18 Beautiful Places for Hiking in Texas Hill Country
June 15, 2023
If you’re looking for the best hiking trails in Texas Hill Country, you’re in the right place! Texas Hill Country encompasses the area between San Antonio and Austin. It’s full of rolling hills, small towns and rural landscapes. Exploring the natural parts of Hill Country will feel a lifetime away from a city like Austin.
Texas Hill Country is home to limestone ledges, natural swimming holes, beautiful wildflowers and more. Along with endless hiking trails, the region is also packed with wineries and charming small towns.
This list of the best hikes in Texas Hill Country includes over 15 hiking trails. Most, but not all, are located in Texas state parks. Keep reading to get ideas for your next hike!
Tip: Purchase a Texas state parks pass to save money if you’re visiting multiple parks!
Rattlesnakes live in Texas Hill Country and are mostly seen in the warmer months from March to October. Snakes may seek shelter in rocky crevices. However, it’s rare to spot one and they typically only bite if provoked. Just make sure to use caution and keep an eye out.
If you’re visiting in the summer (and even in the Spring and Fall), it gets HOT in Hill Country. Make sure to pack more water than you think you need, a hat and plenty of sunscreen. In the warmer months, I recommend avoiding hiking in the middle of the day.
As with any hike, make sure to come prepared with the proper hiking gear. That includes hiking shoes with great grip, wool socks, a first aid kit, a knife, snacks, water and other essential items that you should have just in case. Check out my day hike packing list if you’d like more guidance.
It is so important to leave no trace while you’re exploring. This means you should never feed or approach wildlife, you should pack out all of your trash, travel on durable surfaces, plan ahead and respect those around you. Brush up on the seven principles of leaving no trace before heading out.
You can hike in Texas Hill Country year round, but it’s best to avoid the hot summer months (unless your hike includes a swimming hole!).
Spring is arguably the best time to visit Hill Country because you have the chance to see the iconic Texas bluebonnets and other wildflowers. The flowers are typically in bloom in March and April, but it varies year to year.
Fall is also a great time to visit, especially if you are visiting Lost Maples of Garner State Park. Both of these parks have beautiful fall foliage!
Finally, winter is a nice time to visit if you appreciate the peace and quiet. Texas Hill Country can receive snow and ice, but it’s rare.
If you’re flying to Texas, you can either fly into San Antonio or Austin to visit Hill Country. Austin will be closer if you’re visiting parks like Pedernales Falls and Inks Lake, while San Antonio is closer if you want to visit Garner, Lost Maples or Enchanted Rock.
If you’re after the very best parks for hiking, I recommend starting from San Antonio.
Enchanted Rock is one of my favorite parks in Texas Hill Country! The park features a giant, pink granite dome. You can hike to the top of the rock for beautiful views of the surrounding area.
Enchanted Rock is home to the largest isolated pink granite dome in the United States. Plus, the rock covers 640 acres and is 1,825 feet above sea level at its highest point!
This park is also one of the top visited Texas state parks, meaning you should make a reservation before you arrive. Day passes go on sale a month in advance and you’ll need to select a time slot.
In addition to beautiful hiking, this park is an International Dark Sky Park! This makes it the perfect place to camp after a day on the trails.
The most iconic trail in the park is the Summit Trail to reach the top of the granite dome. The hike is 1.3 miles and involves hiking up the rock, so you’ll want to wear shoes with good traction.
If you have more time, the loop trail around the park is great too! You’ll see a variety of scenery on a loop around the park and get to hike the perimeter around Enchanted Rock and Little Rock, a smaller granite dome. All in all, Enchanted Rock certainly deserves a spot on your Texas bucket list!
Pedernales Falls is a stunning park known for its 300 million year old limestone ledges, waterfalls and hiking trails.
Not only does this park have great trails, but you can also swim in certain areas, making it a wonderful place to cool off from the Texas heat.
When you visit, don’t miss the view of Pedernales Falls. In this iconic area, you can walk across the limestone ledges that make this park special. Water flows down various parts of this rocky area but you can walk across the limestone and explore. Be sure to stay on the state park side of the river, because it’s private property across the way.
