The Texas Hill Country begins a little way west of I-35 between San Antonio and Austin, and from there extends a large area of rolling hills and valleys with limestone canyons, clear-water rivers, and a few scattered small towns.
The Texas Hill Country is arguably the most beautiful region of Texas. Its green hills and rolling rivers are a stark contrast to most of the state’s flat and arid landscapes. Prepare to be amazed.
The Hill Country is filled with jaw-dropping natural wonders, but you have to know where to look. Here are four hidden gems in the region you should visit.
Gruene (locals call it “Green”) is a delightfully dilapidated 1870s German farming community that once boasted the area’s largest cotton gin. Today the town is a National Historic District.
The Gruene cotton gin processed crops raised by area farmers until the wooden structure burned to the ground in 1922. All that remains of the water-powered mill today is the three story brick boiler room—now the Gristmill River Restaurant & Bar.
The town’s most famous attraction is Gruene Hall. Built in 1878, Gruene Hall is Texas’ oldest continually operating and most famous dance hall. The 6,000 square foot dance hall with a high pitched tin roof still has the original layout with side flaps for open air dancing, a bar in the front, a small lighted stage in the back, and a huge outdoor garden.
Guadalupe River State Park has four miles of river frontage and is located in the middle of a nine-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River. Flanked by two steep pastel limestone bluffs and towering bald cypress trees, the setting couldn’t be more inviting for swimming, tubing, rafting, wading, or just relaxing. The four sets of gentle rapids are especially popular with tubers.
There’s so much more to Guadalupe River State Park than just a good swimming hole. The state park abounds with hiking trails that traverse the park’s upland forests, grassland savannahs, and riparian zones. Hikers, mountain bikers, and equestrian riders have access to more than five miles of multiuse trails that crisscross the uplands in a looping, figure-8 pattern.
For RVers wishing to stay overnight or longer, the park provides great camping facilities.
Enchanted Rock, an enormous, pink granite dome rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It’s some of the oldest exposed rock in the world and is a prime destination for hikers, photographers, and rock climbers.
Boasting the best view in Texas, Enchanted Rock has long been a useful landmark for cross-country travelers. The rock is one of the largest batholiths (underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) formed from molten magma deep below the earth’s crust and part of an underground mass of 62 square miles, one of the largest such features in the US.
Enchanted Rock is part of the state park system, one of the most popular sites in Texas for several reasons—the scenery is unusual, the summit is easily reached and has fine views over the countryside, different habitats harbor varied wildflowers, cacti and other plants, and there are good hiking trails and rock climbing routes.
Through the ages, Mother Nature worked alone splashing the Hill Country with brilliant wildflower colors. Today, Wildseed Farms lends a hand.
Wildseed Farms is the largest working wildflower farm in the U.S. At its Wildflower Market Center, seven miles east of Fredericksburg on Highway 290, fields of wildflowers bloom from March through October, boosting retail sales. More than 350,000 people a year stop by the Center. Visitors can explore walking trails, watch the farm staff work, and take photos. They can buy wildflower seeds and pick up one of the farm’s award-winning and extremely informative catalogs. And, for shopping and sipping, there’s a gift shop and the Brewbonnet Biergarten.
Texas Spoken Friendly
I am humbled by the forces of nature that continuously -mold our great state of Texas into a beautiful landscape complete with geological diversity, flora and fauna. It is my goal as a photographer to capture that natural beauty and share it with others.
—Chase A. Fountain