during my husband’s and my anniversary trip to san antonio a few weeks ago, i was struck by the beauty of that part of texas. rolling hills covered in dense trees make for a picture not at all what most people expect when they think of texas. my husband, parker, has always loved this area, and recently went on a biking trip through hill country with some of his friends. his stories of german-settled towns and gorgeous scenery were so great that i had to share. read on, and then come explore this part of texas!
jaunt: where did you travel, and when?
parker: three of my friends from high school and i traveled to central texas (an area of the state known as the “hill country”) in early october for a biking/camping/drinking trip. the hill country is located south and west of austin and extends basically from west of san antonio all the way to a bit north of austin. two of my friends and i set off down I-35 to meet kevin, another friend of ours, at his house in austin. after eating a few tacos at a delightful little dive off south congress in austin, we hit the road. we were at our destination in fredericksburg by 4pm.
jaunt: how did you plan for your trip? any good sites or books you’d recommend?
p: my friend, derek, bought a book called “biking trips across texas,” which had a bevy of great ideas. we ended up settling on a route that would allow us to stay in fredericksburg one night and then camp in two highly recommended state parks the following two nights. fredericksburg is a really cool place and should be a must-visit for anyone who is going to that part of texas. we also learned the hard way that if you’re planning an “active” trip with friends, it’s essential to find out who already has certain pieces of gear. even though four of us were biking, we were together the whole time, so you only need one bike pump, etc. thankfully we didn’t end up needing much of the gear we brought, but it’s good to always plan out who should bring what ahead of time.
jaunt: ok, aside from planning out our gear in advance, what are the three things jaunt readers must do or see while in the hill country?
p: if you are going to spend any time at all in the texas hill country and are inclined toward being outdoors, then you will not be short of things to do. here are my top three:
1. spend a night at lost maples state park and have your mind changed forever about texas being a flat, ugly state without any trees. due to some geographical oddity, this part of texas is filled with stands of maple trees that would be more at home in the northern united states than in central texas. when you combine the maple trees with gently flowing streams and gorgeous, rugged hillsides, there is no wonder that the park general store sells a coffee mug that proudly proclaims, “Lost Maples State Park: The Most Beautiful Spot in Texas!” side note: i bought said mug for my wife, so if you come over to our house for a cup of coffee then you can see it for yourself!
2. take a dip in the frio river. we spent the third night of the trip at garner state park, which is about 25 miles from lost maples. garner was also really beautiful, but was a bit more crowded than our previous camping experience. one of the highlights of this particular state park is that the frio river flows right through the middle of it. the frio is spring-fed, so its water stays very cold all year long. the region was in the midst of a heat wave when we there, so swimming in the frio felt completely amazing. the water is also really clear and you can rent paddle boats and inner tubes that allow you to lazily float and look at the fish.
3. eat german food and drink german beer in fredericksburg. much of central texas was founded by german and czech immigrants, and the small town of fredericksburg (about 50 miles from austin) takes its heritage quite seriously. the main street of the town is lined with german breweries and german restaurants. we spent a night eating sausage – knockwurst, bratwurst, and weisswurst – and drinking an amazing array of beers. for those traveling from big cities, you’ll be amazed at the affordability of everything.
jaunt: what is the overall vibe of this trip/to whom would you recommend this trip?
p: the hill country is definitely a relaxing place. there are a lot of interesting towns, most of which are separated by beautiful drives. our trip was a bit different because we spent so much time biking (which can be relaxing in its own way but is probably best described as taxing). nevertheless, one can find anything in this part of texas – from nice resorts to bed and breakfasts to beautiful camping. basically, you can plan a trip to fit any vibe or mood.
jaunt: ok, i’m sold (minus the biking part). what did you read while traveling? would you recommend?
p: one of my favorite books is about this part of the world. it’s not about biking, camping, or the hill country, in particular, but it is about texas politics in austin in the 1950s. it’s called “the gay place” by billy lee brammer and it does a wonderful job of evoking the details of a certain time in a certain place. as any trip to the hill country will probably start or end in austin, it would make for a great read. there are also several books about road biking in texas, including the aforementioned one that derek purchased before our trip.
note: thank you to derek for all photos in this post!