The highlight of the park is the Gorman Falls Trail, an out-and-back hike of about 3 miles through rocky Ashe juniper and oak scrub and meadows strewn with wildflowers. At the end, it makes a steep drop into a surprising fern and moss grotto fed by a spring. The transition from the dry, rocky trail is dramatic. Not only do browns and grays give way to a lush green but the temperature drops perceptibly. Depending on the flow from the spring, Gorman Falls either pours or drips about 65 feet into small pools below. The cascading water creates a delicate, moist environment – one the park guides describe as a “living waterfall”.
Groundwater that feeds the spring is slowly dissolving the surrounding limestone, enriching itself with calcite. As it drips over the falls, the water deposits the mineral in the form of travertine, which is slowly building up on the rock face over time. Because the material is porous, it makes an ideal foundation for the bright green vegetation that grows around the falls.
From the falls, it’s just a short hike to the Gorman Spring Trail, where the water emerges from the ground, or to the beginning of the River Trail, which shadows the Colorado River for about 3.6 miles to the camping area at the east end of the park.
On the other side of the park, the Spicewood Springs Trail and Spicewood Canyon Trail combine into a pleasant hike of about 3.8 miles. After a half mile walk along a winding grassy path that parallels the Colorado River, the trail splits, with one path turning up into Spicewood Canyon. Ashe juniper and tall grasses line the narrow trail that soon follows a ridge above the creek. From above, you can look down on part of the return trail. At the far end of the Spicewood Canyon Trail, the path climbs back down to the creek bed and meets the Spicewood Springs Trail. That trail emerges from the woods repeatedly to cross the creek, which begins as a meandering brook before opening up into wider flats and finally deep, blue-green pools. The stream crossings are marked well, but at several points near the pools the trail becomes more obscure. It’s not too much of a concern, though, since the trail tracks the creek downstream, where it pours into the river.
Overall, the park has about 30 miles of trails.
Although not heavily publicized, Colorado Bend State Park also is strewn with caves that launch thousands of bats into the air each night at dusk. Limited guided tours of the caves are available by reservation. They frequently involve crawling, sliding and squeezing through small spaces and always involve getting a little muddy.
In addition to the bats, the park is home to about 155 species of birds, including the rare Golden-cheeked Warbler, Black-capped Vireo and Bald Eagle.