North of San Antonio, west of Austin in the heart of the Lone Star State lies a scenic area called the Hill Country. It spans 23 counties and is chock full of pretty towns, rolling hills, wineries, dude ranches, beautiful lakes, historic attractions and cool caves that make for a great RV or camping road trip.
When to Go
You can go all year round, but we recommend October through May when it is a little cooler.
What to See and Do
The minimum amount of time you need to enjoy the Hill Country is two (busy) days, but to take it at a more leisurely pace, we suggest you allow five days to really soak in all that Texas Hill Country offers. Rambling in your RV is a perfect way to enjoy this pretty area.
Map of Texas Hill Country courtesy of TexasHillCountry.com
With two days up your sleeve, we recommend considering either a tour of the northern part of the Hill Country starting in Austin or a tour of the southern part starting in San Antonio. Here are the main attractions of both tours so you can decide what works for you:
Northern Hill Country - Austin to Fredericksburg - 90 miles (180 miles round trip)
- Start day one in Austin Texas. Downtown Austin is best done as a walking tour. Park in one of the many lots or garages for the day. RVers with Motorhomes or trailers should consider the open parking lots on Red River St between 6th and 7th street.
- Kick off your morning with the Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum located off I-35 exit Martin Luther Junior Boulevard at 1800 Congress Ave. Plan to spend most of your morning there as it'll take two to three hours to explore. The museum chronicles the history of the Texas built around three themes: Land, Identity and Opportunity. They have divided each floor of the museum by one of the themes. "Land" is the first floor exhibit and tells the story of the first inhabitants and early explorers. The second floor is "Identity", and explores how Texas fought to become an independent nation, then the 28th state, and joined the Confederacy against the union in the Civil War. "Opportunity" on the third floor is about how Texans approach everything from drilling oil to ranching and includes their contributions to space, technology and medicine.
Don't Miss: Texas: Big Picture in the IMAX theatre (lasts about 45 mins) and the really cool Wild Texas Weather in the Spirit Theatre (lasts about 20 mins) which has moving seats, and simulates wind, rain and lightning!
- Grab lunch at the museum or head down Guadalupe St for some different food options and then head over to the Texas State Capitol on Congress Ave at 11th St. Allow 1 hour minimum to visit. The first things you notice as you approach are the overall size of the building and the impressive dome on top; it is the second largest capitol building after the National Capitol in Washington, D.C., but almost 15 feet above its Washington counterpart. Covered in Texas "sunset red" granite this Renaissance Revival-style Capitol is where Texas law is made. Once inside, either do a self guided tour or join one of the free guided tours that last approximately 45 mins.
Don't Miss: Gazing up at the rotunda and dome from the foyer and the Senate and House of Representative chambers especially if they are in session.
- For the rest of the afternoon, stroll over to Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum at 2313 Red River St. Allow 1 hour minimum to visit. The museum chronicles Johnson's life and his Presidency. It includes sculptures of President and Mrs. Johnson, his 1968 Presidential limousine, gifts from foreign heads of state, the First Lady's Gallery and a White House exhibit that includes a 7/8 scale replica of the Oval Office during Johnson's administration.
Don't Miss: 20 min multimedia program about Johnson's life and the replica of the Oval Office
- If it's between mid March and early November head down to Congress Avenue Bridge from LBJ Library and Museum.(sentence to the left seems off) Just before sunset you can watch swarms of Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from beneath the bridge to feed on insects. They estimate there are around 1.5 million bats there, the largest urban colony in the country. There are several points from which to view the event, and an information kiosk is located on the north bank of the river, just east of the bridge. Depending on when the sun goes down you may have time to catch a drink and some dinner beforehand. Make sure you try some famous Texan BBQ. Austin claims to be the "live music capital of the world", so whatever time of year you're there head to East Sixth Street to find an intimate music venue, there's plenty to choose from with anything from blues to country to punk rock can be heard. It's also full of bars, and restaurants so you won't go thirsty or hungry either, and you'll be toe tappin' your way back to your RV for the night!
- Spend the night at an Austin campground or RV park.
- Head west out of Austin early on day two by taking the US 290 towards Johnson City that takes you into the Hill Country. First stop is Pedernales Falls State Park 35 miles west of Austin, it's just off the US 290 on FM 2766. The centerpiece of the park is the Pedernales Falls that drop 50 ft over tilted limestone steps. Other things to do include swimming, hiking, bird watching and camping.
