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Texas Fall Foliage Train Rides (2024): A Complete Guide

Last revised: December 30, 2023

By: Adam Burns

While there are no dedicated fall foliage trains running in Texas, two organizations do run trains through the autumn season allowing guests to see the area's changing colors in mid/late November.  These include the Texas State Railroad and Austin Steam Train Association.  More information about each may be found further below.

Other Fall Foliage Activities

While Texas may not be known for its autumn foliage, there are still plenty of places in the state where you can experience the vibrant colors of fall.  If you are interested in viewing the colors outside of train ride here are some popular locations in the Lonestar State.

Lost Maples State Natural Area

Located in the Texas Hill Country, Lost Maples State Natural Area is one of the most popular destinations for fall foliage in the state. The park is home to a variety of trees, including bigtooth maples, which turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall. Visitors can hike the park's scenic trails to take in the stunning views.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is another popular destination for fall foliage in Texas. The park is home to a variety of trees, including live oaks and Ashe junipers, which turn shades of orange and yellow in the fall. Visitors can hike the park's trails to enjoy the fall colors and take in the stunning views of Enchanted Rock.

Palo Duro Canyon State Park

Palo Duro Canyon State Park is known for its stunning red rock formations, but it's also a great place to see fall foliage. The park is home to a variety of trees, including cottonwoods, maples, and oaks, which turn shades of yellow, orange, and red in the fall. Visitors can hike the park's trails to take in the stunning views of the canyon and fall foliage.

Caddo Lake State Park

Located in East Texas, Caddo Lake State Park is a beautiful destination for fall foliage. The park is home to a variety of trees, including cypress trees, which turn a beautiful shade of orange in the fall. Visitors can explore the park's waterways by canoe or kayak to see the stunning fall colors reflected in the water.

Guadalupe Mountains National Park

Guadalupe Mountains National Park is home to a variety of trees, including aspens, which turn a vibrant shade of yellow in the fall. Visitors can hike the park's trails to take in the stunning views of the fall foliage and the park's towering mountains.

Big Bend National Park

Big Bend National Park is located in Southwest Texas and is known for its stunning desert landscape. However, the park is also a great location for viewing fall foliage. The park is home to a variety of trees, including cottonwoods and aspens, which turn a beautiful shade of yellow in the fall. Visitors can take a scenic drive or hike one of the park's many trails to enjoy the fall colors and stunning views of the surrounding desert.

Davis Mountains

Located in West Texas, the Davis Mountains are one of the highest ranges in Texas and provide a beautiful location for viewing fall foliage. The mountain range is home to a variety of trees, including aspens and maples, which turn vibrant shades of yellow, orange, and red in the fall. Visitors can take a scenic drive or hike one of the many trails to enjoy the stunning views.

Caprock Canyons State Park

Caprock Canyons State Park is located in the Texas Panhandle and is a popular destination for hiking and camping. The park is home to a variety of trees, including cottonwoods and maples, which turn beautiful shades of yellow and orange in the fall. Visitors can hike the park's trails or take a scenic drive through the park to enjoy the fall colors.

Tyler State Park

Tyler State Park is located in East Texas and is known for its beautiful fall foliage. The park is home to a variety of trees, including sweetgums, oaks, and elms, which turn vibrant shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall. Visitors can take a scenic drive or hike one of the park's many trails to enjoy the stunning views.

Huntsville State Park

Huntsville State Park is located in the Piney Woods region of Texas and is another popular destination for viewing fall foliage. The park is home to a variety of trees, including sweetgums, maples, and oaks, which turn beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow in the fall. Visitors can hike the park's trails or rent a canoe or kayak to explore the park's lake and view the fall colors.

In conclusion, while Texas may not be known for its fall foliage, there are still plenty of places in the state where you can experience the vibrant colors of autumn. Whether you're hiking through a state park or paddling along a river, Texas has plenty to offer in the fall.

Overview

Texas State Railroad

(Rusk):  Today, the Texas State Railroad is best known for its popular publicly-hosted train rides.  However, the company also carries a great deal of historical significance; it is state-owned by the state and was built with convict labor in the 1880's to link Palestine with Rusk (25 miles). 

While leased by private railroads over the years it has always remained a state-owned entity.  For tourists, it acts as a theme park featuring events for both the kids ("Thomas The Tank Engine" and "The Polar Express") and adults (dinner trains, club car service, private parities, camping, and more). 

For enthusiasts they currently operate two steam locomotives (2-8-0 #28 and 2-8-2 #30) and rare diesel models like a pair of former Canadian National FP9's and a U.S. Army MRS-1. 

Each fall you can take the Pumpkin Patch Express which features wonderfully scenic views of rural (and lush) East Texas.  This area of the state is far different from the arid climate found in the western regions.


Austin Steam Train Association

(Cedar Park/Austin): The Austin Steam Train Association does not operate dedicated fall foliage trains.  However, the organization does continue to run its excursions through the autumn season, allowing guests to see Austin's fall colors which peak in mid/late November each year.

The Austin Steam Train Association (ASTA) is a non-profit organization dedicated to preserving and operating vintage steam locomotives and other historic railway equipment. Based in Cedar Park, Texas, the organization offers a range of train rides and events that allow visitors to experience the thrill of classic steam-powered transportation.

ASTA's primary attraction is its vintage steam train, which features restored passenger cars and an authentic steam locomotive. The train runs on a variety of routes throughout the year, including special holiday-themed rides and evening excursions that offer a unique perspective on the surrounding countryside.

In addition to its regular train rides, ASTA also offers a variety of special events and activities throughout the year. These include themed train rides, such as the popular "Polar Express" and "North Pole Flyer" rides during the holiday season, as well as special events like the "Murder Mystery" dinner train and the "Steam Punk" festival.

One of the unique aspects of ASTA is its commitment to preserving and restoring historic railway equipment. The organization maintains an extensive collection of vintage locomotives, passenger cars, and other railway artifacts, many of which are on display at the Cedar Park Depot. ASTA's dedicated volunteers work tirelessly to restore and maintain these historic treasures, ensuring that future generations will be able to experience the magic of steam-powered transportation.

ASTA's commitment to education is also noteworthy. The organization offers a range of educational programs for school groups, including field trips and hands-on learning opportunities. These programs teach students about the history of steam locomotives and the role they played in shaping America's transportation infrastructure.

Overall, the Austin Steam Train Association is a unique and valuable organization that provides a fun and educational experience for visitors of all ages. Whether you're a train enthusiast, history buff, or just looking for a fun family outing, ASTA's vintage steam train and special events are sure to delight and inspire.

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