The Texas Hill Country is arguably the most beautiful region of Texas. Its green hills and rolling rivers are a stark contrast to most of the state’s flat and arid landscapes. The Hill Country is filled with jaw-dropping natural wonders, but you have to know where to look. Here are 11 hidden gems in the region you should visit.
Willow City Loop
The Willow City Loop is off the beaten path between Fredericksburg, Johnson City and Llano. It is a gorgeous 20-mile stretch of road that winds through green hills of the Gillespie County. This route is perfect for motorcyclists and scenic drivers, as it offers a fun, winding drive and beautiful scenery. If you’re riding in the springtime, you’ll see an awe-inspiring display of bluebonnets. To find the Willow City Loop, take Highway 16 to Farm Road 1323 (another gorgeous road) and head to Willow City. The road starts there.
Fredericksburg Herb Farm
If you’re looking for a one-of-a-kind lodging experience in the Hill Country, stay at the Fredericksburg Herb Farm. The farm doubles as a lodge, with cottages that are styled after the “Sunday Houses” built by the region’s early German settlers. Best of all, you’ll greet each day to the scent of fresh thyme, rosemary and other herbs. The farm also offers a spa for guests, and it’s just a few blocks from the shops and restaurants of Fredericksburg’s main drag, including the National Museum of the Pacific War.
Garner State Park
Garner State Park is one of the best places to camp in Texas. The scenic park is nestled in Uvalde County located in the southern corner of the Hill Country. Texans love the park for its easy access to the Frio River and gorgeous scenery.
Lined by towering bald cypress trees, the winding Medina River is one of Texas’ most beautiful rivers. When the Medina is flowing, it is one of the most pleasant waterways in Texas. It also doesn’t attract the crowds that flock to San Marcos and New Braunfels for the Guadalupe and Comal Rivers. Head to the small town of Bandera for the best access to scenic stretches of the river. Remember to check the water reports before you visit. If water flow looks good, bring or rent a kayak and spend an afternoon blissfully floating through God’s country.
Jacob’s Well is a 30-foot-deep artesian spring just north of Wimberley. This spot is considered one of the best places to swim in the Texas Hill Country. Jacob’s Well was a popular spot for divers. The spring’s chambers hold natural wonders like bioluminescent algae and unique limestone patterns, but also contain false exits and fine silt that can cloud divers vision at an instant. However, diving is no longer permitted as a number of divers have lost their lives trying to explore the cave. Nevertheless, Jacob’s well is a unique and fun place to cool down.
Lost Maples State Park
If you think Texas doesn’t have gorgeous foliage during the fall, check out Lost Maples State Park. During peak foliage season, the park’s Uvalde bigtooth maples burst with colors, drawing spectators from around the state. Bring your binoculars to catch a glimpse of the park’s rare birds, like the green kingfisher. Lost Maples State Park is north of the town of Vanderpool, roughly an hour’s drive southwest of Kerrville.
If you’re not from Texas, you might have heard of Luckenbach from Waylon Jennings’ classic song of the same name. This famous tiny town only has two buildings: a dancehall and a post office. The latter has a bar in the rear and a stage out back for live music where locals trade songs in the afternoons and evenings under live oak cover. The dancehall next door hosts top Texas country artists on a weekly basis. Head to Luckenbach to get an authentic taste of Hill Country culture. To get to there, drive southwest from the Texas wine capital of Fredericksburg on Hwy. 290 and take a right on FM 1326.
Gorman Falls is the hidden gem within Colorado Bend State Park. The 60-foot-tall waterfalls spill over limestone rock, creating a misty and lush green canyon that is a stark contrast to the dry landscape around it. Avoid visiting Gorman Falls during the dry season, as you will likely be disappointed. But if you visit when the falls are flowing, you may just forget you’re in Texas.
Krause Springs is one of the best places to go camping and swimming in Central Texas. Located roughly 30 miles west of Austin, Krause Springs has campgrounds and a system of idyllic swimming holes. The place can get busy, but there’s usually plenty of room to spread out and explore. It’s not much of a secret to locals, but if you’re from out of state or don’t live in Central Texas, Krause Springs is definitely worth a visit.
Enchanted Rock is a monolithic dome of pink rock that rises up from its sparse surroundings in the Hill Country. The massive pink granite rock has drawn people to it for thousands of years. While it’s not much of a mystery to Central Texans, Enchanted Rock is off the radar of most tourists who visit Austin and San Antonio. It’s also an excellent place to try rock climbing. Local outfitter Texas Climbing Adventures is one of the top guide services in the region and offers access to the park’s best climbing spots.
Hamilton Pool is gorgeous oasis hidden in the cattle grazing land of Dripping Springs west of Austin. To get there, you’ll walk a short trail through a lush, stream-fed canyon that opens up to the gorgeous grotto pictured above. Hamilton pool is one of the best swimming holes in the whole state, and as such, it’s usually very crowded. In fact, you need a reservation to get in. Your best bet is to reserve a spot early on a weekday to avoid the crowds.