Guide to the Texas Hill Country
The Texas Hill Country, located in the heart of Texas, is the perfect camping destination with crystal clear streams, and towering oak and cedar trees meeting the majestic hills of central Texas. Add to the beauty a place of spectacular views that seem to go on forever, 14,000 square miles of unparalleled beauty, where visitors are always warmly greeted by friendly Texans who welcome you with “Howdy y’all” and you have found the magic of this region. It’s a slice of heaven offering breathtaking mesas, beautiful wild flowered countryside, and a relaxing atmosphere. The Hill Country is truly the heart of camping in Texas.
This beautiful region hosts more than 5 million visitors a year. It’s easy to see why campers love the Hill Country. In the spring, roadsides and open fields are dotted with colorful wildflowers, from the Indian paintbrush to the state flower, the bluebonnet. Autumn brings vibrant reds, oranges, and yellows as leaves announce the start of a new season. Summer is a time for river tubing, boating on one of the many lakes or just enjoying an outdoor barbecue. Winter is mild with a touch of cool air, ideal for viewing the thousands of Christmas lights that residents display.
The Hill Country in Texas boasts a wine trial of 22 wineries. These wineries have made Texas one of the top wine producers in the country. Visitors also enjoy abundant wildlife such as white-tailed deer, mockingbirds, and armadillos that make their homes among the hills.
The Texas Hill Country has something for every camper to enjoy. Whether you like to get out and explore the great outdoors, canoe, boat, and experience pristine wilderness untouched by urban sprawl or prefer to spend your time shopping among the region’s many antique shops, the Hill Country is rich with many activities for everyone to enjoy.
The Hill Country of Texas is characterized by rivers, parks, hiking and biking trails, and, of course, rolling hills. Located in the heart of the state, this area reveals not just outdoor activities such as the Scott Schreiner Golf Course in Kerrville but also wineries, shopping, and a wide selection of restaurants. Visitors to Hill Country can immerse themselves in rich history through various heritage sites and cultural venues, including theatres that offer live performances and other entertainment.
Touring the Texas Hill Country
Cultural events from Oktoberfest Fredericksburg, to the Kerrville Folk Festival, range in genres, providing enough variety for everyone to enjoy. Fort Concho National Historic Landmark in San Angelo and Fort Lancaster State Historic Site in Ozona are just two of over a dozen sites that designate and honor the area’s early western history. The pace of life in Hills Country is known to be laid back and easy-going, perfect for a family vacation or a romantic getaway.
A rising and falling dreamscape of lakes and rivers, springs and caverns, the Hill Country is one of Texas’s prettiest regions, especially in early spring when wildflowers daub it with every pigment in nature’s palette. Dotted with old dance halls, country stores, and quaint Teutonic towns–more than 30,000 Germans emigrated to Texas during the great land-grant years of the Republic–and birthplace to one of the U.S.’s more colorful recent presidents, the region also lays out an appealing tableau of the state’s history.
San Antonio lies at the southern edge of the Hill Country, while Austin is the northeastern gateway to the region. The following tour traces a roughly circular route from San Antonio, but it’s only 80 miles between the two cities; distances in this area are sufficiently short that you can design excursions based on your point of origin and your particular interests. The highlights are covered here, but those with extra time will find far more to explore. To find out what’s blooming in the area, and exactly where, phone the Texas Travel Information Center (tel. 800/452-9292) in March, April, or May.
Note: Driving in the Hill Country can be a delight, but the speed limit on a number of roads without many passing lanes is 70 m.p.h. If you want to meander and enjoy the scenery, be prepared to pull over and let other cars pass, or you’ll have a retinue of annoyed locals on your tail.
The Balcones Canyonlands area has the most rugged topography in the Edwards Plateau, with its steep grades and exposed geological strata. Springs abound amid the scarp woodlands of oaks and mesquite. Many plants are endemic to the area.
The most popular recreation activities in this region include hiking, camping, fishing, boating, sailing, water skiing, picnicking, and biking. Other activities include sightseeing, viewing nature, viewing wildlife, birdwatching and viewing historic sites.
