Camping & Hiking Around Hill Country

It was less than a week when we decided to go camping and hiking to Hill Country for spring break last year. We checked the campsites at the state parks we wanted to visit and of course they already fully booked. But didn’t mean we had to cancel the trip. We knew a place that always had a space and hot showers for just $10 nightly located not too far from downtown Fredericksburg; a place called Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park.

DAY 1 – Home to Fredericksburg

It was a wonderful Monday morning when we left home for camping and hiking around Hill Country during Spring Break 2016. We saw bluebonnets spots along HW-67 starting from Cleburne to Glen Rose, and I was hoping to see more of them at the destination.

Our first stopped was Wiseman House Chocolate at Hico. It was right at the corner of the traffic light after you passed historic downtown Hico on the left. They had all kind of homemade chocolate and they put samples for customers to taste. Mmm… delicious. My favorite was Almond Toffee Crunch and we bought a couple for our snack on the road while our son picked up chocolate rocks.

Wiseman House Chocolate at Hico.

Then we crossed the street to Koffee Kup Family Restaurant which was rating #3 in Texas Country Reporter for the best pies in Texas. We got a piece of Black Forest Pie and our son fell in love with their giant donut. When we got back to the car he said, “So far the trip is so good.” Yeah, you’re right, with chocolate rocks and donut by your side.

Koffee Kup was rating #3 in Texas Country Reporter for the best pies in Texas.

Then we drove to the giant spur art about a ¼ mile up north from there, which was actually a custom made gateway to your ranch.

Giant spur art

We continued driving past Hamilton, Goldthwaite (where we had lunch at the park), San Saba, and Llano. When we got to downtown Llano I saw a Rural Road 152 sign and asked my husband to turn that direction. It was on my what-to-do list after I searched the internet. It is said as one of the scenic drive that will “take your breath away” between Llano and Fredericksburg during spring time. Well, it was not! I was so disappointed. Maybe it’s still too early for the wildflowers. We ended up in Mason and turned around toward south to Fredericksburg.

After we pitched our tent at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in Fredericksburg, we drove to downtown for a quick window shopping. Last time we went there was about 4 years ago and I knew they have unique stores and boutiques that put shopping in the-to-do list when you visit Fredericksburg. Since it was a camping and hiking trip, I didn’t have any desire to do it. But there was one thing which needed to be done; stopped for ice creams at Clear River Pecan Co in Main St. Oh… they were sooo good!

Back to the campsite. It was time for relaxing. The sunset was beautiful and when night fell, we could see the moon, Jupiter, Orion Belt, Big Dipper, North Star, Sirius, and thousands of stars very clear above. One of the advantages to stay outside the city: enjoying the night sky.

Relaxing at Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in Fredericksburg.

Find more information about Lady Bird Johnson Municipal Park in my post under Texas.

 

DAY 2 – Colorado Bend State Park

The next morning we went to Colorado Bend State Park in Bend, near San Saba. It was about 1.5 hours from where we stayed. We wanted to hike to Gorman Falls, one of the most popular spot in the park. The hike was about 1.3 mi round trip with difficulty challenging. But what was supposed to be 1.5 hours hiking trip, it turned to 4 hours trip because I saw another interesting spot to explore. And what’s worse, my husband didn’t even make to the falls! “What? Why?” you may ask.

Along the the River Trail.
Finally, we arrived at Gorman Falls.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For a complete story of our hiking at this park, read Bent at Colorado Bend State Park, my post under Texas.

 

DAY 3 – Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, Lyndon B. Johnson State Park, and Pedernales State Park

On the third day in Hill Country, it’s more to history tour. Our first stop was Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. In this park we learned a lot about our 36th president: his birth, childhood, political career, retirement, and death.

Welcome to Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park.

The first thing we saw was Junction School, a typical one-room school where the President started school at the age of 4. Then we stopped to see the family cemetery and his reconstructed birthplace. From here we continued to the ranger station where we got to see more of history of the president as well as his private jet and cars collection, including his white Lincoln convertible and Amphicar.

A typical one-room school where LBJ started school at the age of 4.
LBJ’s family cemetery.
In front of LBJ’s reconstructed birthplace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Texas White House where he did his political activity during his presidential was located just next door. We didn’t do the house tour because the waiting line was long and we still had to go to 2 other places; but we got to see it from outside. Our son got his Jr. Ranger badge here.

The Texas White House where LBJ did his political activity during his presidential.

For a complete story of our visit at this place, read There’s a White House in Texas. It’s located under Texas.

