Brian Greenstone

The Greenstone Guide to Austin & The Hil Country


I really want to give this a 6 out of 6 rating because this hike is so excellent. But I'm going to subtract a point because it could only be better if there were more water features and maybe more shade from the sun. That being said, however, the Hill Country State Natural Area is definitely some of the very best hiking in the Texas Hill Country. There are many, many miles of hiking with lots of steep elevation gains with incredible vistas. This is one of the only places in Central Texas where you feel like you're hiking somewhere more exotic.

There are many trails in the park, and it is a popular place for horseback riding. But for hiking you absolutely must do the Trail 5 to Trail 1 loop. This is where the most spectacular scenery is. Start at the Trailhead at the Equestrian Camp Area and then take the 5a trail to the 5b lookout. Continue on Trail 5 to 5c all the way up and around to Trail 1. Follow Trail 1 to Trail 7. Up to this point you've done about 4 miles or so. If you're exhausted from that rugged 4 mile hike then you may just want to take Trail 7 back to the parking area - it's relativly flat and easy, but it's also pretty boring. You'll need a GPS to get you back to the car the short way since the trail map does not show the offshoot trails that get you there directly from Trail 7. Otherwise, if you have more energy then either go back the way you came or you can take alternate trails like Trail 6 back.

The TPWD trail map is here

One note about this park is that I would recommend only doing it in the winter when it's very cold out. You will get quite a cardio workout climbing those hills and there's no shade. I did 8.2 miles of this on a cold January day where it was 22º in the morning and warmed up to only about 45º while we were hiking. We were still sweating and it was plenty toasty. I can't imaging doing this trail in the summer. It's surprisingly green there in the winter because of all of the yucca, so it doesn't look as desolate as many other places do in January.



There are many ways to get there, so I recommend looking at a map and choosing a route that you like. It is in Bandera, so basically you head south west. You can go thru New Braunfels and then Boerne to Bandera. Or there is a more scenic backroads way to go too thru Blanco and Johnson City. Your call, so consut a map or the official TPWD site. Any way to go, it's about a 2.5 hour drive from Austin.

©2001-2011 Brian Greenstone