Colorado Bend State Park, Marble Falls, Kingsland, Balcones Canyonlands, Lake Travis, Inks Lake SP, Enchanted Rock SP, LBJ Ranch, Pedernales Falls, Hamilton Pool
We can now say that we’ve been to the Texas Hill Country and lemme tell you…it is AMAZING. So much more than we expected. Both of us relished having the opportunity to slow down, take our time, and not rush on to the next big event or thing. We did an evening of research on the must-sees in the Hill Country and then mapped out our own preferred route, trails, and camping. It’s the same kind of travel methodology we’d incorporate when backpacking through South America aka the elusive balance between “planned travel” and “unplanned/spontaneous travel.” We got into the habit of taking an evening every week or two to plan loosely, make a few key reservations as anchor points, and then just GO and make the rest up as you move along (or as the locals you meet recommend <3). Many of our best travel memories are made this way….outlandish discoveries, midnight treks, hole-in-the-walls with bomb cuisine, secret tappings, outdoor dance parties, hidden hot springs…but I digress.
Our first stop was recommended to us by some friends who live in the area – Colorado Bend State Park, named for it being on a large bend of the Colorado River. Even though we were there in December and it was a tad chilly, we made it out on a sunny afternoon to swim in the crystal clear waters of Spicewood Springs. David slid down a small waterfall a few times, while I chose to hold off and not get my butt cut up by rocks. Male swim trunks are much better “suited” for rock sliding. 😀
OH and there are wild armadillos all over this park! Adorable little things, but they scuttle away from you as soon as you try to get close. And they are surprisingly FAST. We got only one good picture, but saw quite a few of them. Love those pointy kangaroo ears.
Also at Colorado Bend State Park, we hiked down to Gorman Falls, a very unique looking waterfall due to the “dripping” look of the travertine rock formations. I couldn’t help but think it looked like something out of Fern Gully – some hidden, mythical place.
And in the spring and summer, the water level is higher and water seeming flows out from every angle of the outcropping like this:
Pretty damn cool.
Next stop was Marble Falls, where we stayed for quite a few days. It actually became a running gag between us because we just we kept coming BACK to Marble Falls intermittently – partially because it’s the only place in the area that offers free overnight parking, partially because it’s right smack dab in the middle of our Hill Country route plan. I’d say we left and returned to Marble Falls like 5 or 6 times over the course of those weeks. Started memorizing the key turns in the downtown area and even the names of streets and best parks to walk through.
Walked around and Christmas shopped on a rainy day, but it was nice because everything was practically empty. And plus I love getting rained on.
“Some folks feel the rain…others just get wet.”
After another return trip to Marble Falls (I think after a day of hiking) we discovered Save the World Brewing Co, definitely a new favorite. The beer quality is superb and this is the kind of place for Belgian beer-o-philes like us. And on top of high quality beers and styles, Save the World is America’s first 100% philanthropic production brewery! All of their net profits go to causes like Habitat for Humanity, Meals on Wheels, and other local charities in need. After finding that out, buying swag was a must.
Getting into the holiday spirit mid-December, we did the annual Marble Falls Walkway of Lights along the Colorado River. Ohhhh, Texas….lasso throwing Santas, jet-skiing and water skiing Santas: Merry Texmas, y’all!
And speaking of recent holidays, we can’t forget Thanksgiving! We also spent a quiet and relaxing Thanksgiving weekend in Hill Country. Found an RV campsite on the North end of Lake LBJ. Watched the sunsets and sunrises from the pier, soaked in the hot tub a few times, cooked classic Thanksgiving fare, Zoomed with our families and laughed while everyone inevitably tries to talk at the same time because of the lag time. It isn’t the holiday without a sprinkling of chaos and a full serving of family, usually altogether for the perfect side dish. 🙂
For the rest of this post, we’ll just do groupings of photos with a top caption of where they were. We went to a LOT of parks in Hill Country, so we’ll try to keep it short…or at least shorter HA
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge
The Oasis On Lake Travis – a HUGE restaurant and event center on the cliffs overlooking Lake Travis. It has shops, a microbrewery, tons of multi-level balconies and seating, and claims to be “The Sunset Capital of Texas” due to their perfect elevated location for gorgeous lake views.
Hiking “Wookie Way” on Pace Bend Park on Lake Travis
Inks Lake State Park and Devil’s Waterhole – David’s fraternity brother Toast drove out and stayed with us for the night!
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area – it’s an enormous rock in the shape of a dome and you just walk straight up the dome. Harder than it sounds! And well worth the effort. We started with the outer Loop trail on the Southwest side, passed through Echo canyon, went up the summit trail and lunched on top of the rock, and then ended with the Base trail and Turkey Pass. The trails aren’t too long, so around 6 or 7 miles. We wore our packs just for strengthening!
Fredricksburg, Pedernales Cellars Winery, and the LBJ Ranch! For those of you that don’t know, LBJ grew up near Fredericksburg and made his family ranch kind of a “second White House” when he was president. He even had a runway put in so he could fly into it from his private jet! They jokingly called it the “Air Force One-half” because the actual Air Force One was too big to land on that small airstrip. Today, they’ve preserved the ranch as a large, beautiful property with all sorts of wildlife, livestock, trees, rolling hills, and history. Our day there was a rainy one and you couldn’t go into any of the buildings because of COVID, but we still enjoyed driving through.
Pedernales Falls State Park – This park has a lot of great places to explore. We hiked the Wolf Mountain Trail one day, which wound through the forests and hills off the beaten path and took us past some old 1800s era stone house ruins, and another day explored the main attraction down at the Falls. The water was low so the falls weren’t very large, but it made for great climbing around on the rocks and along crystal clear streamsides. We saw a bunch of underground springs rising to the surface as we walked – there seem to be a number of them in Hill Country.
Hamilton Pool – it’s a huge and absolutely magnificent grotto. We just couldn’t get enough of the sights or the layerings of rock filled with ancient marine fossils. There’s also a waterfall flowing over into the pool, amazing stalactites formed from Travertine, and mosses and lichens growing everywhere. Hamilton Pool is like something out of an enchanted fairy land. Definitely took a few hours of R&R here just wandering, snacking, and listening to the sound of the falls hitting the pool. By chance, we were there when there weren’t many people, so we got to enjoy this special place in its full, intrinsic glory sans loud tourists and screaming children. It was so peaceful.