Things to Do

The Texas Hill Country $10 Road Trip

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Today the average cost for a gallon of gas in the Austin area (based on statistics from gasbuddy.com) is $1.59. This time last year, that price was almost doubled, so if you’re planning a road trip, the clamp it would have put on your budget has lessened its grip a little. With that in mind, at an average mpg of 20 (based on pickup truck statistics from reddit.com) and plenty of top-choice road trips to take in Texas Hill Country, it’s time to take a look at just how far your gas dollar will get you. Doing the math, $10 divided by 1 gallon @ $1.59 equals just over 6 gallons. If your average mpg is 20, you can therefore drive a distance of 120 miles. That being said, here are a few fine choices to splurge on for a Texas Hill Country $10 road trip for the record books.

A Beautiful Entrance to Hill Country

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Photo: www.nsf-margins.org

Begin your approach to the Hill Country at San Marcos, via Ranch Rd. 12, where the Balcones Fault provides a stark contrast to rolling hills with its limestone escarpment. From there, veer left onto FM 32, and meander up the road as it begins to wind atop the Devil’s Backbone, the ridge that separates the Blanco and Guadalupe River basins. There’s a picnic area (or two) allowing you to take in the views of the Wimberley Valley, officially welcoming you to the Hill Country.

Blanco

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Photo: brushytop.com

From here, you can progress to the town of Blanco via Route 281, whose nature trails lead to and from its namesake river and the town square. There’s also Blanco State Park, which borders the river and has beckoned more than one warm, road-weary traveler to cool off by its dam. The Blanco Bowling Club Café (est. 1948) is a fine place to stop by, known for its Friday night all-you-can-eat catfish and the 9-pin alley in the back (9 pins being an imported German tradition to the Texas Hill Country that persists to this day.) If barbecue is more your speed, take a look at Old 300 BBQ off the main square.

Johnson City

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Photo: geographicallyyourswelcome.blogspot.com

Leaving Blanco and going north on 281, this changes to Route 290, which takes you into Johnson City, the former home town of President Lyndon B. Johnson, and home to Pecan Street Brewing, East Main Grill and Ronnie’s Ice House to name a few, not to mention the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, the Texas Whitehouse and Pedernales Falls State Park.

Willow City Loop

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Photo: kevinjhurtphotography.wordpress.com

If you’re looking for the real-deal Hill Country (sans billboards), from Johnson City head north on Route 281 and take a left onto Farm Rd. 1323. This serpentine course travels across rolling hills and the opulent Pedernales River basin, delightfully not contrived for tourists. For 22 miles, you’ll travel this expanse until you arrive at Willow City – gateway to the prettiest piece of Hill Country yet on your $10 road trip. The Willow City Loop is an 18-mile drive that descends, twists and turns along Coal Creek. From here, the limestone that commenced with the trip at San Marcos gives way to the pink granite boulders of what’s known as the Llano Uplift.

Enchanted Rock

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Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

The Loop ends at Texas Hwy. 16, making way for access to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area – home of a 425 ft. granite batholith, estimated to be over a billion years old. The rock received its name from Native Americans due to the sounds it would make in its cooling stages at night. They believed the noises were caused by spirits that lived inside it. Since its designation as a state natural area, the park visitor count has climbed considerably and on fair-weather days has been known to become quite crowded. Depending on the time of day you arrive, you’ll be able to tell by the parking lot as to whether the conditions are right for your entry. If crowded isn’t your cup of tea, you can carry on north via Texas Hwy. 16 up to Llano.

Llano

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Photo: www.city-data.com

Situated along its namesake river, the city of Llano has a shopping square around its historic courthouse, sits in the county known as the “deer capital of Texas” (be careful considering you wouldn’t want your road trip or a deer’s life cut considerably short) and is also well known for some great barbecue! A visit to any one of Laird’s, Inman’s or Coopers will have you happy, not to mention full, on this trip and there’s always time to come back for more.

The End of the $10 Tour!

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Photo: activerain.com

From Llano, travel back down through Texas Hwy. 71, via Horseshoe Bay, Spicewood and Bee Cave, heading in towards Austin. Along this route you can check out Spicewood Vineyards or Poodie’s Hilltop Roadhouse, Hill Country Golf & Guitar and the Bee Cave Sculpture Park (a small park paying homage to local artists as well as the history of the town.) And with that, ramble back towards Austin because your $10 is almost up. Hope you enjoy the trip!