A delightful scenic drive that presents surprises around every bend in the road in Texas Hill Country.
Story and photos by Laurence Parent
I’m blessed to live in the Texas Hill Country, a surprisingly rolling area in a state known for its flatness. Rivers have carved ridges and valleys out of the uplifted Comanchean limestone of the Edwards Plateau west of Austin. The Hill Country even has great fall color.
The town of Bandera is a good starting point and one of my favorite places. A rustic town that hugs the cypress-lined Medina River, it’s known for shops specializing in goods with a Western ranching theme. After getting my cowboy fix, I head west up the river valley to Medina on state Route 16, where I turn left onto Ranch Road 337.
The road winds up and down ridges and through steep-walled creek valleys with scattered ranches. At the tiny hamlet of Vanderpool, I love to take a short side trip up Ranch Road 187 to Lost Maples State Natural Area. Here in the deep headwater canyons of the Sabinal River stand hidden groves of bigtooth maple trees. Hiking trails lead past the trees to hidden limestone grottos dripping with springwater and dotted with ferns.
After Lost Maples I continue west on 337 over one of the most winding, scenic roads in the state. From the village of Leakey I like to head about 10 miles south down the Frio River Valley to Garner State Park. If the weather is warm, a dip in the river’s crystal waters soon cools me off.
The next day I follow U.S. Route 83 north and turn east on state Route 39 toward Kerrville. After a few miles the road drops down to the Guadalupe River. The waterway snakes down a narrow canyon with cypresses and pecans arching over its sparkling waters to the town of Hunt. In Kerrville, a great place for a lunch stop, I turn north on state Route 16 to Fredericksburg.
This small town, settled by Germans in the 1800s, charms visitors with its old stone buildings, German-language signs, and many art galleries and shops. After an early dinner, I drive about 20 minutes north on Farm to Market 965 to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a large pink granite dome that rises about 400 feet above the surrounding terrain.
It’s a nice hike to the top of the main dome, where I watch the sky light up with color as the sun slips below the horizon far to the west—a fitting end to my tour of Hill Country delights.