Further down the river from the waterfall, you can swim in the Pedernales River. The river is pretty shallow, but it’s still a refreshing opportunity on a hot day.
A couple of the popular trails inside Pedernales are the Wolf Mountain Trail and the Pedernales loop trail. The Wolf Mountain trail leads to a nice view and mostly involves hiking up a wide, gravel road. There is very little shade on this trail. The trail also leads to a primitive camping area if you’re interested in a backpacking adventure.
The Pedernales Loop trail begins with a crossing of the Pedernales River, so you may get your feet wet depending on water levels. The trail then loops around and includes different types of terrain. There are some nice views of both the river and around Hill Country.
Overall, Pedernales Falls offers unique views and some of the most beautiful nature close to Austin. It’s a great place for either a day trip or as a camping destination.
Garner State Park is another one of the most popular Texas state parks, for good reason! The park is great for camping, hiking and floating on the Frio River on a hot day.
The most iconic hike in the park is the trail up to Mount Ol Baldy. This short but steep trail offers an incredible view gazing down at the Frio River and the surrounding valley.
From Mount Ol Baldy, it’s worth continuing onto Crystal Cave. You can actually climb down into this cave, making it quite the adventure! With beautiful viewpoints, caves to explore and more, this park is a great one to hike in.
If the weather is warm, make sure to cool off in the Frio River after some hiking. The park offers rentals for floats, kayaks, paddle boats and more. Or, if you visit in the fall, Garner is a beautiful place to see fall foliage in Texas.
In addition to outdoor adventure, the park even offers dancing in their dance hall (a tradition since the 1940’s) and mini golf. It has something to offer the whole family, making it a great summer destination in Texas Hill Country.
Lost Maples is an amazing destination to visit in the fall, but is great for hiking year round! The park is home to Uvalde bigtooth maple trees, a rare variety of tree that is native to this region of Texas. Plus, Lost Maples offers several miles of hiking trails. One of the trails includes epic views from the ridge of a 2,200-foot cliff.
If you’d like to see the fall foliage, the best time to visit tends to be in Mid-November. However, the exact timing can vary from year to year. Fall is a very popular time of year, so make sure to make a reservation in advance.
Whether you visit in the fall or another time, there is an epic 10 mile loop around the park that will bring you to all the highlights and get your heart thumping. If you’re shorter on time, I recommend hiking the East Bluff Trail and hiking out to the scenic overlook. It’s a fantastic view of the Sabinal River, the valley and the surrounding hills.
The park is not far from Garner, so it’s great to combine both parks in one trip. This area of Western Hill Country is epic for both hiking and camping.
Colorado Bend is a fantastic Texas state park if you’re interested in chasing waterfalls, overnight backpacking trips and hiking out to swimming holes. The park is a bit more remote than others on this list, so you’re less likely to encounter crowds.
The must-see destination in Colorado Bend is Gorman Falls. It’s a 2.8 mile trek to reach the falls and you’ll have to hike back up to return, so make sure you’re prepared with plenty of water. The end of the trail also includes a few ropes for support as you climb down to the waterfall viewing area. The waterfall is 70 feet tall and also framed by some smaller waterfalls next to it. It’s a unique and beautiful sight.
After the iconic waterfall, there are many more trails to explore in the park. I recommend hiking the Spicewood Springs Trail, which leads to multiple springs where you can wade and cool off. The hike also has some great views.
In addition to hiking, you can take a wild cave tour inside the park, camp or paddle along the river. This is a great Hill Country park for adventure!
Texas Hill Country State Natural Area is an expansive park located about an hour Northwest from San Antonio. Since the park is on the outskirts of Hill Country, you’ll likely experience much less crowds than parks like Enchanted Rock and Garner.
This park covers 5,000 acres and has about 40 miles of trails, so there is no shortage of hiking. Some of the trails are quite rugged. Along with day hiking, you can backpack out to primitive campsites, go horseback riding and visit a historic barn.
