The hill country west of Austin, Texas, is undoubtedly one of the most beautiful places on the planet. In this article, UT-Austin professor Kevin Dalby helps us understand why he loves the Texas Hill Country as he offers some tips on where to go exploring near Austin.
Often considered the border between the American Southwest and Southeast, this large area includes 25 counties. Bounded by the Rio Grande on the west and the Balcones Escarpment on the east side, this region is home to the head of several waterways, including the Guadalupe, San Antonio, Frio, Medina, and Nueces rivers.
Garner State Park is a popular location for hiking and camping. This picturesque park provides easy access to the Frio River for swimming, canoeing, or just floating lazily on an inner tube. You’ll want to spend the night since it’s a three-hour drive from Austin, but perfect for a weekend getaway. Reservations are recommended, and the entrance fee is $8 per day.
For an adventure closer to Austin, try a day trip to the Fall Creek Vineyards in Tow, Texas. Fall Creek lies on a historic plot where some of the first Vitis Vinifera vines were planted in Texas. Located at the northwest corner of Lake Buchanan, the rolling hills and pink granite outcrops of this Hill Country vineyard site are breathtaking. Twin waterfalls that flow from underground springs and cascade into Lake Buchanan grace the ranch’s north end.
If exploring caverns is your idea of an adventure, the Texas Hill Country is your kind of place. You can plan an entire season of adventuring as you explore the following caverns.
- Inner Space Caverns: Only 28 miles north of Austin, Inner Space Cavern is one of Texas’s best-preserved caves.
- Natural Bridge Caverns: About an hour and a half south of Austin, this family-owned and operated attraction provides several tour options.
- Bracken Cave: Located near the Natural Bridge Caverns, Bracken Cave is home to the world’s largest bat colony.
- Longhorn Cavern State Park: A little more than an hour north and west of Austin, Longhorn Cavern State Park offers cavern tours, hiking trails, and picnic sites.
- Cascade Caverns: Two hours from Austin, you will find a one-hour guided tour that has been available since 1932.
- Caverns of Sonora: Three hours due west of Austin, you will find the internationally recognized most beautiful show caves on the planet.
- Cave Without a Name: Near Natural Bridge Caverns and Bracken Cave, you can also explore the Cave Without a Name. This cave is filled with spectacular formations of stalactites, stalagmites, and delicate soda straws, even if it doesn’t have a name.
If you’d rather enjoy majestic views than meander through caves, Enchanted Rock State Park Natural Area will be to your liking. About two hours west of Austin, you can find one-of-a-kind views of pink granite rock. You’ll be able to hike the ancient dome for thrilling views of the surrounding area.
Regardless of how you like to adventure, the Texas Hill Country offers something for everyone’s taste. Whether here for just a weekend or if you live nearby, carve out some time to experience the Hill Country — you’ll be glad you did.
About Kevin Dalby
UT Austin Professor Dr. Kevin Dalby is a professor of chemical biology and medicinal chemistry, currently working on cancer drug discovery. At the College of Pharmacy at The University of Texas, he examines the mechanisms of nature and cancer to develop new treatments and teach and motivate students to conduct research. Dalby is optimistic about the future of cancer treatments.