Whilst many Americans might think the state of Texas ends at Austin, locals know that some of its greatest treasures are hidden westward in the Hill Country. The rolling hills of the Lone Star State are breathtakingly beautiful and offer incredible adventures for those willing to explore.
Kayak the Medina
The Medina River is a narrow stretch of water that runs 120 miles to its confluence with the San Antonio River. The Hill Country portion of the river extends roughly 50 miles and averages between 30- and 40-feet wide. A steady stream of Class I-II rapid makes it maneuverable for beginner and experienced hikers alike, though you will find a Class III drop above English Crossing and a Class IV at Chamblee Falls. The river is lined with Bald Cyprus trees and Live Oak, making for extraordinary views that help block out the harsh Texas sun. Nearly the entirety of the Medina River runs alongside private property, so be respectful of local landowners if you decide to go.
Explore Garner State Park
Garner State Park is the most popular overnight recreational area in the state. It boasts a wealth of outdoor opportunities, including hiking, biking, rafting, fishing, and rock climbing. There are five hilltops inside the park that reach over 1800: Shady Oak, Painted Rock, and three that are unnamed. The Foshee Trail is the most accessible route to the top of Shady Oak, while the Bridges Trail will get you to the excellent views atop Painted Rock. The nearby Frio River has 10 waterfronts to choose from, each with great options for fishing, swimming, or hopping on a canoe. Just outside the park perimeter lies Baldy, the tallest peak in the region. It sits on private property, but visitors have been known to score permission to climb.
Climb Enchanted Rock
The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area gets its name from the enormous pink granite dome jutting up from the landscape. The region is comprised of numerous smaller batholiths and boulders on which to climb. It also houses 11 miles of trails, the most popular of which is the Loop Trail. Climbers will find plenty of established routes in the area ranging from easy 5.5s to more difficult 5.11 trad climbs. If you’d rather stay off the rocks, there are plenty of opportunities for geocaching, bird watching, and even stargazing at night.
Hill Country Stargazing
The Texas Hill Country offers one of the best places in the United States for stargazing. The lack of large cities nearby means little light pollution, creating incredible glimpses into the night sky. The Hill Country State Natural Area is a 5,369-acre span of land where the mission is to preserve the property’s natural state. As such, all of the campgrounds are primitive and lacking in modern conveniences. This means that there is next to no light in the region once the sun goes does. In addition to some truly incredible stargazing, the natural area contains over 40 miles of multi-use trails for hiking, biking, and horseback riding. Other great spots for stargazing in the Hill Country include Blanco State Park and the Lost Maples State Natural Area.
Caving and Canyons in Colorado Bend
Colorado Bend State Park is an outdoor enthusiast’s paradise tucked away inside of the Texas Hill Country. The park contains over 5,300 acres of land to explore, including 32 miles of trails, more than 400 caves, and plenty of beautiful canyons carved out of the Colorado River. Popular spots in the park include the stunning 60-foot Gorman Falls and the relaxing Spicewood Springs, home to spring-fed pools and incredible canyon views. The region is also famous among bird watchers, with some of the largest varieties of feathered creatures calling the park home. The park offers dozens of campgrounds and enough outdoor adventure to keep you busy for days.