Equal parts big cities and back roads, this looping road trip through the heart of Texas Hill Country guides travelers through a lush countryside chock-full of rolling hills and lazy rivers. Explore the natural wonders, discover cowboy culture and enjoy the unique culinary and cultural traditions in colorful quirky slice of the Lone Star State.
1) San Antonio
Winding its way through the city like a Venetian canal, the San Antonio River provides a serene and pleasant way to navigate the best of downtown via the River Walk, a one-of-a-kind 15-mile urban green space. Nestled below street level, you can stroll between restaurants and historic attractions that include the Alamo, or hop aboard one of the slow-rolling river barges for a guided tour. For an extra thrill, join a kayak tour of the timeless King William District.
Drive 53 miles • 1 hour, 3 minutes
An hour northwest of the city, the charming small town of Bandera, known as the “Cowboy Capital of the World,” is the perfect place to live out your Wild West fantasies. Visit one of the area’s 11 dude ranches to learn about life on the range and join a horseback trail ride through the scenic backcountry. Top-notch rodeos happen every Saturday throughout the summer. Round out your visit with a trip to one of the local cowboy or military museums, or a stop at the popular Bandera General Store, where you can get fitted for your own boots and 10-gallon hat.
Drive 25 miles • 30 minutes
Continue north for 30 miles to the picturesque town of Kerrville on the banks of the Guadalupe River. Home to a vibrant arts scene, the Museum of Western Art and the interactive Kerr Arts & Cultural Center are prime attractions, but no visit would be complete without a day on the river. Popular pastimes include kayaking, canoeing or tubing past the long stands of majestic cypress trees, or exploring the local swimming holes like Ingram Dam and Schumacher Crossing. Fishing here is renowned, and lucky anglers can hope to land small and largemouth bass, rainbow trout and perch. There’s no more classic way to end your stay than a catfish feast at the Lakehouse restaurant overlooking the river.
Kerrville Convention & Visitors Bureau • Kerrville, TX – (830) 792-3535
Drive 101 miles • 1 hour, 57 minutes
Known best for the live music that fills its bars and clubs every night, Austin is also home to some 300 parks and more than 30 miles of urban trails for hiking and biking. The epicenter of the action is Zilker Memorial Park, which boasts an iconic view of the skyline and offers easy access to 416-acre Lady Bird Lake, a true outdoor playground where you can kayak, canoe, paddleboard and fish. The trail loop that surrounds the lake is regarded as the best in the city for hiking, biking and picnicking. For a truly unique introduction to the sights and sounds, join one of the wild Twisted Texas tours, with a live band on the tour bus.
5) New Braunfels
Drive 48 miles • 49 minutes
Less than an hour south on the return to San Antonio, the historic town of New Braunfels stands alone as a testament to one of country music’s last great landmarks. Home to the oldest continuously operated dancehall in the state, the historic district of Gruene is a must-visit for anyone interested in the history of honky-tonk. Both the Comal and Guadalupe Rivers also pass through town, giving you plenty of options for outdoors adventure. Float trips are a classic pastime, as is fishing for trout, bass and catfish in Cypress Bend and River Acres parks. Once you’ve worked up an appetite, head to the many breweries and restaurants serving German fare.
Drive 32 miles and 38 minutes to San Antonio to complete the loop.