Rides and Drives
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New visitors to the Texas Hill Country have many questions about the region when they contact us, and one of the most common is a simple one: What is there to see and do here? As you peruse our site and the articles within, you'll find there's no shortage of activities and events in our towns, parks, rivers, and various other attractions. However, as a starting point, we suggest to our guests to take a scenic drive or ride through the Hill Country itself.
Prestigious tourism publications such as Ride Texas Magazine , Rider Magazine , Texas Highways , Tour Texas , and Texas Monthly regularly list the Texas Hill Country as one of the most beautiful regions of the Lone Star State. We might be a little biased, but we heartily agree! After all, it's our home, and all its towns and attractions are easily accessed by some of the most beautiful and scenic roads you'll find in Texas, or anywhere else, for that matter. Motorcycle and auto tours are very popular here, and for good reason. For the majority of the year, our climate is agreeable for folks to visit and take a Hill Country day trip. To encourage our readers to stop by and do just that, Backroads Reservations is happy to offer a virtual introduction to the Hill Country to all our prospective visitors.
Let's get things going and start our tour in Bandera, also known as the Cowboy Capital of the World, just northwest of San Antonio. For the first leg of our Hill Country journey, we'll take Highway 16 north toward Medina , Highway 16 crosses the Medina River at several places along this route, and you'll also find numerous excellent fishing spots, as well as jump-in points for a float on a tube or kayak. If you've got such a river float in mind, there are numerous outfitters in Bandera who are more than happy to provide both knowledgeable guides and shuttle services for just such an adventure; for more information, check out our article on Hill Country river access .
When you tour the Medina area, you'll no doubt notice the apple orchards lining the roads at several points. The soil conditions and climate here are perfect for apple trees, and over the years Medina has gained a reputation as the apple growing capital of Texas. A great place to experience that reputation first-hand is the Apple Store Bakery and Cafe at Love Creek Orchards (or, more simply, the Apple Store, as locals refer to it). From pie to pastries to jellies and ice cream, their menu features over 50 items made from their fresh apples! Their apple pie was voted best in Texas by Texas Monthly magazine, which also gave them the honor of one of the best 40 small town cafes in the state. Once you've had your apple fill, Moffett Park in Medina is a nice and (usually) quiet place to kick back with some cheese and wine, or—you guessed it—apple slices.
From Medina, you have two equally picturesque travel options. The first is to continue on Highway 16 to Kerrville , home to the renowned Kerrville Folk Festival in October of each year. This route will take you out of the Medina River Valley, over a divide, then back down into the Guadalupe River Valley. You'll find the hiking and biking trails, butterfly garden, fishing, and kayaking facilities of Schreiner Park along the banks of the Guadalupe River just outside town, as well as Camp Verde , just south of Kerrville. Camp Verde is probably best-known for an interesting experiment conducted in the 1850s by then-Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. Camels were being tested as pack and hauling animals for the Army, but this experiment was abandoned for more easily-maintained horses and mules.
If, for a side trip, you'd like to continue north from Kerrville, take Highway 39 in that direction, where you'll find the little settlement of Hunt, home to the headwaters of the Guadalupe River. Be sure to stop by the Hunt Store (or simply “The Store” to locals), a local institution that's been the heart of Hunt since 1946. The Hunt area is also known for over half a dozen summer camps, which more than double the local population during camping season!
The second option from Medina is to take Highway 337 west to Vanderpool . If you're traveling by motorcycle, or you're a motorcycle enthusiast, take the time to visit the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum here, with over 60 vintage examples on display! Just north of Vanderpool on Highway 187 is the beautiful Lost Maples State Natural Area , a pristine natural setting that's perfect for fishing and hiking. It's also known for its bigtooth maple trees and wildlife watching. Another stop to consider here is the Lost Maples Winery , which produces award-winning Spanish and Lenoir-style wines crafted from local grapes.
If you continue west on Highway 337 from Vanderpool, you'll reach the pretty little town of Leakey . Highway 337, by the way, is also on the Twisted Sisters motorcycle trail, which winds through most of the southern Texas Hill Country. The trail can be challenging, especially on a motorcycle, but its views are well worth the trouble; just be careful. For more information on the Twisted Sisters, check out these articles in Ride Texas and Rider Magazine . The Highway 447 route westward from Medina will take you over several divides, and through the Hondo, Seco, Sabinal, Frio and Nueces watersheds.
The western path that traces from Medina through Vanderpool and Leakey is one of our favorites. Some of the best remote settings and scenic views of the Hill Country can be found along this route, and there are several interesting stops along the way, from which you can enjoy the picturesque panoramas. Now, Highway 337 may seem to reach a dead end just west of Medina, but all you need to do is turn right onto Highway 187 and continue to Vanderpool. From there, you will pick up Highway 337 again, which will take you to Leakey. (be sure to pronounce it “LAY-key;” locals will give you the ol' side-eye if you say “LEE-key.”)
