The Lone Star State is known for several things; big belt buckles, cowboy hats, broncing bucks and big honkin’ steaks. And, the places notoriously visited are Houston, Dallas, Amarillo and San Antonio. But what if I told you about a cool region in Texas that’s eclectic yet country called Texas Hill Country!
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Texas Hill Country spans across 25 counties; lying between Austin and San Antonio. Its’ granite and limestone topography stretches from the northern small hills, spans west to Edwards Plateau ending in the south Balcones Escarpment. And included in this region is the beautiful granite Enchanted Rock; the second largest granite dome in America.
And, guess what? We have been to many of the interesting and oftentimes eclectic towns that pepper the landscape. We want to share them with you!
Fredericksburg is one of our favorites of Texas Hill Country because of its rich heritage and 160 plus years of German culture. And, eclectic as it is, we felt we should share our experiences in our First Timer’s Guide to Fredericksburg While this small Texas Hill Country city boasts its Wilkommen atmosphere of wineries and shopping, it also lends a bit of teaching through its museums. Plan to spend not one, not two but at least three or more days in Fredericksburg. You won’t be sorry!
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
There’s something truly enchanting about this incredible geological mystery. When we visited in 2016, decked out in hiking shoes with trekking poles, we set out to Llano Uplift; 17 miles north of Fredericksburg.
We managed a magnificent moderate incline hike through the Bluebonnets and cactus-lined paths up the big pink granite mound. Once we got to the summit, we were treated to an incredible view of beautiful Hill Country! And going down was just as exhilarating making our way down to the slanted views at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. We got to see the hoodoos up close and actually touch them.
If you’re thinking of trekking out that way, know that it’s not a difficult hike. However, we do recommend wearing good-treaded shoes as the rock surface may be a little slick depending on humidity or precipitation.
Check out what we wrote about Enchanted Rock State Park!
Seemingly, Gruene, Texas is known for its wood floor, boot scootin’ Gruene Dance Hall. But this ain’t no cowboy hick town. When you enter this Texas Hill Country community, just drive towards the notorious water tower like we did which is situated in the center of town.
It’s the perfect place to take a Sunday drive to dine to Gruene’s historic district. One of our favorite things to do is enjoy lunch at the Gristmill River Restaurant along the Guadalupe River, shop at their many boutiques and step back in time at the Gruene General Store. Then, close the day with a glass of wine at The Grapevine. But don’t let your adventure stop there. You can find several other cool places in town to unwind.
Oh, and did you know the town of Gruene is listed in the National Register of Historic Places? Dating back to the 1800’s, it’s full of culture and German heritage.
About 75 miles from San Antonio sits the quiet little town of Ingram, Texas. Located between Hunt and Kerrville, it is a hot summer’s dream for swimmers looking for a cool dip in the Guadalupe River at the Ingram Dam. The algae that beds on the dam creates a fun natural waterslide for the locals.
But, what if I told you there’s a cool little replica of Stonehenge and Easter Island? Long story short, Stonehenge II was actually started as a fun art project. Back in the late 1890’s, two men, one with money and the other with creativity, went to work to create this now, Roadside America art. out of plaster, metal mesh and steel frames. Stonehenge II stands six tenths the height of the original Stonehenge and we can walk about the 13 foot Easter Island II heads.
But the road in Ingram also leads visitors to several antique shops, tiny boutiques, art galleries and small studios along with local restaurants.
Titled the “Cowboy Capital of the World”, ya’ll need to visit Bandera, Texas! Nowhere in Texas where you’ll find a mass blend of Western, Polish, Mexican and Indian cultures all in one town. In the 1800’s, Bandera was the staging area of great cattle drives. On the courthouse lawn in town stands a bronze monument that honors many local National Rodeo Champs which proved their title.
Bandera is where you do, eat and wear everything the cowboy way! You’ll find everything from turquoise baubles and beads to boots and belt buckles. And, to finish off your shopping, treat yourself to bbq and cold brews! Bandera, located along the Medina River, is proud of it’s western gunfight reenactments, guest and dude ranches, and local rodeos! Bandera also has some fun honky tonk bars. And their restaurants and shops will keep you busy in between. Two of our favorites are Sid’s Main Street BBQ and Busbee’s Bar-B-Que.
Bandera also has an amazing antique coop, general store, western apparel and even a cowboy store where you can fix yourself up with boots, buckles and shirts with pearl buttons. To take in a little culture and history, don’t forget to visit the Frontier Times Museum in the heart of Bandera.
Halfway between Bandera and Kerrville in Hill Country Texas holds fast a town with an incredible historic story, Camp Verde. In the 1850’s, Camp Verde was formerly a military camp…for camels! Later, in 1861, Confederate Soldiers captured the camp and put the camels and camel trainers to work hauling necessary supplies to Mexico. Later, funds ran out and the camels were either sold to circus’ and zoos.
But, today, the Camp Verde Post Office and General Store still remain and are open for business. There’s also an adjoining restaurant that you can enjoy lunch after shopping.
I saved this one for last because Willow City is one of our favorites.
The Willow City Loop is one of the most picturesque driving tours; especially in the spring!. We recommend you go precisely when the Texas Bluebonnets are in full bloom. You’ll be treated to beautiful vast views of blue!! There are several places to stop to take photos. But, please be respectful as this is livestock country where cattle may roam freely. The Willow City Loop takes you through abutting private land so please only take only photos and yeah, stay out of the Bluebonnets!
Willow City, itself, is located in Gillespie County; only 12 miles from Fredericksburg and 25 minutes from Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Back in the 1880’s, Willow City was known as a favorite hangout for derelicts and outlaws. Prior, it was a where English-speaking settlers put down their roots.
Today, Willow City has become that of a storybook with babbling brooks along the loop that takes you through cattle ranches. And, when you’re finished taking your weekend ride, treat yourself to a beer and some bbq at Harry’s on the Loop. Oftentimes, they offer live music, outdoor games and great conversations around the picnic tables.
And if you’re up for some more excitement, don’t forget to visit the Knot in the Loop Saloon.
So, who’s ready to enjoy some Hill Country? This region will entice you to come back year after year!
CHECK OUT OUR OTHER BLOGS ABOUT HILL COUNTRY!