Our Stay at Big Cedar Lodge, America’s Premier Wilderness Resort

Y’all, I have found a new slice of paradise for outdoor enthusiasts and families! Big Cedar Lodge in Branson, Missouri.

Billed as “America’s Premier Wilderness Resort”, BCL is on Southern Living’s South’s Best list for 2019. Brandon and I went there for a wedding this last May and there is outdoor recreation available for all ages and interests.

While there’s plenty to do for outdoor lovers, the accommodations are comfortable enough that the entire family can enjoy it.

  • 10 Hours from Austin, TX
  • 45 minutes from the nearest airport

Big Cedar Lodge was built by owner of Bass Pro Shops, so there are fish everywhere—either painted, welded, or engraved into nearly every flat surface on the property, from the parking lot stripes to the wood clothing rods in the closets.

The drive from the front gate to the main lodge is breathtaking and gets you in the outdoor spirit. It winds through the woods and has big views of Missouri’s lush green hills and the nearby lake. Most people I talk to are surprised to hear about how beautiful Missouri can be, but its very lush and especially charming in the Ozarks. I definitely would put a trip here on your outdoor “bucket list.”

Table Rock Lake

The resort sits on a hill above Table Rock Lake, where there is a marina, small beach, and a pretty walking trail on the edge of the lake.

On the morning of the wedding we booked a lake tour in a little wooden motor boat called the Goin’ Jessi, which was once owned by Waylon Jennings.

You can book it here: Table Rock Lake Marina or by calling the resort.

I was 5 months pregnant at the time, and it was sweltering, (there was no shade on the boat) but it was fun nonetheless. It was very affordable and it didn’t require much time, which was a huge plus given all there is to see and do at the resort!

What Not to Miss

The highest point of the property, “Top of the Rock” is a must-see and has a museum, restaurant, chapel, wine tasting room, and reception area and is absolutely stunning–a place you will not want to miss!

At sunset, they play bagpipes out on the lawn and it is magical. For my friend’s wedding, they fired off a canon as we all came out of the chapel.

Top of the Rock also has a huge Native American artifact collection to see if you’re into history.

Cabins

We stayed with some friends in one of the cutest log cabins I’ve ever seen! It looked like something out of a Ralph Lauren ad.

I can only imagine how charming it is at Christmas time, which supposedly is a great time to visit the resort. It had a fridge and a kitchen and would be perfect for a family to stay in.

(In addition to cabins, there are also rooms you can rent in the main buildings.)

Dogwood Canyon Nature Preserve

This is a separate property just a few minutes away from the resort, with a ton of wildlife to see (like elk and bison!) and plenty to do. I would set aside an entire day for this. The highlights would be the wildlife tram tour and the horseback rides. Other offerings:

  • Hiking
  • Trout Fishing (this is supposed to be excellent and EASY!)
  • Fly fishing academy
  • Biking

www.dogwoodcanyon.org/

Walking Trail

We enjoyed getting our morning coffee and strolling along the paved walking trail that connects the cabins and the main lodge. Its not too long and would be doable with a stroller.

Historic bridge on the property
View from the walking trail

Gift shop

The gift shop is pretty good, especially if you are looking for some cute outdoorsy themed things.

Fun Mountain

While the rest of the resort is all about doing things outside, Fun Mountain is the perfect place to go with kids on a hot or rainy day because it’s inside and air conditioned! There are bumper cars, a low ropes course, arcade games, laser tag, a golf simulator, and the most unique bowling alley I’ve ever been to.

Shooting Academy

Everything including the guns are provided!

Other Things to Do

It’s impossible to cover it all in one post! But there is golf, a cave to tour, bowfishing, yoga and other fitness classes, swimming, and archery. Don’t worry–you will not get bored!

How Long to Stay

There is SO much to do–I would allow at least 3 full days not including arrival/departure.

What to Bring

This is a very casual resort and you will be fine in your comfy clothes! I would be sure to bring low top hiking shoes or tennis shoes because you will do a lot of walking.

How to Get There

  • Drive — roughly 10 hours from Austin (we did it in 1 day)
  • Fly — you can fly into either Springfield or Branson. Branson is the closest and Springfield is about 45 minutes away.

We need one of these places in Texas but until that happens I will have to return to Missouri. I can’t wait to take my little boy and do all of these things when he is old enough!

The View from the Top of Enchanted Rock

One of my goals with this blog is to give you the chance to see pretty outdoor places around our state even if you can’t leave your office cube. So today, a view from the top of Enchanted Rock! We went up there in the middle of January with some friends from Austin. It was risky as far as weather, but we threaded the needle between two freezes, and got a 70-degree day.

