For years and years, Texans have sung the praises of the beloved Hill Country. The breathtaking landscapes hum with unique varieties of wildlife and vegetation, and the surrounding culture has grown up in accordance with this colorful legacy. It’s not surprising that this Texas oasis inspired an ode to the bright stars, prairie sky, and blooming sage deep in the heart of Texas.
This region stretches across the center of the state, bound in on the east by Austin and San Antonio, stretching west towards the Llano uplift and Big Bend country. The rolling hills are contrasted on the north and south, resting between the vast plains of the panhandle and south Texas.
We can’t even begin to talk about the Texas Hill Country without first and foremost giving credit to the incredible scenery. Though the Hill Country tends to be the exception to Texas’ desert heat and vast plains, this area truly seems to capture the heart of Texas. In fact, a New York Times travel article named the Texas Hill Country as the #1 summer destination in 2007. Comparing it to its dreamy European counterpart, the article described the region as “lush, colorful and, unlike much of the pancake-flat state, dotted with beautiful green hills that are evocative of Tuscany or the south of France.”
Native plants and wildlife add to the area’s rather enchanting atmosphere. Deer, colorful birds, and fish populate a diverse landscape of trees and colorful wildflowers. It’s no surprise the Hill Country has been listed in the “Most Scenic Drives in America” by Reader’s Digest.
Though Texas is famous for its southwestern influences, the Hill Country has managed to remain unique even in this aspect. In the mid-19th century, this area was markedly settled by German, Swiss, Austrian, and Czech settlers. Residents have preserved this European heritage through architecture, traditions, food, and drink! Towns like Fredericksburg retain that German small-town charm with beautiful old buildings and traditional beer gardens.
Given the natural beauty of the Hill Country’s topography, it’s almost no surprise that an equally beautiful landscape lies beneath the surface. As soon as you lay eyes on one of the area’s breathtaking caverns, you’re sure to be astounded. Touring the wide-open caves of the Hill Country feels like setting foot into another world! Over long periods of time, a steady flow of water hollowed out the natural limestone to create these rather mysterious formations. Longhorn Cavern State Park, Cascade Caverns, Natural Bridge Caverns, Colorado Bend State Park, and Cave Without a Name are just a few places ready for you to explore.
From the coveted peaches of Fredericksburg to Salt Lick’s mouth-watering barbeque, the tastes of the Hill Country are unforgettable. The area’s unique heritage has given rise to one of the most delicious food cultures in Texas! Besides being home to several favorite distinctively “Texan” restaurants, the Hill Country has provided a cozy home to everything from German-style biergartens to Czech bakeries. Several favorites include The Gristmill River Restaurant (Gruene Historic District), Der Lindenbaum (Fredericksburg, TX), and Easy Tiger (Austin, TX).
Considering the surrounding beauty, it comes as no surprise that the Hill Country has become a central point for artistic endeavors. The music scene has always been unique and vibrant in Texas, but the Hill Country seems to be where Texas music truly comes alive. From the indie sounds of Austin to the folk music of Kerrville, this area is the place to go for music festivals, concerts, and all-around musical enjoyment! Annual festivals in the area include SXSW and ACL in Austin and the Kerrville Folk Festival. The famous Gruene Hall has also been named the oldest dance hall and music venue in Texas, boasting famous patrons like George Strait and Lyle Lovett. Gruene Hall still reigns as an internationally acclaimed music venue, attracting tourists and popular artists alike.
The wild landscape of the Hill Country wouldn’t be complete without the beautiful rivers, lakes, and aquifers that flow through its valleys. The area boasts over 10 state parks along lakes or rivers, including Colorado River and Guadalupe River state parks. The Guadalupe River, which flows from upper Hill Country near Kerrville down through New Braunfels, is one of the most popular tubing rivers in the area. Shaded by cypress trees and lined with beautiful scenery and wildlife, this river varies from swift to lazy, accommodating both adventure and relaxation. The nearby Comal River, the shortest stretch of river in Texas, offers clear, crystal-blue water. Also in the Hill Country are the Nueces, Frio, and Medina Rivers, all spring-fed rivers with cool water, excellent for swimming, fishing, and tubing. Canyon Lake, Lake LBJ, and Marble Falls add to this region’s appeal with calm, glassy waters. In the wild Texas Hill Country, these rivers and lakes are hidden gems that truly offer something for everyone.