- Continue cruising west along the FM 2766 towards Johnson City. If you like wineries, try Texas Hills Vineyard on the way. Sample the Kick Butt Cab and Orange Moscato. Allow 30 mins minimum.
One mile past the winery you'll arrive at Johnson City. Not surprisingly, Johnson City is all about the Johnson family. If you didn't catch the Lyndon Baines Johnson Library and Museum or just want more, check out the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Allow 1 hour minimum. Skip the visitor center (unless you didn't see the LBJ Library and Museum in Austin) and instead consider viewing Johnson's boyhood home, the Johnson settlement, his grandfather's original farmstead and the LBJ Ranch including the Texas White House where he conducted official business while in Texas. The boyhood home and settlement is in Johnson City, but the LBJ Ranch is 14 miles west.
Don't Miss: LBJ Ranch. It's 14 miles west of Johnson City near Stonewall on the US 290. Do a self guided tour using a tour route map and a narrative audio CD when you obtain a free driving permit at the LBJ State Park and Historic Site Visitor Center located nearby. Highlights include viewing the reconstructed farmhouse where he was born, a one room school he attended, his grave in the family cemetery and the Texas White House, his private home where you'll need to stop off for a ranger guided tour.
- Head on to Fredericksburg for lunch. This is a quaint town with a 19th century look and feel with German influence from the original immigrants. With old-time storefronts, gift shops and cafes there is plenty to look at as you stroll around to find your chosen place to eat.
- With the appetite satisfied, visit the National Museum of the Pacific War on 340 East Main St. Allow 2-3 hours minimum. It's divided into three main areas; George Bush Gallery, Admiral Nimitz Museum and the Pacific Combat Zone. Start at the George Bush Gallery that covers the key stages of the war including Pearl Harbor, Midway, Guadalcanal, Mariana Islands and the Philippines. It has life-sized exhibits such as the deck of the USS Hornet, an original two-man midget Japanese submarine used in the attack on Pearl Harbor and a B25 bomber. At the time of writing this is temporarily closed as they are expanding the gallery. It is scheduled to reopen in early December 2009.
Once you've exhausted the gallery move onto the Admiral Nimitz museum that focuses on the life of Fleet Admiral Chester Nimitz who was born in Fredericksburg. Make sure you look at the amazing fifteen-foot model of the carrier, Nimitz (CV-68). Finish off with a guided tour of the Pacific Combat Zone that lasts an hour. Highlights include a hanger deck with an Avenger torpedo bomber, a PT Boat (torpedo boat) and an invasion beach with landing craft and artillery.
Don't Miss: George Bush Gallery
Head back to Austin on the US 290 E
Southern Hill Country - San Antonio and Surrounding Area - 80 miles round trip
- Begin your trip in the middle of downtown San Antonio. RVers with Motorhomes or trailers should consider parking at the Institute of Texas Culture at 851 Durango Blvd. From there it's a short walk to the Alamo, which sits close to the center of the city at 300 Alamo Plaza. Plan to spend a minimum of 2 hours here. The Alamo contains 3 primary sections: the mission church, the Alamo Gardens, and the Long Barrack Museum. Take a peek inside the mission church and you will come upon exhibits displaying artifacts associated with the Alamo Heroes: Travis' ring, Crockett's buckskin vest, a flintlock rifle used in the battle; a period Bowie knife, and more. If you're not a history buff, you can enjoy the carefully manicured lawns and flower beds of the Alamo Gardens.
Don't Miss: The Clara Driscoll Theater where visitors may view a seventeen-minute film on the Alamo, a film produced by The History Channel exclusively for the site.
- Next stop is the Tower of the Americas. Allow 1 hour. Conveniently located a mile away at 701 S Bowie St., the Tower of the Americas offers visitors the opportunity to take in 750 foot high views of downtown San Antonio, as well as the enchanting Hill Country to the northwest from an observation deck.
- Make your way over to the River Walk (Paso Del Rio) to take in some culture and grab a late lunch. The River Walk is centrally located in the center of the business district and is right off of Commerce St., about 2 miles from Tower of the Americas. Plan to spend between 2 to 3 hours here, as there's plenty to see and do. The walkway is the social epicenter of the city, as it teems with bars, restaurants, outdoor art, and lush landscapes.
