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10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

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10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

The Texas Hill Country is the heart of the Lone Star State. From small towns and two-lane roads to bustling cities and tourist attractions, it has a little bit of everything. Travelers will find some unexpected gems and encounter the area’s unique heritage when they venture out of the big cities. Nature lovers can explore the spring-fed rivers, old cypress trees, limestone cliffs and lakes surrounded by wooded canyons. History buffs and antique lovers will love the old German towns and pioneer farms.

Anytime is a great time to visit the Hill Country. In the spring, you can see vast fields of wild bluebonnets blooming along the highways. The summer means jumping in swimming holes and paddling the winding rivers. In the fall, you can take a walk in Lost Maples State Natural Area and see the foliage.

Here’s a list of things you must do next time you’re in the Hill Country.

1. Take a Drive

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: Flickr/David

The Hill Country offers an array of scenic drives dotted with small towns. Depending on what you want to see and do, you can take a number of rural roads like Farm Road 1323, which heads west toward Johnson City. You’ll see expansive vistas, fields of wildflowers, and rolling hills. For a more dramatic view, take Farm Road 337 west of San Antonio. It will take you past larger hills and steep rock ledges.

If you need a break, you can always stop at one of the quaint, rustic towns for a bite to eat or a cold drink.

2. Go for a Hike

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

Nature lovers will find an almost unlimited network of beautiful trails throughout the Hill Country. The numerous state parks in the area have trails ranging from easy paved roads to rocky trails over rough terrain. All of the trails offer scenic hikes with everything from lake views to breathtaking hillside vistas. You might even catch a glimpse of some native wildlife.

If you’re spending the day in Austin or San Antonio, both cities offer plenty of wooded and urban hiking opportunities.

3. Pitch a Tent

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

After a long hike or day on the lake, you can spend the night under the stars. The state and county parks throughout the Hill Country offer everything from primitive sites to cabins loaded with amenities. Large groups can pitch their tents at sites with running water, a fire ring, and picnic tables. You can also backpack to a primitive site, like the ones near Enchanted Rock in Fredericksburg. If you listen closely, you can hear the rock’s mysterious sounds at night.

Don’t forget to check for reservations during the parks’ peak season.

4. Explore a Cave

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

Did you know the Hill Country is home to a number of ancient caverns? They were slowly created over thousands of years by the water dissolving and cutting through the natural limestone bedrock. You can take guided tours or explore these natural wonders on your own.

Natural Bridge Caverns offers spelunking tours and mining for gems, minerals and fossils. If you’re interested in the paranormal, take an evening cave tour at Longhorn Cavern and you might just experience some unexplainable events.

5. Have a Glass of Wine

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: driftwoodwine.com

The Texas Hill Country boasts over 46 wineries with stunning views and unique tasting rooms. Each winery has its own winemaking style and personality. You can take a guided tour through the Texas Wine Trail or find a winery you like and spend the afternoon sipping wine and relaxing.

If wine isn’t your thing, check out one of the local breweries, like Jester King in Austin. You can also stop by the Deep Eddy Vodka tasting room in Dripping Springs to sample their award-winning vodka.

6. Eat Plenty of BBQ

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: franklinbarbecue.com

Barbecue is like a religion in Texas. From ribs to sausage to brisket, the Hill Country is home to some of the best in the state. The passion – and maybe even obsession – of pit masters young and old comes through in every bite. Start your carnivorous journey at an established joint like Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que in Llano or Louie Mueller Barbecue in Taylor. Be sure to save some room for some of the stellar new Austin BBQ trailers like LA Barbecue and John Mueller meat Co.

Of course, you can’t leave Austin without trying the sublime brisket at Franklin BBQ. Publications like Bon Apetit and Texas Monthly have called it the best barbecue in Texas, if not the U.S.

7. Jump in the Water

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: en.wikipedia.org

The Hill Country offers many choices for water-related activities. You can take a dip in one of the area’s beautiful swimming holes, such as the Blue Hole in Wimberley, Hamilton Pool just outside of Bee Cave, or Krause Springs in Spicewood.

The Hill Country Paddle Trail has numerous lakes and waterways perfect for canoeing, kayaking, or paddle boarding. Numerous outfitters along these waterways provide rentals, guides and lessons. Be sure to check for availability during peak season.

8. Dance All Night

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: gruenehall.com

Central Texas has a rich live music heritage. You may have heard of the Live Music Capital of the World and the many music legends who have played and lived in Austin. The Broken Spoke in South Austin is one of the oldest dance halls in Texas. Rumor has it Willie Nelson still stops in on occasion for their famous chicken fried steak.

Take a trip just outside of the city, and you will find some other legendary venues. Gruene Hall has seen everyone from a very young George Strait to Steve Earle, and more recently, Loretta Lynn. The small town of Luckenbach is pretty much dedicated to music. It rose to fame after Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings wrote a hit song about it in 1977.

9. Catch Some Fish

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

The Hill Country might be an angler’s paradise. The Highland Lake system is comprised of seven man-made lakes formed by dams along the Colorado River. All of the lakes are good for fishing and they are surrounded by or adjacent to state or county parks. You can try your luck on your own or hire a lake or river guide to show you the good fishing spots.

If you’re feeling adventurous, take a kayak down one of the many streams feeding into the Colorado River. You might just hook a trophy bass!

10. Take in the Scenery

10 Tips for Traveling in the Texas Hill Country

Photo: tpwd.texas.gov

From waterfalls to giant pink granite rocks, the Hill Country is never short of breathtaking views. The spectacular wildflowers, including bluebonnets and other varieties of native flowers, begin blooming in spring. You’ll see them along the highways and on the rolling hills throughout the country. Summer might be the end of wildflower season, but it’s when the lavender begins to bloom. Drive out to Blanco and you’ll find nearly a dozen lavender farms nearby. The tiny town even hosts an annual lavender festival celebrating the aromatic blooms.

The Texas Hill Country is home to a diverse population of native wildlife. You can experience some the best birding in Texas at some of the state parks. Grab your binoculars and a birding guide, and take a walk. You might see painted buntings, hawks, and maybe even the endangered golden-cheeked warbler.