Texas Hill Country is scenic year-round. Already differentiated from the rest of the state by its rolling hills, during the spring the area is further emphasized by an extra feature when the fields overflow with wildflowers. The top celebrity of this star-studded landscape is the state flower of Texas—the bluebonnet—but other iconic legends such as the fire wheel, pink evening primrose, Indian paintbrush, coreopsis, daisy, and brilliant red poppy also take the stage.
The bluebonnet season is normally between March and April, but no one knows for certain precisely when they will bloom at their peak of brilliance, or when they will fade away. It depends completely on several variables such as weather conditions in the previous months, rainfall, and temperatures in the winter and spring.
Knowing that the Texas Hill Country was already boasting thousands of wild flowers, we quickly scheduled a road trip. Relying on very brief planning, we packed for two days—not forgetting our playlist and camera. Since we didn’t know where we would end up each night, and were convinced we would have no trouble booking a room, we didn’t make reservations. We left Houston around 7am on Saturday morning, bound for the Texas Hill Country, on a trip without an agenda.
From Houston to Austin
The initial part of our trip was on US Hwy 290 towards Austin. Near Brenham, the first patches of wildflowers appeared alongside the highway. However, the first real ‘wow factor’ came when a large field of bluebonnets appeared on the right side of the freeway. Despite the spectacular beauty, we didn’t stop, since we were set on getting to the Texas Hill Country early.
Near Paige, we took the first scenic drive on State Hwy 21 West to Bastrop, then route 21 and on to the 71 that would take us to Muleshoe Bend Recreation Park, in Spicewood. At that point, Austin was already behind us.
Texas Hill Country: chasing the bluebonnets
Seeking new scenery and natural beauty, we customized our itinerary to match our time and adventurous personalities. While taking turns behind the steering wheel, my husband and I zigzagged along the map as new routes popped up on our GPS. Switching between highways, local routes, and simple paved roads, we discovered charming towns, colorful meadows, and beautiful corridors bordered with flowers of every hue.
In Spicewood, at the Muleshoe Bend Recreation Park, we saw the most abundant fields of bluebonnets. This was a bargain at $5 per adult. Following the advice of the park ranger, we drove close to Lake Travis, and in doing so, soon saw blue color through the trees. The closer we got, the bluebonnet fields continued to stretch out. When we finally parked, it was like a azure carpet running along the lake.
Despite the gray sky and cold air, this area was stunning. Near and far, we spotted folks posing for pictures or strolling across the field. While doing the same, we inhaled the sweet scent in the air and enjoyed the amazing view.
On the road
The scenery was breathtaking as we continued on to Marble Falls and then Burnet. Thousands of gorgeous bluebonnets framed the sides of the roads and we often heard each other murmuring appreciation. ‘Wow,’ was a frequent exclamation, as were the numerous requests to stop and take a picture.
At Inks Lake State Park, we heard from the park ranger that no flowers bloomed in the area. Though it may well have been lovely, flowers were on our mind for this trip, so we kept right on driving.
Longhorn Cavern State Park came up next. After some quick research, we thought it would be a good place to stretch our legs. Stopping at the Visitor Center for more information, we briefly browsed through the cute little gift shop. Soon after, we hiked a short trail—less than a mile—starting behind the building. We had the trail to ourselves, and although enjoyable, there were no flowers in sight.
Short paths in front of the Visitor Center had trees, few flowers, and shade, plus benches where we sat and relaxed. We simply enjoyed the surroundings and watched the tourists come and go.
We decided to skip the limestone cave tour, which we later regretted. Instead, we climbed up the spiral stairs of the observation tower. It wasn’t very high, but the views of the surrounding countryside and the Falkenstein Castle in the distance were spectacular.
The Slab in Kingsland
‘Ready for a detour?’ That unexpected question came from my husband, implying that we would take a detour before getting to Fredericksburg. In fact, he was already changing the destination on Google Maps to take us to The Slab.