In order to get some of the best views of the park, I recommend hiking up the West Peak Overlook Trail. The trail is a bit steep but leads to fantastic views of the surrounding hills. To make a longer loop, add on some of the other trails for a 3.8 mile loop.
If peace and quiet is a priority for you while hiking in Texas Hill Country, this park should definitely be on your radar.
Guadalupe River State Park is a beautiful place to hike, float the river or camp in the center of Texas Hill Country. Along the Guadalupe River, you’ll find bald cypress trees, natural rapids and towering limestone bluffs next to the water.
To get a great taste of the various ecosystems around the park, hike the Prairie, Live Oat, Barred Owl and Painted Bunting trails as a 5 mile loop. This hike is full of variety and will lead you through prairie landscapes as well as right by the river.
After hiking, take a dip in the river or paddle on the Guadalupe River Paddling Trail to see the park from a new point of view. Be sure to check water levels ahead of time.
If you’re looking for a more remote experience, the Bauer Unit is the more remote side of the river and offers moderate to challenging hiking and biking trails with varied terrain.
Tip: Keep your eyes out for wildlife - I saw multiple armadillos and a white peacock here!
Inks Lake is a beautiful Hill Country park that is popular for hiking, swimming and camping. The park surrounds a bit of Lake Buchanan and has beautiful trails, rocky cliffs and a variety of desert and forest landscapes.
One of the best trails in the park is the Devil’s Backbone Trail. The hike includes some beautiful views of Spring Creek, which connects over to Lake Buchanan. In the Spring, you may even get to see the Valley Spring Creek Waterfall flowing. The interpretive trail also leads to a Bird Blind, so you can learn about the local plants and animals along the water. Another beautiful trail is the Inks Lake Southern Loop, which offers a fantastic view of Lake Buchanan from above.
In addition to hiking, this park is exceptional for swimming and water activities. You can boat, water ski, scuba dive, fish and swim. You can also rent out paddle boats, canoes, kayaks and paddleboards from the park. There is no lifeguard on duty, so make sure you’re staying safe.
This park has nearly 200 campsites, so it’s a great place to camp if you enjoy meeting other campers and the community aspect of car camping.
Explore a magnificent Texas cave at Longhorn Caverns! This beautiful cave system has a storied history and was used as council meetings for the Comanche people, as gunpowder storage by Confederate soldiers and even as a speakeasy in the 1920’s. It was acquired by the state of Texas in the 1930’s and designated a National Natural Landmark in 1971.
To go inside the cave, you’ll need to book a guided tour and you can do so 30 days in advance. The regular tours are about an hour and a half and you’ll get a great overview of the history and see beautiful geological features.
For those who are extra adventurous, there is also a Wild Cave Tour that involves crawling through the undeveloped lower part of the cavern.
In addition to cave tours, there are some above ground hiking trails to explore and an observation tower you can visit. No camping is available here, but the park is very close to Inks Lake!
Other Texas caves in Hill Country include Cave Without a Name, Cascade Caverns, Natural Bridge Caverns and Inner Space Cavern.
McKinney Falls State Park has some gorgeous waterfalls located less than 30 minutes from downtown Austin.
The park is great for either swimming or hiking, plus it has some historic sites. Don’t miss seeing both Upper Falls and Lower Falls. They are connected via trails or you can drive between them to get closer.
The water flow can vary throughout the year, so sometimes the waterfalls may be trickling, while other times there is a lot of water flow. In the summer months, it’s a fun experience to swim below the waterfalls.
To get a great feel of the park on foot, hike the Onion Creek and Homestead Loop Trail. This 6.8 mile trail has sections along the river and a path through the forest. You’ll also pass a Gristmill and the McKinney homestead. The trail has a mix of exposed and shady areas and has minimal elevation change throughout.
Government Canyon State Natural Area is located right outside of San Antonio, making it a great place to escape from the city. This wilderness area is 12-000 acres and protects the drinking water for the city.
The park has 40+ miles of trails. One of the best views in the park is the Canyon Overlook, and you can even find dinosaur tracks nearby. To reach this view via the John Johnson Route, it’s a 6.5-mile hike that is rated easy. The park also offers mountain biking trails and campgrounds.