The Hill Country climate is generally hot and humid in the summer and mild in the winter. Snowfall is unusual in the winter months. Average annual rainfall increases from west to east, ranging from 15 to 33 inches. Seasonal rainfall patterns peak in May/June and in September.
The Hill Country region is located in central Texas. It includes the areas around Austin and Fredericksburg. Interstates 35 and 10 lead through the area.
Top Destinations in the Texas Hill Country
North of Castroville and west of Boerne, Bandera is a slice of life out of the Old West. Practically everything and everybody here seems to have come straight off a John Ford film set. Not only are many of its historic buildings intact–including St. Stanislaus (1855), the second-oldest Polish church in the country–but people are as genuinely friendly as any you might imagine from America’s small-town past.
You can explore Bandera’s distant past by picking up a self-guided tour brochure of historic sites at the Bandera County Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1808 Hwy. 16 South, Bandera, TX 78003. But most people take advantage of the town’s living traditions by strolling along Main Street, where a variety of crafters work in the careful, hand-hewn style of yesteryear. Be sure to stop in at the Bandera Forge, a working blacksmith shop (you can design your own branding iron)
Deep in Texas Hill County, surrounded by foothills, lakes and immense geological formations is the city of Burnet. It is located 48 mi (77.2 km) north of Austin, Texas, and is one mile (1.6 km) west of the division between the Brazos and Colorado river watersheds. The town, once called Hamilton, was designated at the seat of Texas Hill Country during its conception in 1851. It became Burnet in 1858.
Today, Burnet’s many attractions draw people into this laid-back bluebonnet country town. The Longhorn Cavern State Park, the Highland Lakes Air Museum, and the Delaware Springs Golf Course are among some of the more popular attractions offered by Burnet. Inks Lake and Lake Buchanan provide residents and visitors to the area with countless opportunities for outdoor adventure. The Canyon on the Eagles offers guests the opportunity to see the endangered American bald eagles while looking out from the Eagle Eye Observatory.
Even though Castroville is even closer to San Antonio than Boerne–20 miles via U.S. 90 West–it has maintained more of a pristine, rural atmosphere. Residents who are not descended from one of the founding families have reported feeling a bit like outsiders, even after they’ve lived here for more than 20 years. Castroville was founded on a scenic bend of the Medina River in 1844. Two years earlier, Henri Castro, a Portuguese-born Jewish Frenchman, had received a 1.25-million-acre grant from the Republic of Texas in exchange for a commitment to colonize the land.
Second only to Stephen F. Austin in the number of settlers he brought over, Castro recruited most of his 2,134 émigrés from the Rhine Valley, and especially from the French province of Alsace. You can still hear Alsatian, an unwritten dialect of German, spoken by some of the older members of the town, but the language is likely to die out in the area when they do.
Situated in central Texas, Fredericksburg is 70 mi (113 km) north of San Antonio and about 78 mi (126 km) west of Austin. This city has a rich German history which can still be seen during the tour of its historic downtown area. Join the fun and activities at the Oktoberfest held during the first weekend of October each year. The festival features German food, drinks, music, art, crafts, and children’s activities.
Visit the National Museum of the Pacific War to experience the war from the point of view of the soldiers and enjoy the collection of artifacts, including a restored WWII submarine and the casts for the third atomic bomb. Visitors can also re-live Texas-style farm life in the early 1900s at the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, as this working farm retains all aspects of this period to provide a realistic interpretation for visitors.
Earning the reputation as a culturally diverse yet traditional town, Kerrville attracts thousands of visitors annually who flock to enjoy Texas blue lakes, green parks, and ongoing entertainment. Although the Museum of Western Art is one of the most popular museums that attract tourists every year, it is the Kerrville Folk Festival held during the Memorial Day weekend that defines the personality of the town. Other annual events hosted by Kerrville are the Wine and Music Festival and the Texas Arts and Crafts Fair.
Shopping and dining in Kerrville are as entertaining as attending a fair or festival. Located in Downtown Kerrville, the city’s historic buildings and monuments give visitors a chance to witness the richness of Kerrville’s past. The Guadalupe River passes through parks like the Kerrville-Schreiner and Louise Hays, providing ideal picnic areas and outdoor opportunities such as swimming, boating, and fishing.