- Grab dinner at Howl at the Moon Saloon, where the live entertainment is second to none. Piano players take the stage two at a time. And every hour, when the performer's set is over, four piano players stay on stage for two to three songs. Audience participation is not uncommon, and service employees join in as well!
- Spend the night at an San Antonio campground or RV Park.
- Start your day by heading north out of San Antonio on the I-35 until exit 175. Head eight miles west on Natural Bridge Cavern Rd until you arrive at Natural Bridge Caverns. The caverns offer novice spelunkers the chance to get a feel for the underworld as guided tours bring visitors 180 feet below the ground through underground rooms and passages. Highlights include ancient formations, such as stalagmites, stalactites, chandeliers, and delicate soda straws. Tours are 75 minutes in length, so allow 1 hour 30 mins minimum. Comfortable walking shoes are required.
- Spend the rest of your morning and early afternoon at The Natural Bridge Wildlife Ranch, next door to the caverns. Allow an hour and a half minimum. This 400 acre drive thru safari, located within a mile of the Caverns, offers visitors the ability to feed the wild animals from their car. There are over 40 species of native, exotic, and endangered wildlife to view.
- Shoot over to New Braunfels fifteen miles away for a late lunch - head north on Natural Bridge Cavern Rd, East on FM 1863, and East on TX 46 into New Braunfels. Allow a minimum of two hours. Gruene section of New Braunfels has most of the restaurant options. After lunch take a walk around and you will encounter scenic parks, natural springs and lakes, historic buildings, and many antique shops, as the town is the self proclaimed "Antique Capital of Texas".
Head back to San Antonio taking the I-35.
Texas Hill Country - Austin to San Antonio via Fredericksburg - 280 miles
With the luxury of a bit more time, you can start with the Northern Hill Country tour and join the dots down to the Southern Hill Country tour.
Day One and Two
Follow the Northern Hill Country tour from Austin to Fredericksburg. At the end of day two stay at a Fredericksburg campground or RV Park.
- Head to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area for some outdoor exercise. At the heart of the Area is the rock, a huge, pink granite exfoliation dome that rises 425 feet above ground, 1825 feet above sea level, and covers 640 acres. It is the largest stone formation in the West; it places second nationally to Georgia's Stone Mountain. Opportunities abound to climb, hike and explore. The climb to the top is fairly steep and entry at weekends is sometimes limited when busy. Allow two hours minimum and in the summer start early to avoid the midday heat. The park is 18 miles north of Fredericksburg on Ranch Road 965.
- Feeling invigorated from the climb head over to a few of the wineries that surround Fredericksburg. Two to consider are Torre di Pietra, and Rancho Ponte Vineyards. Torre di Pietra is a vineyard steeped in history; the Maxwell family is 4th and 5th generation Texans, whose family has been farming and making wine here for more than 100 years. The wine can be a bit pricey though! At Rancho Ponte, wines are sold exclusively at the winery. Highlights include a tasting room surrounded by cattle and horse ranches. The atmosphere is friendly and cozy, and staff are knowledgeable.
- From Fredericksburg take the RV onto US 87 South until you reach the I-10. Take the I-10 to San Antonio.
Day Four and Five
Follow the Southern Hill Country tour - San Antonio and Surrounding Area.
Campgrounds and RV Parks
There are many campgrounds and RV Parks spread throughout the Texas Hill Country. Use our Smart Search to find their locations around Austin and San Antonio.
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Special thanks to all contributors for their wonderful photos:
- Natural Bridge Caverns
- Lyndon B Johnson Library and Museum
- Texas Department of Transportation
- Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
RV past Bluebonnet covered hills
RV into downtown Austin
Discover the story of Texas
Marvel at the magnificent Texas State Capital
Lyndon B Johnson Library and Museum
Watch the nightshow at the Austin Bat Cave
Enjoy live music
Admire Pedernales Falls
See LBJ's home at the Texas White House
Go shopping in Fredericksburg
Stroll along the River Walk, San Antonio
Explore the Natural Bridge Caverns
Go wild at the Safari
Indulge in a glass or two
Soak in nature's bloom