Note that this park is closed Tuesday through Thursday, so be sure to plan accordingly.
West Cave is a magical oasis located not far from the quaint town of Dripping Springs. The destination includes a grotto draped in green moss and a cave to explore.
West Cave can only be seen by a guided tour that you’ll need to reserve in advance. It might not feel the same as a typical hike, but it’s worth it to see this beautiful spot. Plus, it allows them to make sure West Cave is protected.
Jacob’s Well is a unique and beautiful spring that is 140-feet deep. It’s the second-largest fully-submerged cave in Texas!
To see the spring up close, it’s a 0.5 mile easy hike. In the past, you could swim here during the summer, but it closed in 2022 due to bacteria levels and remains closed in 2023. However, I still think it’s worth a visit to see the unique spring.
Hamilton Pool Preserve is a unique Hill Country destination where you can hike out to a large rock overhang with water dripping off the top into the water. It truly feels like an oasis!
To reach the grotto, you must hike about a quarter mile that is steep at times. Swimming was allowed in the past, but high bacteria levels have suspended swimming at time of writing. You also will need to make a reservation in advance. Be sure to check their website for all of the details and current conditions.
Step into a lush, green landscape full of dwarf palms in the middle of Texas Hill Country! Palmetto State Park is located about an hour from both San Antonio and Austin and is the perfect escape for hiking or camping.
The park has quite the diversity of plant and animal life due to the merging of East and West. It feels more like you’re in the tropics than Central Texas!
When you visit, don’t miss the Palmetto Interpretive Trail. This half mile loop is flat and will take you past the highest concentration of the park's beautiful Palmetto Palms. You’ll also get to see a historic water pump that was built by the CCC in 1936.
For a longer loop around the park, combine the Palmetto Interpretive Trail with the San Marcos River, Mesquite River and Ottine Swamps Trails. This creates an easy 3.4 mile loop that includes river views and a nice variety of landscapes.
In addition to hiking, you can camp, rent a kayak to explore the river, fish and swim. This is one of the most unique places in Texas and the perfect stop on a Texas road trip!
The Barton Creek Greenbelt is a hike right in Austin that follows along the Barton Creek. You’ll pass rocky bluffs along the water and enjoy a mix of forested and exposed areas.
The entire Greenbelt Trail is 14 miles but the trail has multiple entry points. One of the best sections is the hike to see Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls, which is 3.2 miles starting from Gaines Park.
This is a fantastic trail if you’re looking for a hike that is super close to all of the great food and activities in South Austin!
Old Baldy is a quick but rewarding trail in the town of Wimberley. The hike involves climbing 218 steps to reach an epic 360 views of the surrounding valley. It’s a beautiful place to watch the sunset or sunrise! Expect crowds during peak times and make sure to respect the rules regarding parking.
The Castroville Regional Park is a beautiful place to hike, see Spanish moss and enjoy some views of the city. Plus, the park offers camping, a swimming pool and lots of space for picnics!
To see a variety of the park, check out the 2.1 mile Cross Hill Loop Trail. The hike will lead you along the river (where you can see the Spanish Moss) and to the top of Cross Hill. Cross Hill has some fantastic views of the city (and a giant cross). Plus, the park is free to visit!
Here are some places that offer beautiful scenic views in Texas without needing to do much hiking.
Canyon Lake is a large lake in the center of Hill Country. The lake is surrounded by eight parks and has great opportunities for swimming, boating, camping and picnicking. I recommend visiting the Canyon Overlook Park, where you can walk across the dam and enjoy fantastic views of the water and surrounding area.
Wildseed Farms is a great family-friendly destination to see fields of flowers in Fredericksburg! In fact, they are the nation’s largest working wildflower farm. During a visit, you can walk around and see the flower fields, visit their botanical garden area, visit their winery and more. You will find the most flowers in bloom from March to October.
Blanco is a great state park to visit if swimming is your goal. You can swim in the Blanco River and admire the historic structures built by the CCC. It was actually one of the first Texas state parks that the CCC worked on! Also make sure to take the short walk to see the waterfall created from the dam.
