At the crossroads of Central Texas, West Texas, and South Texas, the Texas Hill Country has something for everyone. Find swimming holes fed by rivers winding beneath limestone bluffs, woodlands filled with wildlife, and a pink granite mountain located near one of Texas’s favorite shopping town. Step back in time by exploring the Alamo or one of the German settlements from the mid-1800s.
This route starts in San Antonio and loops back around to Austin. Anyone familiar with the sheer size of Texas knows that this is easily a weekend trip (unless you don’t stop to see anything and just speed on through). Traffic can also get crazy down by San Antonio, Fredericksburg, and around Austin, so factor that into your travel time.
Time of Year? I would recommend taking this trip in Spring or Fall, just because it can get hot and very humid come the Summer months. However, any time of year will work as this area doesn’t get that much snow and ice.
Map not working on your phone? Try this one.
Texas Hill Country Itinerary
This itinerary assumes that you are starting in San Antonio or somewhere nearby.
Starting from somewhere like Austin? Reverse the loop. Any other starting point will work too.
If you are traveling from Midland, heading down TX-87 to Fredericksburg will also give you the highlights of the Hill Country. Mix it up. Pick and choose what places you would like to visit and drive on down.
Here are some of the suggested highlights of the Texas Hill Country.
Begin your tour at the Tower of the Americas in downtown San Antonio. It is a 750-foot-tall spire with a gorgeous panoramic view of the area. Take the glass-walled elevator up to where you can not only see San Antonio but the Hill Country to the northwest.
Side trips in San Antonio
510 13th St, Bandera, TX 78003
Outside Bandera, the terrain changes from gently rolling to rugged within what is called the Edwards Plateau. Bandera, once a center for cattle drives, claims to be the Cowboy Capital of the World. Visit the Frontier Times Museum, which has exhibits about the American West and celebrates the cowboy lifestyle. Numerous dude ranches can also be found in the area, so book a visit if you would like to sample authentic campfire cooking.
Utopia is set in the picturesque Sabinal River valley with rugged canyons and river streams. The First United Methodist Church was constructed in 1892. Nearby you can also find Utopia Park or get a bite to eat the Lost Maples Café.
Garner State Park offers 1,774 acres of scenic Hill Country Terrain with 11 miles of trails. The park also offers plenty of camping options, such as those with screened shelters, cabins, or campsites.
Frio River, Garner State Park
One of the Texas Hill Country’s most popular pursuits is taking an oversize inner tube and drifting down the Frio River at Garner State Park. You can also go for a swim in the cold (“Frio”) river to cool down in the hot summer months.
37221 FM 187, Vanderpool, TX 78885
The Lost Maples State Natural Area’s beautiful hills and canyons help define what it means to love the Texas Hill Country. It is often called one of the loveliest places in Texas. The area is uniquely beautiful in the fall with its rich maple trees.
If you are looking to explore more about the cowboy culture and heritage of the West, the Museum of Western Art in Kerrville is an art museum dedicated to highlighting all the different ethnic groups and genders that made up the American West.
Fredericksburg was founded by German immigrants in 1846 and everything from the cuisine in local restaurants to the timber and stone architecture reflects this German Heritage. However, there is one main reason that most Texans I know love to visit here at least once a year: to shop. For such a small town, the place has over 150 shops in its downtown area. It can get crazy during the summer months, despite the hot temperatures, so I recommend maybe waiting until the non-tourist season to visit. Get a room at one of the numerous bed-and-breakfasts and walk to the downtown area (seriously, parking is tricky, but pedestrian traffic is relatively respected).
I’ll start you off at the Fredericksburg General Store on Main St. From there, you can go exploring.
Eighteen miles north of Fredericksburg is a wilderness area with a 425-foot granite monolith that offers climbing, hiking, camping and more activities. The 70-acre park is the second-largest mass of exposed granite in the United States. The view from the trail is beautiful but if you’re doing it in the summer, take lots of water. There is little foliage on the rock so the heat from the sun, and the granite, will quickly get to you if you’re not prepared. (Ask me how I know…)
The focus of the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park is to provide interactive displays and memorabilia from President Johnson’s presidency. You can also have tours of the Texas White House, the ranch, and Johnson’s boyhood home. However, nature enthusiasts exploring the Texas Hill Country can also visit the Sauer-Beckmann Farmstead, a living history farm, and the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd. The wildflowers within the park are also worth a visit, especially in the Spring.
The Pedernales Falls cascade down broad slaps of limestone at this 5,200-acre park. You can also go swimming in the river, hiking or horseback riding, or just stop to view the deer and wild turkeys that roam the hillside. There is also a Hill Country Nature Trail that goes down to the Twin Falls Overlook. It isn’t too long and can be relaxing after a day of traveling. The state is in a drought so don’t expect a substantial flow of water. The last time I went there, the water was really low.
Austin as a state capital is just like Texas; it’s enormous. The city covers over 305 square miles, is the 11th most populous city in the U.S., and even its Capitol dome rises seen feet higher than the U.S. Capitol. It’s home to numerous waterways and an ever-growing downtown skyline. The traffic can be a nightmare, however, so plan for that as you make your way downtown.
The Texas Capitol Building is comprised of the same pink granite from the Texas Hill Country. Visit the balcony on the seventh floor for a view of the rotunda. The garden area is also a great place to relax, see some native plants, and decompress.
After Austin, you can continue your loop back to San Antonio or drive up I-35 to Dallas.
A visit to the Gulf Coast is also highly recommended as well as an excursion to the East Texas Piney Woods.
Looking to book a hotel in the Texas Hill Country? Look at TripAdvisor and compare rates with different hotels and sites.