Continuing westward from Leakey, you'll encounter the charming little settlement on the Nueces River called Camp Wood . This stretch of the Hill Country is known as the Little Switzerland of Texas, where the Nueces and Frio Rivers have cut deep valleys through the countryside, which has resulted in high-rising scenery that's justly called the Swiss Alps of Texas. For those who think Texas is nothing but desert and tumbleweeds, we guarantee one look at this area will take your breath away. We live here, and the view never fails to inspire us! Take a moment to take a dip in the Frio River (its name means “cold,” but it's actually wonderfully cool and soothing during the warmer months), and stop by BJ's Cafe and Sweet Shop in Camp Wood.
If time permits, we recommend taking a quick loop north from Camp Wood toward Barksdale, then taking FM 335 to Highway 41, and finally returning to Leakey on FM 336. This little side trip offers some of the prettiest and most remote views of the Texas Hill Country.
Okay, so you're back in Leakey again. A great option from here is to take Highway 83 south to Garner State Park , one of the most popular recreational hangouts in the entire Hill Country. Garner State Park is home to Mount Ol' Baldy, and trails lead to its summit for even more stunning views of the surrounding countryside. The park also offers excellent access to the Frio River, and is home to numerous hiking trails and a popular summer playground.
From Garner State Park, you can head east on FM 1050, and there you'll find your Utopia ! Okay; at least it's Texas' Utopia, and we're very proud of this little town. Grab a bite at the Lost Maples Cafe here, or check out the treehouse built by the Animal Planet channel's “Treehouse Masters” at the Laurel Tree . From Utopia, you can then take Highway 470 east for a scenic drive back to Bandera, returning you neatly to our little tour's starting point.
As you travel eastward along Highway 470, perhaps stopping to take a picture or two, between Utopia and Bandera you'll find the little Hill Country town of Tarpley . Though it's a pretty small town, Tarpley is home to a restaurant that's been featured on both “Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives” and “Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern” on the Food Network. It's Mac & Ernie's Roadside Eatery , and this once-humble roadside burger shack has grown into its reputation, which has also been bolstered more locally by write-ups in Texas Monthly
and Southern Living magazines. A quaint little park in Tarpley offers you the opportunity to take a stroll and dip your feet in the crystal waters of Williams Creek.
Another quick side trip worth taking is south of Tarpley on Highway 462. Just five miles south of Tarpley lies the Hill Country State Natural Area . Designed to maintain and preserve the natural beauty of the region, this sprawling 5,000-acre retreat offers everything for the nature lover. With over 40 miles of trails, it's a paradise for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders alike as they explore the grassy valleys and spring-fed streams here.
The starting point on our little tour of the Hill Country is also our last stop: it's Bandera , also known as the Cowboy Capital of the World! This little town is a popular tourism destination in the southern Hill Country, because it celebrates both the romantic and realistic histories of the American West, and one of its most iconic characters: the cowboy. Two museums in town trace the history of not only the cowboy, but the diverse natural and human influences that have shaped the area. Bandera is home to boot-scootin' and toe-tappin' night life, great restaurants, trail rides, biker rallies, rodeos, and river tubing, just to name a few of the activities and events available here. We highly recommend you check the detailed article about Bandera linked at the top of this paragraph. No matter your interests, there's plenty of excitement to find here!
Our little neck of the woods is gorgeous no matter what time of the year you visit, but this article wouldn't be complete if we didn't put in an enthusiastic word for the eye-popping Hill Country fall colors. Some folks might think New England has this particular market cornered, but we've had visitors who've seen both, and they tell us our fall foliage blows them away! For those who want to check out our brilliant fall colors, the best time to do so is between mid-October and mid-November. Find yourself a nice high vantage point, and prepare to be dazzled!
Backroads Reservations has been welcoming visitors from all over to our beautiful stomping grounds since 2001, and we're proud to be ambassadors to this unique and special region. We specialize in maximizing your Hill Country vacation with budget-friendly options. Why box yourself in a bland hotel room when you can stay in warm and historic guest homes and cabins loaded with great amenities? Are you planning a romantic hideaway for two, or an enormous family gathering? Want a place in the heart of it all, or in a rural setting that greets you every morning with stunning Hill Country views? No matter your needs and desires, we'll find you the perfect setting for your next holiday!
Keep in mind that what we've presented isn't necessarily meant to be the first and last word on Texas Hill Country tours. It's a nice loop that highlights a selection of the wonderful towns in the region, but by no account does it present everything the Hill Country has to offer. For a more in-depth look at the towns, parks, events, and other attractions this beautiful region has to offer, we invite our readers to peruse our web page; we've broken down information into categories by towns, by parks and natural areas, and by specific interests, in the articles here. With that said, thank you for visiting, and whether it's your first time or your hundredth, we welcome you to the Hill Country!