BEND — Cool shade from towering Live Oak trees, crystal clear, spring-fed water cascading down a 70-foot cliff covered with vibrant green ferns and moss and mineral deposits called travertine – this is what you will find at the end of a hike to Gorman Falls in Colorado Bend State Park.

It was a true oasis my family and I found after about an hour drive west of Fort Hood and is well worth the short trip.

This is my first trip for the Traveling Soldier feature here in the Sentinel, and I wanted to focus on a few important factors for the next few months, given that we are in a pandemic. I am focusing on things that are primarily outside, because they are less risky than indoor attractions right now. And many indoor attractions are closed or might be closed again soon anyway. I also wanted to keep it close to post, just in case there are any travel restrictions that mandate Soldiers and their families have to stay within a certain radius of miles.

With all that being said, my first trip to Colorado Bend State Park was a hit with me and the family. It’s a great place to spend a day or even several if you want to camp. It is truly 5,300 acres of unspoiled, natural beauty with enough points of interest and trails to last a four-day weekend or longer. To give you an idea of how big 5,300 acres is, the road from one side of the park to the other is five miles!

To visit this park, a reservation is required. It only costs $5 per person 12 and older, and it fills up quickly, so you’ll have to plan ahead a week or two. Disabled veterans can obtain an annual park pass for free. More information about that is at the end of this article.

There are seven major points of interest to at the park. Spicewood Springs Creek is a refreshing, spring-fed creek to swim in just before it meets the Colorado River and is only a short walk from the campgrounds, which are also set right on the river. The Scenic Overlook is the highest point of the park and gives a sweeping view of the Colorado River Canyon. It’s also the only place you’ll be able to reliably use a cell phone. Dogleg Canyon View is another high point in the park that offers picturesque views of the cliff faces overlooking the Colorado River. Tinaja is a bedrock depression carved by springs and seeps and supports unique plants and wildlife. Gorman Spring feeds Gorman Creek with the mineral- laden water that creates the beauty that I saw at Gorman Falls. Last is the River Overlook. Another high point that sits 200 feet above the river. You can see Gorman Falls from this point.

The majority of my day trip was spent hiking to and from Gorman Falls. I don’t think I had ever seen a true waterfall like this before. All the parking areas for major points of interest in the park are clearly marked. Once parked, we found clean restrooms to use before setting out on the 1.5 mile hike. Be sure to take lots of water and don’t forget the sunscreen. The heat and the sun are harsh during the summer.

But what you will find at the end of this trail specifically, is well worth the effort.

For more information about Colorado Bend State Park, check out this website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/colorado-bend.