Krause Springs is a lush Texas swimming hole that includes a waterfall, natural springs and a grotto hanging with moss. There is even a butterfly garden on site. The property offers multiple swimming areas, including a natural pool along with a man made pool. You can also camp here!
Blue Hole Regional Park in Wimberley is another fantastic place for swimming in Wimberley! This swimming area offers clear, blue water surrounded by shady cypress trees. The park surrounding it also offers hiking trails and picnic areas. Be sure to make a reservation in advance to swim in the warmer months.
If you haven’t realized, Texas Hill Country is huge! It covers 31,000 square miles, so I recommend deciding which area you want to visit and choosing an accommodation nearby. Throughout Hill Country, you can find campgrounds, epic glamping destinations and adorable bed & breakfasts. There is something for everyone. Below are the top small towns I recommend, some of the best hotels in San Antonio and Austin, and camping information.
Almost all of the Texas state parks on this hiking list offer campgrounds! It depends on the park, but generally Texas state parks have very nice campgrounds and offer options for RV hookups. A couple of the most popular parks for camping in Hill Country are Inks Lake and Garner.
If it’s your first time visiting Texas Hill Country, Fredericksburg is one of the best towns to visit and base yourself! The town has a lot of German influence, an adorable downtown area and several wineries.
There are some lovely bed and breakfasts to stay at during your time here. A couple to consider are the Hoffman Haus and Southern Charm Bed and Breakfast. If you’re looking for somewhere unique, check out Blue Sky Retro Resort. You’ll sleep in a Retro Trailer and feel like you’re in Palm Springs instead of Central Texas.
If you’re planning to visit Garner or Lost Maples State Parks (which offer some of the best hiking in the area!), Concan is a great town to base yourself in. For a gorgeous place to enjoy glamping in colorful cabins, check out the Inn Between. Other cabins and hotels in the area include Neal’s Cabins and River Oaks Resort.
Wimberley is an adorable town that also offers some great food. It’s a great base for hiking in Pedernales Falls State Park, visiting Jacob’s Well and the Blue Hole. There are also some great options for glamping in Wimberley. I had a great experience staying at Basecamp, an airstream on Airbnb. For a more luxurious experience, you can also take a look at Collective Hill Country or Yurtopia Wimberley.
If your trip to Texas is not only for hiking, Austin is an amazing destination as well! It also makes a great base for parks like McKinney Falls, Pedernales Falls, Inks Lake and more. Plus, there is outdoor adventure right in the city, such as kayaking on Lady Bird Lake.
When it comes to hotels in Austin, the Driskell is a cool location right downtown. The hotel is over 100 years old and said to be haunted! There are also some awesome hotels in South Congress, such as the Austin Motel and Hotel San Jose. Both are very colorful and instagrammable!
I’ve also always had great experiences with Airbnbs in Austin. I recommend looking in either South or East Austin for something that will meet your needs.
San Antonio is the other major city in Hill Country and can be a great base for visiting parks on the Western side of Hill Country, such as Government Canyon, Garner and Lost Maples. You can also enjoy outdoor recreation inside the city by renting bikes and exploring the San Antonio Riverwalk!
One great hotel in San Antonio is the Inn on the Riverwalk. This is a bed & breakfast inside a Victorian home and offers beautiful riverwalk views. For a luxurious stay, check out Hotel Emma, located right next to the vibrant and fun Pearl District.
Whether you’re looking for a hike followed by a swimming hole, hilltop views or waterfalls, Texas Hill Country is full of incredible hiking trails! I hope this guide helps you plan an epic Texas vacation.
For more ideas on things to do in Hill Country, check out my list of over 40 things to do in the region.
And for other beautiful places in Texas, check out these posts:
- The Best Things to do in Caddo Lake
- Outdoor Adventures in Beaumont, Texas
- A Guide to Visiting Dinosaur Valley
- The Best Hiking in the Guadalupe Mountains
- An Epic Marfa to Big Bend Road Trip Itinerary
- A Guide to Amarillo and Palo Duro Canyon
- The Best Hiking Trails near Dallas, Texas
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