Gorman Falls

Colorado Bend State Park / Lampasas, Texas, USA

About Gorman Falls


Hiking Distance: 2.8 miles round trip
Suggested Time: 2 hours

Date first visited: 2016-03-09
Date last visited: 2016-03-09

Waterfall Latitude: 31.05821
Waterfall Longitude: -98.48211

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Gorman Falls was a very wide waterfall that was arguably the prettiest waterfall in the state of Texas.

It tumbled over a reported height 60-70ft, but I found its travertine-like characteristic that really stood out during my visit.

Gorman_Falls_063_03092016 - Gorman Falls
Gorman Falls

As you can see in the photo above, the grandeur and grace of this waterfall was a bit difficult to convey in photos.

In fact, that photo only shows a small portion of the entire waterfall itself!

That travertine characteristic gave me vibes of other such waterfalls that we have experienced like Pearl Shoal Waterfall and Nuorilang Waterfall in Jiuzhaigou, China.

Both of those waterfalls were also very wide, percolating, and segmented in a way that was difficult to really convey through photos.

Lucky Timing with Gorman Falls

I was fortunate to even have made my visit to Gorman Falls during a temporary break in a series of severe storms that caused flooding in many parts of Central and Eastern Texas as well as Northern Louisiana.

Gorman_Falls_136_03092016 - The water damage on this bridge over Cherokee Creek at the northern entrance to Colorado Bend State Park gave me cause for concern about flooding possibly preventing access to Gorman Falls
The water damage on this bridge over Cherokee Creek at the northern entrance to Colorado Bend State Park gave me cause for concern about flooding possibly preventing access to Gorman Falls

Indeed, I had to worry about access to the Colorado Bend State Park because the road leading to the northern entrance was prone to flooding.

That said, the heavy rains seemed to have rejuvenated the travertine waterfall to the extent that we felt compelled to give it the relatively high score of 3 in scenic rating.

Prior to this storm (and our arrival), the falls appeared to have struggled to flow given the unusually dry and warm Winter that much of the Southern United States had experienced in 2016.

Given this timing, I’d estimate that this would be mostly a Winter and Spring waterfall, but it’s conceivable that thunderstorms could temporarily revive the falls at other times of the year.

The Gorman Falls Hike

I made the visit to Gorman Falls as a detour from the long drive between Fort Worth and Austin.

Gorman_Falls_016_03092016 - Gorman Falls hike involved going through an open terrain flanked by cacti and a scattering of trees
Gorman Falls hike involved going through an open terrain flanked by cacti and a scattering of trees

It turned out to be a pretty lengthy detour as the Colorado Bend State Park was relatively remote and a bit out-of-the-way from most populated areas.

Thus, I felt the experience was very naturesque and enjoyable despite the drama of the wet and potentially dangerous conditions.

Indeed, it seemed like a pocket of Nature in the heart of the Texas Hill Country that was otherwise surrounded by expansive fields and ranches.

So given this environment, I found navigating the trail to Gorman Falls was pretty straightforward albeit rugged in spots.

The trail was about 2.8 miles round-trip, and it was open to the elements so I’d imagine that it could be a pretty hot hike on sunny days.

Gorman_Falls_064_03092016 - Looking towards the most voluminous segment of Gorman Falls, but you might note that there are still more segments behind the foliage further to the left
Looking towards the most voluminous segment of Gorman Falls, but you might note that there are still more segments behind the foliage further to the left

The hike itself was mostly flat and flanked by thin trees with plenty of cacti (hinting at the desert climate here).

The footing was on the muddy and slippery side, especially where the trail traversed rocky terrain.

That said, under drier conditions, I’d imagine the footing would be much more secure and the hike itself would go by much faster.

Overall, I’d say this hike could take 2-3 hours at a leisurely pace.

It turned out that I did this hike in 90 minutes in a bit of a rush because I did it at the end of the day and had to race the onset of darkness.

Trail Description of the Gorman Falls Hike

Gorman_Falls_006_03092016 - The Gorman Falls Trail was pretty easy to follow, especially near the start
The Gorman Falls Trail was pretty easy to follow, especially near the start

The Gorman Falls hike started from a well-signed and obvious trailhead and parking lot (see directions below).

Navigating the trail was pretty straightforward as the park authorities had placed signs at the key junctions as well as little reflective shapes placed on the barks of specific trees.

There were other trails going to an overlook of the Colorado River as well as the Gorman Springs Ranger-led Trail among others to extend the excursion, but I primarily stuck with the main waterfall trail.

Otherwise, the dirt trail was fairly obvious to follow though it did get a bit less obvious where the terrain consisted of more rocks than dirt.

Gorman_Falls_027_03092016 - Each of the trail junctions were well-signed Gorman Falls
Each of the trail junctions were well-signed Gorman Falls

I reached the last series of trail junctions (where the main trail junctioned with the bike route to Gorman Springs) a little over 30 minutes into the hike.

It was after these junctions that the trail noticeably accelerated its descent and became steeper as I already started to see parts of Gorman Falls.

After a few minutes along this descent, I reached a point where the trail descended on a rocky slope flanked by cables attached to steel poles.