Enchanted Rock, for those of you who’ve never been, is nestled in the Texas Hill Country just north of Fredericksburg, two hours west of Austin. It’s in a region where pink granite juts out of the ground everywhere you look, with Enchanted Rock being the largest chunk–a huge beautiful dome surrounded by other smaller domes and rocks. Kind of like the monolith Uluru in Australia, but a big pink Texan version.

It was insanely windy up at the top–50 mph! We all felt like we might blow away.

When you’re up on the top of Enchanted Rock, you are literally up with the birds. You’ll see them right at your level about a hundred feet away, soaring over the valley floor. None of them would stay in one place long enough for my pictures, but you get the idea.

The climb to the top, for those of you who have never been, is about 20 minutes straight up once you reach the base of the rock.

 

Of course, you can stop and take breaks–no shame in that–but man, it is a killer bun and thigh work out. A good thing to do in January when you’re trying to get back on the wagon!

Love that pink Texas granite.

When you get up to the top, there are caves you can go explore, or you can just sit and enjoy the view and give your legs a rest.

On a less windy day, I like to bring a pair of binocs up there and scan the countryside, but we felt like we would blow off the cliff at any moment so sought the wind-break of some nearby rocks.

Enchanted Rock now has a food truck at the base of the mountain, so when you come back down you can get ice cream. It’s glorious! Much needed! Delicious!

Enchanted Rock is one of my top 5 favorite state parks, and you’ll hear me talk a lot about it on this blog. So if you haven’t ever been, put it on your list.

More posts about Enchanted Rock

My Favorite Parks in the Texas Hill Country

I’m a little partial to the Texas Hill Country, I must admit. So I realize I may be a biased when I say all the best state parks are in this part of the state!! The only other landscape that rivals it in terms of drama would be West Texas, but nothing spells natural perfection to me like limestone cliffs, cactus, and spring-fed creeks and rivers. My Austin peeps all know the glory of a swimming hole in July!

This list includes state parks, county parks, and a National Wildlife Refuge. There are so many great places that didn’t make the cut (feel free to remind me of them all in the comments) but these, in my opinion, are the best. Most dramatic and unique landscapes, prettiest water features, and most breathtaking scenic vistas.


6. Colorado Bend State Park

This park is probably the most “remote” feeling of all the parks on this list. It is surrounded primarily by ranches and the nearest town is a solid 35 minutes away, so the hills are pristine and the view is stunning. With civilization so far away, the stars are INCREDIBLE! And Gorman Falls, a highlight of the park, is like something out of a storybook. So why is this place last on my list? Well, the bathroom situation. It’s all compost toilets. Granted, the bathrooms themselves are pretty nice (they have a nice sink, mirror, and tile floor) but the fact remains that it is still a compost toilet.

5. Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge

This place gets major brownie points on my list because it’s so close to Austin, has great trails, and after your work out on the trails you can go to nearby Bluebonnet Cafe in Marble Falls and eat a delicious lunch and pie! And who doesn’t love that?

Other perks: If you’re wanting to train for an actual climb in the mountains out west (like Colorado) then this is a place you can go for some challenging terrain. A few of the trails go straight uphill!  But, there are PLENTY of flat trails with good views that a kiddo can do too.

Bring a swimsuit if you want to take a dip in the crystal clear creek that flows through it. The wildflowers in this area are pretty spectacular! Only negative: no pets. BOO.

4. Pedernales Falls State Park

This park is great because of the privacy of the campsites, cleanliness of the bathrooms, and drama of the landscape. Probably the easiest camping trip you can do in the Hill Country–all the sites are drive up and spacious, the bathrooms are nearby, and the most scenic part (the falls) are only a short walk.

3. Inks Lake State Park

The reason this park makes my list is the unique pink granite you’ll find everywhere, and the great views on so many of the trails. I don’t like slogging through a forest with no reward at the end, and at Inks Lake you don’t have to worry about that! Especially not when the bluebonnets are out, omg–it is simply beautiful to see bluebonnets against the pink granite. The trails wind around the lake’s edge and up over hills and around boulders, so you never get bored looking at the same scenery along the trail. While the campsites don’t offer much privacy, they are shaded by big oaks and located beside the lake.

2. Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Ok, so this may be one of Texas’ most popular parks BUT it is for such good reason! I love it. Here’s why. A) the view from the top is amazing, B) the workout climbing to the top is exhilarating (short, but great), C) the campsites are private and secluded from the main road, (with the exception of a few), D) the trails all have interesting scenery (even the ones other than Summit trail) and finally E) (yes there is an E) there is so much to do in the surrounding area and nearby B&B’s if camping isn’t your thing! (Think shopping in Fredericksburg, visiting LBJ State Park, checking out charming Johnson City, etc etc.)

