Rolling hills, wineries, trendy restaurants and stylish homespun shops make for a perfect trip to the Texas Hill Country. While these mainstay activities are the essence of a day spent there, Hill Country state parks also warrant a day-long visit or a weekend stay. With acres of natural areas, canyons, scenic plateaus and creeks, these Texas jewels glisten with beauty and tranquility. Each park with its own unique features and ecosystems offer a plethora of outdoor activities for the entire family to enjoy.
Some of the parks can be reached within 90 minutes or less from the Austin area. Others require a two to three hour drive but are well worth the extra effort. Please note that due to Covid-19 there are guidelines in place while in the parks. Before you venture out, please check the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website for updates, reservation requirements and hours of operation. Whether you want to kayak, canoe, star gaze or take a nature hike with a park guide, a Texas Hill Country state park is sure to deliver. Below are a few of our favorites. Explore the possibilities.
Enchanted Rock, Hill Country State Natural Area, Inks Lake
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area – Up, up, up you go. Climbing this geological pink granite wonder within 17 miles from Fredericksburg is a popular destination for avid hikers and first-timers. Once you scale to the top of Enchanted Rock your reward is a magical, unobstructed view of the Hill Country. Overlooking the rest of the park’s unique features is a big mistake. Eleven miles of hiking trails, picnic areas and one-of-a-kind rock formations make this park a must see.
Hill Country State Natural Area – Tranquil, peaceful, and oh so beautiful Hill Country State Natural Area is northwest of San Antonio in Bandera County. And a three-hour drive from the Austin area. The park covers over 5,000 acres of plateaus, rocky canyons, tranquil creeks and amazing sunsets. Backpacking, nature walking, and multi-use trails are available for hiking, mountain biking and horseback riding (bring your own horse). Primitive campsites are available for those that like to rough it. Reservations are necessary. Group lodging is also available.
Inks Lake State Park – Whether you choose to explore Inks Lake State Park on land, by water, or both, this park just one hour from Austin is a family favorite. Sparkling blue waters, fantastic sunsets and colorful rock outcrops are just a few of the many sites that draw its many visitors. The park boasts a nine-hole golf course and more than seven miles of trails. During the afternoon relax on the lake canoeing, swimming, fishing, or boating. Then settle in for the evening at one of 200 campsites or rent a cabin. Singing around the campfire, storytelling, and roasting s-mores is encouraged.
The National Cave of Texas and LBJ’s Ranch
Longhorn Cavern State Park – Discover the Texas Hill Country from down under during this park’s guided Cavern Tours. Just 90 minutes from Austin, Longhorn Cavern is also known as the National Cave of Texas. Its magnificent beauty and natural surroundings was created by the dissolving and cutting action of an ancient river. During the tour experience its grandeur and the stories it has to tell. Afterwards, explore the park’s other unique features like the Backbone Ridge Trail System and the 360-dgree view from the historic Civilian Conservation Corps observation tower.
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site – If you’re on your way to the town of Fredericksburg a stop at this unique historic site is a must. On the LBJ Ranch tour you’ll explore the unique world of our country’s 36th President Lyndon B. Johnson. But the site offers so much more including the Sauer-Beckmann Living History Farm, hiking trails and acres of wildflowers for a fun day of exploration and discovery. Sporting activities also abound and include fishing, swimming, playing tennis and baseball.
Bat Viewing and Tons of Water Fun
Old Tunnel State Park – The main attraction at Old Tunnel State Park is the three million Mexican free-tailed bats that make the old railroad tunnel their home. From May through October nightly bat viewing is the most popular activity. Emerging from the tunnel nightly around dusk, viewing is available at the park seven days a week at three designated areas. To learn more about their habitat visit the park Thursday through Sunday for an informative presentation by a park guide. Please note that due to Covid-19 the three viewing areas are limited to 10 guests. A permit is mandatory before you enter the park and can be obtained in advance online.
Pedernales Falls State Park – With only 30 miles of road to cover from the Austin area, Pedernales Falls is still worlds away from the hustle and bustle of the city. The Pedernales River is the focal point here. Fishing, canoeing, tubing and swimming are popular water activities. For those less drawn to the water there are a multitude of other activities to engage in like hiking, biking, camping, picnicking and bird watching. While there view the falls from the scenic overlook via the Twin Falls Nature Trail.
With over 80 Texas parks to explore there’s no reason to wait. To plan your next outdoor adventures visit the Tour Texas website. The site provides access to park information, maps, brochures, lodging tips, event listings and much more. To receive the Texas State Parks: Official Guide click here.
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