There was a short informal spur leading to a nice view of the upper parts of the Gorman Falls during this final descent to the base of the waterfall.

Gorman_Falls_043_03092016 - Context of the steep cable-assisted descent fronting the upper parts of the rivuleted Gorman Falls
Context of the steep cable-assisted descent fronting the upper parts of the rivuleted Gorman Falls

Since the surface was very wet during my visit, I had to choose my steps very carefully as it was very slippery.

That said, I could start appreciating the scale of Gorman Falls as the descending trail started passing before parts of the wide waterfall.

At the bottom of the steep descent, there was a viewing deck with interpretive signs.

But given the amount of foliage growing around the base of the waterfall as well as the overall length of the falls itself, it was difficult to get a clean expansive view of the whole thing.

Gorman_Falls_076_03092016 - At the very bottom of the descent, I went further along the Colorado River to get as much of the full extent of Gorman Falls as possible
At the very bottom of the descent, I went further along the Colorado River to get as much of the full extent of Gorman Falls as possible

It really was the kind of waterfall where pictures don’t do it justice.

Meanwhile, the wide Colorado River ran alongside the canyon I was in.

In fact, the trail continued to meander alongside the river though it wasn’t necessary to continue on that path as far as the waterfall experience was concerned.

After having my fill of this waterfall, I returned the way I came.

The Colorado River

Gorman_Falls_095_03092016 - Context of Gorman Falls and the Colorado River
Context of Gorman Falls and the Colorado River

Finally, I have to mention that the presence of the Colorado River confused me.

After all, I had always thought that the river originated in the Rocky Mountains and drained to the Gulf of California between California and Arizona passing through places like the Grand Canyon and Canyonlands National Parks, among others.

However, it turned out that this particular Colorado River happened to be on a different river system with the same name.

This particular river system flowed pretty much in the state of Texas cutting through the Texas Hill Country before passing through the state capital of Austin on its way to the Gulf of Mexico.

Authorities

Gorman Falls resides in the Colorado Bend State Park near Lampasas in San Saba County, Texas. It is administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Gorman_Falls_005_03092016 - The trail to Gorman Falls was pretty easy to follow in the beginning as the path was obvious and the terrain was pretty wide open flanked by thin trees possibly having gone through a fire or two
Gorman_Falls_007_03092016 - In one particular trail junction on the way to Gorman Falls, there was this rest bench, which provided some indication of how well-used and developed the trail was even though it was in the wilderness of the Texas Hill Country
Gorman_Falls_009_03092016 - The Gorman Falls Trail was very wet and muddy due to the recent storms that had passed through the area (and would continue to rain in the area in the days following our visit)
Gorman_Falls_012_03092016 - This signposted trail junction on the Gorman Falls hike was for the spur trail leading to an overlook of the Colorado River, which I didn't have the time to do
Gorman_Falls_018_03092016 - The open terrain of the Gorman Falls Trail presented possible views in better weather, but they just weren't that compelling during my visit when it was wet. That said, notice the rockier terrain which meant that I had to pay a little more attention so I wouldn't lose the trail
Gorman_Falls_021_03092016 - Continuing on the Gorman Falls Trail as it passed between more thin trees and cacti along the way
Gorman_Falls_025_03092016 - As I got closer to the Gorman Falls, I noticed that there seemed to be more greener trees
Gorman_Falls_028_03092016 - The Gorman Falls Trail noticeably descended as the terrain became rockier and the sounds of rushing water became louder
Gorman_Falls_031_03092016 - One more trail junction before the Gorman Falls Trail made its last descent to the cables and ultimately the base
Gorman_Falls_032_03092016 - I think my visit to Gorman Falls was late enough in the day where I saw more deer than I expected to see on this hike
Gorman_Falls_033_03092016 - Descending on the trail leading to the Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_036_03092016 - My first look at the impressive Gorman Falls fronted by a cactus just before making the final descent along the cables
Gorman_Falls_048_03092016 - Wide contextual look at the terrain of Gorman Falls right before I made the steep cable-assisted descent to the bottom
Gorman_Falls_135_03092016 - Descending alongside the cables as I made my way down to the base of Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_128_03092016 - During the descent, it became apparent that Gorman Falls was indeed bigger than the pictures had led us to believe
Gorman_Falls_132_03092016 - Continuing the steep descent alongside the cables while getting tantalizingly close to the bottom of Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_127_03092016 - Now near the base of Gorman Falls, where you can really see that there were more unseen segments further to the left
Gorman_Falls_122_03092016 - Another contextual look at the steep and slippery cable-assisted descent to the bottom of Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_112_03092016 - Looking back up at the extent of the steep cable-assisted descent to the bottom of the Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_114_03092016 - Looking down towards the bottom of the descent, where there was an interpretive viewing deck for Gorman Falls as well as the banks of the Colorado River next to it
Gorman_Falls_052_03092016 - Looking back at the last bit of the steep descent alongside the far right side of Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_054_03092016 - Trying to capture as much of Gorman Falls as I possibly could in a single photo, but I was probably too close at the lookout deck
Gorman_Falls_093_03092016 - The context of the interpretive viewing deck alongside Gorman Falls
Gorman_Falls_067_03092016 - Focused look at as much of the full height of the most voluminous part of Gorman Falls as I could see
Gorman_Falls_068_03092016 - Another broad look across the left side of Gorman Falls from the lookout area
Gorman_Falls_082_03092016 - Looking back at the Gorman Falls' right side from the lookout area at the bottom of the gorge
Gorman_Falls_098_03092016 - Another look across the rounded travertine-like Gorman Falls as I started to make my way back up and head back to the trailhead before it got dark
Gorman_Falls_108_03092016 - Another look at the context of the far right side of Gorman Falls and the bottom of the steel cables on the rocky section
Gorman_Falls_119_03092016 - Looking up at the cables and the rocky terrain on the way back up to return to the trailhead after having had my fill of Gorman Falls and I realized that I had to race the darkness