1. Lost Maples State Natural Area

Finally, the very tippy top on my list, Lost Maples State Natural Area. I have a soft spot for this place. It is exquisite, a real reason to have pride in our state, and if you ever get to go you will see why. The views are the most dramatic, its trails the most entertaining, and of course, its fall colors the BEST in Texas. The surrounding countryside, which you should take a drive one afternoon to see, is awesome. Warning: you must reserve your campsite early.

The hilltop trails hug the edge of a cliff so you are treated to this panorama nearly the entire time:

And there are charming smaller, easier trails on the “ground floor” for little ones:

The drive there is spectacular:

Random rock formations shaped like a monkey:

And of course, fall leaves:

Honorable Mention

Pace Bend Park, a Travis County Park on the banks of Lake Travis, gets honorable mention. I like their camping area for its spaciousness and last minute availability, love its proximity to Austin, and enjoyed the trails which hug the edge of the lake.

So like I said–you can’t go wrong with a park in the Texas Hill Country, it is one of the most beautiful parts of our state and we are so lucky to have these green spaces! Pack up the family–even if just for a day trip–and go check them out.

God bless Texas!

Indian Lodge: a Must See in West Texas

Have you ever been to Indian Lodge? It is a charming, historic, and scenic lodge set amid the arid mountains of West Texas. A must-see on your next trip to this part of the state!

It even has a pool!

Indian Lodge has 39 guest rooms, but even if you don’t get a reservation (they book far in advance) you are welcome to check out the property.

Built by the Civilian Conservation Corps as part of President Roosevelt’s New Deal, it is steeped in history. Everything is handmade, from the chairs and tables to the mirror frames and bedside lamps.

I love how the CCC’s work so many decades ago has enriched our national and state parks with history.

Where to Stay Nearby

If you can’t stay at Indian Lodge itself, look into one of these neat options nearby:

Where to Eat

Black Bear Restaurant is known to be delicious! Expect hearty meals.

What to Do

Give me a good book and I could definitely sit here a while!

Scoop from a Whit’s Wilderness Reader

My friend Lindsey stayed here two summers ago, and you can read more about her trip here!

Atmosphere

Very quiet, serene, relaxing. Not a hopping place, but hey–that’s kind of the point of going out in the middle of nowhere, right?

Important things to know

  • Indian Lodge is closed for a major repair project through June 1, 2018 but the restaurant remains open.
  • Book far in advance (up to a year)

I hope you get to visit soon! Safe and happy travels, and be sure to tag me in your pics so I know if you were there!

12 Tips for Camping in Davis Mountains State Park

Even though it is so dry and the conditions are so tough, the desert in the American West somehow manages to be incredibly abundant and beautiful—especially in an area called the Chihuahuan Desert. This is where several parks you’ve probably heard of, like Big Bend National Park, are found, and its beauty is definitely worth seeing.

If you want to experience this unique landscape and escape to a place truly remote, Davis Mountains State Park is a great home base. From here you can see West Texas’ most famous landmarks within an hour and a half drive (think Marfa, Big Bend, Alpine, Balmorhea Springs), and you can camp while having the comforts of the small, quaint town of Fort Davis just minutes away.

More guidance for planning your trip to West Texas can be found here: A Girl’s Guide to West Texas.

1. Book 6-8 months in advance.

This is one of Texas’ more popular parks. See my guidance post, How to Make a Reservation at a State Park to see instructions for booking online or just visit http://texas.reserveworld.com/.

2. Get a campsite with shade.

I left my flip flops in the sun one afternoon and by the end of the day the soles had melted off. Even though Fort Davis is “the coolest place in Texas in July”, it can still get pretty hot in summer.

Request a camp site in the shade if you can, and still, plan to bring your own shade structure — like this one for $20 on Amazon. You will thank me later!

3. Beware of bees.

We made the tragic mistake of eating SYRUP outside (quelle horreur!) and were completely swarmed within minutes. The bees know where the camp sites are and aren’t shy about getting after anything sweet on your table. Here are my tips for keeping bees away from your campsite.

  • Keep your trash bag/can closed.
  • Keep the trash away from your picnic table and tents.
  • Do not eat maple syrup or honey outside.

4. Bring a hammer.

The soil is rocky and dry, and you will need a hammer to get your tent stakes in the ground.

5. Prepare for wind.

The wind in West Texas can be dramatic, so make sure your rain fly is clipped down and your tent stakes are secure in the ground.