Just off Farm to Market Road (FM) 3404, outside of Kingsland, the lazy Llamo River flows over large granite outcroppings and smooth rocks, creating several shallow swimming pools. After pulling over on the side of the road, we walked down to the river bank. No one else was around, likely because it was a fairly chilly day. Cautiously we hopped on the exposed rocks, but stopped immediately, realizing they were quite slippery and we didn’t have the appropriate shoes. Nor had we brought bathing suits or towels.
Fredericksburg, established by German immigrants in 1846, has a small town feel that fascinated us at first sight. In the charming and historic district where the hustle and bustle take place, antique stores, museums, shops, wineries, bed & breakfasts, and restaurants—many with German names—stand side by side with tourists strolling in and out of the doors. Definitely a quaint town.
Full of pride, history, and natural beauty, Fredericksburg stayed true to its German roots. Since German food options were plentiful, we dined at Altdorf Biergarten—a cozy restaurant with a glass-covered well in the middle of the entry—located right on Main Street. The menu ranged from sausage samplers to schnitzel, German potato salad, bratwurst, soft pretzels, and of course, beer. According to my husband, a German restaurant serving sausages must be good. Despite not knowing authentic German cuisine, we enjoyed the flavors and the unique dining experience.
Booking a hotel
Having seen enough for the day, Fredericksburg was our chosen place to spend the night. Plus, we had fallen in love with this charming town. Once online, we searched for a bed & breakfast, hotel, or Airbnb, only to find that everything was sold out! We tried towns nearby and found nothing available. Austin, a full eighty miles away, seemed like our only option, so we booked a room there.
After dinner, we were disappointed that we now had to drive to Austin. Not only did we want to relax, but we wanted to visit Wildseed Farms the next morning. Never ones to give up easily, we got online one last time hoping for an available room, and YES, there was now one room available at the Wine Country Inn right down the street. We immediately booked it and cancelled the reservation in Austin. As soon as we walked up to the reception desk of the hotel, the owner joked about our good fortune. He had just cleared his website from a late cancellation and we booked it not ten seconds later. It was our lucky day.
Note: It is highly recommended to book a room in advance. Not only does the area get packed on weekends—especially in the spring—but also there are not many hotels and bed and breakfast available.
Wildseed Farms, just east of Fredericksburg, has more than 200 acres of wildflower fields. GORGEOUS! Meadows of bluebonnets and red poppies attract flower lovers who want to see and snap pictures of their loved ones from every angle on the grounds. Each area is carefully cultivated in order to harvest and sell the precious seeds.
Walking trails led us between the fenced fields. Strolling into the flower rows is not possible, but visitors can get close to the edges or use designated spots to step into the crop to snap a photo.
Butterflies and hummingbirds fly over a butterfly garden and the water features with lilies add a special flair to the place. At the nursery, a wide variety of plants, garden decorations, herbs, and seeds are available. At the gift shop, clothing, accessories, Christmas ornaments, jewelry, homemade jelly, and so much more can be found. Admission is free.
Austin, antique festival, and Brenham
In Austin, we planned to just stop for lunch, but we found thousands of bluebonnets along the streets near Zilker Metropolitan Park.
On the way to Brenham, we drove on Highway 71 east, then cut up 237 at La Grange through Warrenton and Round Top. Along the way, looking for patches of flowers, we stumbled upon a massive event, the semi-annual Round Top Antique Festival. This 22-mile stretch was busy, with folks browsing for treasures, in a large display of items some may call “other people’s junk,” and others consider antiques or art.
Remember that field of bluebonnets we saw off highway 290 where we didn’t stop? It turns out that Brenham, halfway between Houston and Austin, boasts an enormous pasture with tons of blue covering the lawn like a blanket. This field, adjacent to the First Baptist Church Chapel, is the closest and prettiest wildflower area one can visit if time doesn’t allow for a longer outing.
Are you a wildflower lover? Have you visited Texas Hill Country during the annual blaze of bluebonnets? Please share your thoughts.