Home to Angelo State University in Texas, San Angelo is a city that grew around the site of Fort Concho in 1867, at the end of the American Civil War. Currently, the Fort Concho National Historic Landmark is a primary tourist attraction. Visitors who enjoy shopping will not be disappointed when visiting Sunset Mall, a shopping center that is filled with brand-name stores including Gap and Victoria’s Secret. There is also an abundance of antique shops located along Concho Avenue that offer shoppers an alternative to contemporary items.
San Angelo is also famous for its steakhouses and the wide selection of entertainment, such as jazz clubs, sports bars, live entertainment, and pubs. The San Angelo Museum of Fine Arts and the Angelo State University Planetarium also encourage visitors to explore the cultural attractions offered by the city. San Angelo’s outdoor activities vary from hunting in Arden Ranch or hiking, swimming, fishing and horseback riding in San Angelo Park.
Complete List of Cities & Towns in the Texas Hill Country
- Buchanan Dam
- Camp Wood
- Granite Shoals
- Horseshoe Bay
- Johnson City
- Marble Falls
- Round Mountain
- San Angelo
- San Saba
- Sterling City
State Parks & Natural Areas
Texas Hill Country state parks and natural areas have a wide variety of geographical features, ecosystems, and wildlife. Many of the parks have camping, RV parks, picnic areas, and a wide spectrum of outdoor recreational opportunities including fishing, boating, hiking, mountain biking, swimming, tubing, kayaking, guided nature, and caving tours, bird watching and star gazing.
Scenic Drives, Routes & Tours
The Texas Hill Country scenic drives through gently rolling hills, limestone cliffs, bluffs, serene lakes, and terrain cut by spring-fed rivers is a drive and a diverse culture of Mexican, Native American, Spanish, Italian and German influences. Drive your car, motorcycle or RV and enjoy the Hill Country views from north of Austin, continuing south to San Antonio, and highways sweeping and climbing west some 200 miles by following routes that lead to a series of colorful towns to visit, dine, shop, relax, and entertain.
Camping, RV Parks & Campgrounds
Texas Hill Country Camping is the perfect camping destination with crystal cool clear streams, beautiful lakes, towering oaks, and cedar trees meeting the majestic hills of central Texas. This beautiful region is host to millions of visitors every year. Campers will enjoy the abundant wildlife and sleeping under the stars on a warm clear night in the Hill Country in any of the state parks, campgrounds, or natural areas, There is something for every camper to enjoy.
Attractions & Things To Do
Texas Hill Country attractions, things to do and sightseeing, from hiking to shopping, river tubing to dining, there is a little something of everything available in the Hill Country. Take a drive through the rolling hills, visit the clear flowing rivers, quaint towns, and more, The Texas Hill Country offers visitors plenty of things to do on their vacation.
Breweries, Beer Gardens, Pubs & Ice Houses
Stop by any of the Texas Hill Country breweries, beer gardens (biergarten), pubs or ice houses after a day of fun in the country or on the river and enjoy the many ales that will satisfy your thirsty buds and make you beckon for more while hanging out with friends or family listening to some local music.
Music, Events & Festivals
Texas Hill Country Music is the mainstream in the Live Music Capital of the World – Austin, with more live music venues than anywhere else in the nation. From blues to rock, country to jazz, and more, the Hill Country’s live music means you can catch a show any day of the week, at almost any time in any town or city.
Dining, Cafes, Restaurants & Coffee Shops
Texas Hill Country dining has a variety of great restaurants cafes and grills to satisfy every taste bud – from tasty barbeque to German schnitzel from San Antonio to Austin and New Braunfels to Fredericksburg. If you are hungry for some fine Texas barbeque try the Salt Lick in Driftwood, Cooper’s in Llano or Bill’s Barbecue in Kerrville.
- Guide to the Texas Hill Country
- Touring the Texas Hill Country
- Top Destinations in the Texas Hill Country
- Complete List of Cities & Towns in the Texas Hill Country
- State Parks & Natural Areas
- Scenic Drives, Routes & Tours
- Camping, RV Parks & Campgrounds
- Attractions & Things To Do
- Breweries, Beer Gardens, Pubs & Ice Houses
- Music, Events & Festivals
- Dining, Cafes, Restaurants & Coffee Shops