join-booking-970x240-1.jpg


We had a bit of an adventure on our drive to Gorman Falls from Fort Worth (it was the very first thing we did after arriving and picking up the rental car).

Watch Out for the Navigation System

First and foremost, the official brochure for Colorado Bend State Park very clearly stated that most GPS navigation will not get you to the park.

We suspect the reason why that was the case was that such maps presumed private roads could be taken.

In fact, when we were routing to Gorman Falls while making our long drive from Fort Worth to Austin, we repeatedly had to ignore the GPS as it insisted that we should be taking numerous side roads and country roads to get there.

The key for us to reaching Colorado Bend State Park was to get to the town of Lampasas.

Driving from Lampasas to Colorado Bend State Park

Once we got to Lampasas, we were able to follow the brown signs for Colorado Bend as we were driving along the Hwy 183 through town.

Roughly 0.7 miles south of the Route 580 or 0.9 miles north of the Hwy 190 along the Hwy 183, we followed the signs and headed west on North Ave (Route 580) for about 0.6 miles then turned right onto Porter St to continue on the Route 580.

Immediately after turning right, we kept left at the fork to go onto Nix Street (and stay on the Route 580).

Then, we pretty much followed the Route 580 for about the next 23 miles.

Next, we left the Route 580 and turned left onto the County Road 486 (again, the brown signs pointed the way to Colorado Bend at this junction), and we followed this road for the next 4 miles into the Colorado Bend State Park.

Along this section of road, there was a very flood-prone bridge across Cherokee Creek as well as another flood-prone ford at Tie Slide Creek within the park boundaries.

There was also a self-help kiosk, where we would put $5 per adult cash in an envelope and deposit in their collection bin while detaching from the envelope and keeping the proof-of-purchase tag to display on the dash of the car.

Gorman_Falls_002_03092016 - The parking lot at the trailhead for Gorman Falls in the Colorado Bend State Park
The parking lot at the trailhead for Gorman Falls in the Colorado Bend State Park

Again, at each road junction, there were signs pointing the way to Colorado Bend.

The last mile of this stretch of road was unpaved.

Shortly after the Tie Slide Creek ford (which is usually dry), we followed the Gorman Falls sign and turned left onto the Gorman Falls maintenance road for the final 1/4-mile.

There was a parking lot and gate where further progress was stopped by a gate, and this was where we parked the car.

I believe this gate would be open for people partaking in the ranger-led Gorman Springs hike, and under those circumstances the road would resume another 1.5 miles to its end (thereby potentially reducing the waterfall hike to a mere 1/4-mile).

Driving between Austin and Lampasas

Finally, there are several ways to get to Lampasas.

From Austin, we would take the 1-Loop north then follow the Hwy 183 north for about 60 miles into Lampasas.

Gorman_Falls_003_03092016 - Sign at the parking lot letting us know that we were indeed in the right place for the Gorman Falls hike
Sign at the parking lot letting us know that we were indeed in the right place for the Gorman Falls hike

We wound up doing this drive in reverse (since we were headed to Austin), and the total drive (including the 580 stretch to the Gorman Falls trailhead) took us roughly 2 hours.

Driving between Fort Worth and Lampasas

When we approached Gorman Falls from the north, we happened to take the I-35W south from Fort Worth to Waco.

Then, we headed west on the Hwy 84 for about 65 miles to the Hwy 281, where we then headed south on the Hwy 281 for about 29 miles into the town of Lampasas, where it became Hwy 183.

Originally, we had planned to take the I-35W south from Fort Worth through Waco to Temple, then head west on the Hwy 190 for 46 miles to Lampasas.

However, bad traffic on the I-35W kind of forced us to take the Hwy 84 from Waco instead.

In total, we spent about 4.5 hours on the road between Fort Worth and the Gorman Falls trailhead (though we were probably delayed an additional 30 minutes or more from traffic on the I-35W).

Starting from downstream along the Colorado River for a more contextual look at the breadth of Gorman Falls before walking all the way up towards the viewing platform for a closer look at the falls


Long movie starting from the cables showing the top of the falls, then slowly making my way down the cables for a closer look at the entirety of Gorman Falls

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Tagged with: colorado bend, state park, lampasas, san saba, texas, waterfall, colorado river, hill country



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Johnny Cheng

About Johnny Cheng

Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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