Of all the glorious natural splendor that the Lone Star State has to offer, the Texas Hill Country is among the most beautiful. Rushing rivers and quiet streams alike meander through the rolling hills to create some amazing natural wonders. If you haven’t yet, check out these 15 things to do in the Texas hill country while you’re still on this side of heaven.
15. Swing into Blue Hole
Just a short drive from Austin is Wimberley, Texas. Here you can find the idyllic old swimming hole of yore, complete with rope swings. Well… okay, they’re chain swings, but still.
14. Swim at Hamilton Pool
Out Highway 71 down a beautiful stretch of road, you will find the Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. The pool is the remnant of an underground river, covered by a grotto that was created when the rock dome covering the river collapsed. A 50-foot waterfall feeds the pool surrounded by bald cypress trees that create a perfect shady spot to find relief from the Texas sun.
13. Visit Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center
Originally founded by Lady Bird Johnson, wife of President Lyndon B. Johnson, the nature preserve that bears the former first lady’s name was originally created in the early 80’s as an attempt to save America’s native plants. Since 2006, it has been used as a research facility by the University of Texas. The best time to visit is mid-March to late April when the wildflowers are in bloom.
12. Try not to freeze at Barton Springs Pool
Fed by underground springs that are part of Edward’s Aquifer, the Barton Springs Pool maintains a year-round temperature of 68 degrees. For this reason, it’s a popular spot during the hot summer months when average temperatures skyrocket up into the triple digits. There is a small group of so-called polar bear swimmers who enjoy daring one another to jump into the pool in the cold winter months. The justification for this seeming insanity is that the 68-degree water will feel warm compared to the 30-degree air.
11. Climb Mount Bonnell
Located along Lake Austin, Mount Bonnell is more a precipice than a “mount”. You can leave your rock-climbing gear at home, because a steep staircase leads up to the summit which affords a breathtaking view of Texas’s capital city. The vista makes Mount Bonnell a prominent hotspot for engagements.
10. Climb Enchanted Rock
Enchanted Rock is a monolithic pink dome in the heart of the Hill Country. Humans have been climbing and camping at the rock for thousands of years. It’s no wonder why. The natural feature is in stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. At the top, you’ll get the best panorama of the Texas Hill Country.
9. Float the Guadalupe
Tubing the river is a fun and relaxing way to beat the summer heat in the Texas hill country. A short drive down I-35 from Austin brings you to New Braunfels where many different businesses will rent you the inner tube of a mack-truck tire and drop you off at different locations along the river depending on how long you want to float. A float on the Guadalupe can take anywhere from 30 minutes to over four hours.
8. Dance at Gruene Hall
The “oldest dance hall in Texas”, Gruene Hall (pronounced “green hall”) was built in 1878 and continues to be a gathering place for Texans to this day. The dance hall is surrounded by shops and restaurants and located along the Guadalupe River, so it’s the perfect spot to end a day of tubing.
7. Visit Wildseed Farms
Heading into Fredericksburg, one of the first places that may catch your eye is Wildseed Farms. A combination nursery and biergarten, Wildseed Farms grows acres of native Texas wildflowers and sells the seeds at a reasonable price. Wildseed Farms is a must-see for anyone traveling through the Texas hill country.
6. Check Out Inner Space Cavern
It’s a good thing the Texas Department of Transportation sent geologists to survey the land they were planning to build a freeway on in 1963. The cavern was discovered when the drill bit the workers were using to create core samples fell through the roof of what is know known as the “discovery room”. The cavern has yielded the fossils of 44 different species of prehistoric animals and is a celebrated tourist destination in the Lone Star State.
5. Hike to Sculpture Falls
Austin’s expansive Greenbelt located near the heart of the city holds a great many natural wonders. None perhaps so frequently visited as Sculpture Falls. On any given sunny day, you’ll see dozens of cars parked alongside the Mopac Expressway, where a short hike up a heavily shaded trail is rewarded by a dip in the generally relatively shallow waters of Sculpture Falls. Avoid visiting during the dry season.
4. Let’s go to Luckenbach, Texas…
Luckenbach is the best little town in Texas. The famous city limit sign reads “Population 3”, but the historic village still hosts a post office, blacksmith shop, cotton gin and dance hall. Though Waylon has long since passed into the great honky tonk in the sky, who knows? You may yet run into Willie and the boys.
3. Drive Devil’s Backbone
Located off Highway 281 near Wimberley and Blanco, the Devil’s Backbone is a winding stretch of scenic roadways built into the eroding limestone of the Edwards Plateau. The roadway, ideal for a car commercial, offers exciting twists and turns and an incredible view of the Texas hill country. Click here for exact directions to the Devil’s Backbone.
2. Take a Hill Country Wine Tour
Move over, Napa. Just kidding, stay right where you are, or you’ll fall into the Pacific. But if you’re looking for a fun wine tasting weekend, you don’t have to travel all the way to California, Texas has you covered. The hill country is prime territory for many independent wineries that will have you stomping your own grapes in no time.
1. Eat Barbecue in Lockhart
Texas barbecue is legendary but perhaps more so in Lockhart than other areas. The small town located out Highway 183 is known as “the barbecue capital of Texas” and is home to not one but several world-famous barbecue joints. Head out there hungry and try out Black’s, Smitty’s, Kreuz Market, and others for delicious smoked and grilled repast that you won’t soon forget.