Lyndon B. Johnson State Park & Historic Site

Located directly across the Pedernales River from the LBJ National Historical Park, it was our next stop for the day. In fact, you can get here first when you turn in from the highway but the sign was a little misleading (it happened to us).

Here we visited Sauer-Beckmann farm, a living history farm, where interpreters wore period clothing, did the farm and household chores as they were done back in 1900s. We spent about an hour and a half here. It’s a good place to teach children about farm living at the beginning of the 20th century in Fredericksburg. It is open 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. year-round, except Thanksgiving, Christmas Day, and New Year’s Day.

At Sauer-Beckmann farm, a living history farm from the 1900s.
Something is cooking at the farm.

For a complete story of us experiencing farm living in Fredericksburg, read Visiting Early Farm Living in Fredericksburg. Located under Texas.

Pedernales Falls State Park

After lunch and a long line at Dairy Queen for an ice cream break, we arrived at Pedernales Falls State Park, our last stop for the day. We didn’t pack our swimsuit/swim trunk because I thought the water would still be cold and we wouldn’t really have time for playing in the water anyway. Well, I was wrong! It was 80s, really nice, and we had plenty of time. Most people were swimming and all we could do were folding our pants as high as we could and got into the water. But before long, our son was already waist deep in the water. We still had a blast though and got to explore the rocks around the river with its unique formation.

A view from the overlook.
The unique rock formation: potholes.

Note: The road from Johnson City to the park entrance was under construction and it was a long wait when we went there. Make sure you check it before you go there.

For a complete story of our time at this park, read Potholes at Pedernales Falls State Park. It is posted under Texas.

Back at the campsite, our son and I went to check the playground while my husband prepared our supper. Our son said the playground was more for toddlers. He’s too big for them. We spotted lots of fire ant mounds, so be careful when you take the kids there!

 

DAY 4 – Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Inks Lake State Park, and home

On Thursday, our last day at Hill Country, we went hiking to Enchanted Rock. We arrived slightly before 8 and there wasn’t a line to the entrance like when we tried to get in 2 days before (probably like a mile!). Please note: Spring Break is a busy time of the year besides the weekends. They would close the park as early as 11a.m. when the parking lot was full – for up to 3 hours!

Picture time at the Summit Trail sign.

We took Summit Trail to the top (1,823 ft.), which was the most famous trail in the park. The distance to the summit was .67 mi with difficulty challenging. It would take around 45 minutes to reach the top but we did it around 30 minutes. I think because that was the first activity we did for the day; we were still fresh.

At the top of Enchanted Rock.

There were at least 4 things we did at the top:

  1. looking for vernal pools,
  2. seeing part of Fredericksburg,
  3. exploring the rock formations all over the top,
  4. and of course, climbing the rocks with our own risks.
Interesting rocks formation are everywhere.

After spending about an hour at the top, we went down from a different side that took us to Echo Canyon Trail. It was much easier but our son made his own trail, choosing the steeper one. The difficulty of Echo Canyon Trail was moderate-challenging. It ended at Moss Lake but we didn’t go that far. We stopped around the massive boulders, watching someone learning to repel. Then we went back to where we started.

When we left the park, the parking lot was full already. They closed the gate and I saw at least a mile long of cars, waiting for their turned to get in.

For a complete story of our hiking at this park, read Fascinated at Enchanted Rock. It is located under Texas.

 

The roadside between the park (RR 965) and highway 16 to Llano looked pretty with bluebonnets blooming on both sides but we couldn’t stop at all. The road was full with do not stop signs.

We went through Llano again because we had to do one more thing when in the area: lunch at Cooper’s BBQ. It was delicious! Excellent barbeques! It’s not cheap, though. You have to prepare $$ for a person. Here’s a tip when you go there: don’t order the sides. There are freebies like beans and potato salad. And plan to arrive before normal lunch time to make sure you will get a table.

From Llano we drove through Burnet. The Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes were blanketing the roadsides already. It was so beautiful! We couldn’t help ourselves for not stopping to take pictures.

Beautiful Bluebonnets and Indian Paintbrushes along the road.
Me and my son.
I didn’t have to ask him to smile for this picture. It’s a wonderful day!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

In Burnet we turned to Inks Lake State Park. We didn’t stay long but we managed to hike to Devil’s Hole area and played in the water a bit. It’s another interesting park that is actually not too far from home. Just around 3 hours’ drive to southwest from DFW.

Canoeing by the Devil’s Hole at Inks Lake SP.

For a complete story of our short hiking at this park, read There’s a Devil’s Hole at Inks Lake State Park. It was posted under Texas.

 

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