LEAKEY, TEXAS: SWISS ALPS OF TEXAS
This little Texas town of about 450 is the county seat of Real County, and its location in the canyon carved by the Frio River gave it its unique nickname of “The Swiss Alps of Texas.” It's surrounded by lofty cliffs and hills enhancing the views of the Texas Hill Country, and it's also known for its natural springs—as a matter of fact, Leakey Springs was the settlement's original name.
Leakey (pronounced LAY-kee) was founded by pioneer John Leakey, who settled here in 1856. The town was first known for its lumber industry, harvesting the plentiful cypress trees that lined the Frio River. Over time, ranching became the main livelihood here, which is common to many towns and villages in the Hill Country. Due to its location, and the scenery surrounding it, over the years Leakey has also built a reputation for tourism. Interestingly enough, due to county redistricting and the shuffling around and renaming of tiny settlements in the area, Leakey wasn't officially incorporated as a town until 1951.
To give our guests an idea of what there is to do in this historic and scenic little Hill Country gem, Backroads Reservations is proud to present the following rundown of activities and locations visitors can enjoy when they come to visit Leakey.
The Real County Historical Museum tells the story of the people and events of Real County, of which Leakey is the county seat. The museum features everything from artifacts from prehistoric Native Americans to a restored log cabin parlor. The majority of the pieces here were donated by local residents, and it's a perfect place to visit for those into authentic area history. The museum is open weekends between March and December.
The Wildlife Art Museum, just outside Leakey on FM 337, features artwork representative of wildlife that's native to the area. These creatures are depicted in media from sketches and paintings to sculpture and taxidermy. The museum is open Monday through Saturday year round; please call (830) 232-5607 for directions and more information.
Also of historical significance is the Rio Frio Landmark Oak, an enormous live oak tree just south of Leakey on U.S. Route 83, in the tiny settlement of Rio Frio. Since the 1860s, this tree has been used as a reliable and unmistakable landmark for travelers in the area. As a matter of fact, it's mentioned as an official marker in deeds and legal documents that pertain to properties in the region.
Just ten miles due south of Leakey is Garner State Park. Three miles of the Frio River course through the 1,700+ acres of this sprawling park, and its most prominent feature is Mount Old Baldy, a 1,900-foot summit that provides amazing views of the surrounding Hill Country. Grab a bite at the Garner Grill here, but save room for dessert at their ice cream shop. Garner State Park is set up for swimming, hiking, geo-caching, grilling, and boating, and provisions for all those activities are available at the park. If you're there during the summer, stop by the pavilion, where they hold nightly dances.
The Frio River offers opportunities for fishing, swimming, kayaking and tubing, and Josh's Frio River Outfitters in Leakey is ready, willing, and able to set you up with everything you'll need, no matter which activities you choose. They've also got a big store on the premises, where you can not only get your provisions for your time on the river, but can also browse their collection of jewelry, souvenirs, and other finery. While planning your time on the river, be sure to wear shoes (the bottom is very rocky), and keep in mind no glass containers are allowed.
The town of Leakey is roughly the half-way point on the hundred-mile Twisted Sisters Motorcycle Trail, a challenging and scenic tour of the Hill Country. The twists and turns of this route—named after the three roads traveled on it—give motorcyclists some of the most impressive views of the surrounding countryside. Since it's set on public roads, the trail is open year round, but it should be noted here that sections of it are very challenging, and should be ridden with that in mind. For more information on the Twisted Sisters Trail, Ride Texas and Rider Magazine have detailed articles and reviews.
If, during your ride on the Twisted Sisters you build up an appetite, the Bent Rim Grill is a perfect place to stop. They offer up food tailored to the riding crowd, and run an official Twisted Sisters souvenir shop, as well. That's not the only place to satisfy a case of the hungries, however. For local Mexican favorites, there's Mama Chole's Mexican Restaurant, and the Mill Creek Cafe is well-known for their hearty omelets, meaty entrees and down-home-good burgers. For rib-stickin' fried chicken and fish, the local go-to spot is Chickin' Earls. Get your fill of pub fare, burgers, beer and wine at the Leakey Bear's Den. Going hungry is definitely not on the menu when you visit Leakey!
The Hill Country is known for its vineyards, and the Leakey area is no exception. Estate wines are the specialty at the Frio Canyon Vineyard just outside of town, where you can sample and purchase award-winning wines from their scenic Hill Country vines. No matter what's on your schedule for your visit to Leakey, you should spend your stay in a locale that highlights and complements the beautiful Hill Country setting, not in a cookie-cutter hotel room! Peruse the listings in and around Leakey at Backroads Reservations, and we'll do all we can to maximize your getaway in a unique, comfortable and scenic location.