to be a few too many trips to the bathroom in the middle of the night. After we finally emptied our bladders… the night went much smoother.
Having gone to bed so early we, in turn, woke up very early. I instead we wait until the sun came up before breaking camp and getting back on the trail. When we finally emerged from the tent we noticed many more backpackers had come in during the night. What started out with just the two of us at Campsite A turned into more than a dozen (or more) tents the next morning.

The Sun was setting fast after dinner
We woke up to find a lot of people had joined us during the night.

We were the first to break camp and the first on the trail. We continued on along the East Trail following Hale Hollow Creek before eventually climbing up into the hills. I made sure to follow every adventure and side trip along the way so hiking remained interesting. We followed the East Trial up and over the hills all the way to Primitive Campsite C. Adjacent to Primitive Campsite C is a couple of ponds that cascade over a small waterfall into Can Creek. We stopped to admire the small waterfall before following Can Creek all the way back to the parking area.

East Trail just past Campsite A
A small limestone bluff along Hale Hollow Creek covered in Maidenhair Ferns
Maidenhair Ferns
Maidenhair Ferns
Small bench along Hale Hollow Creek on the East Trail
Starting to climb along the East Trail
More Fall Colors along the East Trail

Climbing up into the hills
Scenic Overlook along the East Trail

Looking down on Primitive Campsite C from high up on the East Trail
Small Pond near Campsite C
Small Waterfall along Can Creek
Water-crossing on Can Creek
A small dam on Can Creek
A small bench along the East Trail

The East Trail makes a 4.6 mile loop through the heart of Lost Maples SNA. The short distance proved to be just what we needed to introduce my daughter to my love of backpacking. The elevation gain was minimal (only 300 feet) which kept down her fatigue while allowing her to feel like she accomplished something big. I outfitted my daughter with my Black Diamond Hallowpoint daypack which obviously wasn’t built for her torso size but worked fine for this test run. She carried just over nine pounds consisting of 1.5 liters of water, a sleeping bag, her own rain gear and cold weather clothes.

The Hike:
4.6 Mile Loop
300 feet elevation gain
Starting Elevation: 1900 feet
Ending Elevation: 2200 feet

8 thoughts on “Lost Maples SNA, Texas – Backpacking with Children”

  1. What a great dad you are! I am sure this is only the beginning of many wonderful trails that you will make with your kids. I wish more parents were like you. I think you used the right philosophy when you wanted to make sure she enjoyed it. I know some folks push to hard the first trips and the kids get turned off of hiking and backpacking.

    Good job! Great photos!

    Happy Thanksgiving!

  2. gumo,

    I'm flattered. I hope to instill in my daughter a great love for outdoors. She says she enjoyed the trip. I look forward to many more.

  3. I enjoyed your great pics. and narrative, you do appear to be a wise, adventureous and loving dad! I am going to try to go there very soon! Thankyou for sharing! 🙂

  4. You have convince me to take my partner to this park… For months we've been looking for the right park to camp at and your pictures and narration convinced me to take him there! We plan to go there this summer which only makes me feel that its going to be hot but an exciting trip!

  5. I just came across this post while searching for places to take my kids backpacking. I took my 9 and 7 year old daughters to Lost Maples last month and did the exact same hike! it was a perfect introduction. They loved it and want to do more. The challenge I am having is finding information on more kid friendly trails. Not just in Texas but New Mexico and Colorado as well. I'm sure they're out there but I can't find a resource that will give recommendations. Of course, until they get older and stronger the trails will have to be pretty short and flat but exciting just like the East Trail of Lost Maples was. Do you have any suggestions??

  6. Its hard to say without knowing your kids. But if your 9 and 7 year olds are anything like my 10 year old…they can handle a lot more then you think. I haveint posted about this hike yet but I recently took my oldest on an overnight trip in Guadalupe Mountains National Park. She climbed well over 2500 feet in under four miles. Then did close to 10 miles the next day with a lot of ups and downs totaling close to 1500 feet in elevation change. She never complained even when I was really feeling the pain. But having said that…its not good to push them…they might end up hating your sport.

    As far as other recommendations I cant offer much. I think most of the Texas state parks offer short level trails with opportunities to camp. Most of these can hardly be considered backcountry..but would be great for kids. I think the key is looking for sites that aren't to far down the trail. 1 or 2 miles in, camp overnight, and then come back out, regardless of the elevation change.

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