6. Hike The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park.

My personal favorite trail in this park is the Skyline Drive Trail, it has incredible views all around and varied terrain so you never get bored.

On that note…

7. Be sure to watch the sun rise from the scenic overlook.

This is impossible to miss — just ask the ranger when you check in about the scenic overlook by Skyline Drive Trail and they will tell you. It is on the eastern end of the park.

8. Plan to have a meal at the Black Bear Restaurant.

This is at Indian Lodge, the iconic historic hotel on the property which was built by the CCC during the Great Depression. It is worth a stop.

There is a buffet but you can also order off the menu.

9. Bring a yard game.

This is a fun way to pass the time before dinner.

10. Allow several days for this trip.

The drive out to Fort Davis is so long that it’s not worth the effort if you have to turn around and come home two days later! Give yourself three to four solid days in the area (not including driving time), because there is SO much to see and do! (See my Girl’s Guide to West Texas for other recommendations.)

11. Plan to make a trip into town.

The town of Fort Davis is just ten minutes away, and has several cute stores and caboose turned ice cream shop that is pretty hard to beat!

12. Check out the interpretive center and attend a ranger show.

This is a cool spot. Literally–it has air conditioning! There are also games, hula hoops, and learning exhibits to entertain kids. AND a bird watching station where kids can see the wildlife of West Texas up close. The calendar at the visitors center and here online will show what ranger shows are taking place while you are there.

 

PS. The bathrooms are decent!

The bathrooms at Davis Mountains State Park are pretty decent, actually. There are two large family size restrooms or there are men and women’s restrooms with stalls and showers. There is not ample counter space but there is a little ledge under the mirror where you can put your toiletries. There are hooks for your towels. The restrooms are kept very clean too, thank goodness!

Hope you have a happy trip out west and be sure to tag #whitswilderness in your adventures.

The Hills Are Alive in Madera Canyon, West Texas

If you want to have a Sound of Music moment in Texas, this is your place! It is located in West Texas near Fort Davis in a preserve owned by The Nature Conservancy and the panoramic views of the Davis mountains are stunning!

Trail

The trail is 2.5 miles, easy, and only partly uphill. The best part is that it forms a loop so you never see the same thing twice. It starts out flat and crosses a creek, then heads uphill. You can hike the entire thing in a couple hours.

Picnic Area

The tables are huge and its a very low trafficked area so plan to bring a picnic and relax after your hike.

Location

Just past the McDonald Observatory on Highway 118, about 24 miles northwest of Fort Davis. You may feel a little lost, but just be on the lookout for the Lawrence E. Wood Picnic Area signs and a string of picnic tables visible on the side of the road.

Kids

Carry little ones in a child carrier like this one on Amazon, or plan to only go to the first overlook. A 7 year old or above could do the whole loop.

What to Wear

You will need a hat, hiking shorts, low top hiking shoes, and an equipped day pack (<– click here to see my recommended packing list). Here’s my recommendation:

Favorite Part

The views. Nearly every overlook was spectacular, and the mountainsides were covered in pines.

Least Favorite Part

The pond we hiked to was a little underwhelming. Don’t expect some glacial lake here!

Things to Know and Important Links

More pics

Fun times! Hope y’all get to enjoy it soon. Happy hiking!

The Best Place to Stargaze in West Texas: McDonald Observatory

If you consider yourself a Texan who knows all the greatest places in our state, and you haven’t been to McDonald Observatory yet, then you need to plan a West Texas vacation immediately. (And on the plus side, that’s pretty affordable!) This destination is a staple of most people’s agendas for West Texas.

The Location

(One of the best parts!)

McDonald Observatory is out in some of the most stunning landscape our state has to offer. Rugged, rocky mountains seem endless and with no sign of human footprint for miles, your eyes and soul are given a rest from the pandemonium of daily life.

Granted, it’s a solid 6 hours from Austin and even farther from Dallas, Fort Worth, Houston, and San Antonio, but this place, as part of a whole West Texas vacation, is worth it at least once in your life.

Detailed Directions – Click Here

The Temps

As you wind your way up the two lane highway en route to the Observatory and approach 6,800 foot elevation where the Observatory sits, the temperatures drop.

The Sky

The night sky out here is dark. D-A-R-K dark. Red light instead of white flashlights are recommended so your eyes can stay adjusted to the dark for better star viewing.

Why come? For a STAR PARTY

*Tickets required*

The #1 thing to do there is attend a Star Party. McDonald Observatory is a hub of anticipation as a huge crowd gathers every night to have astronomers lead them through a tour of the night sky. A concrete path winds up a hill to two domed rooms, where fancy telescopes and their attendants await your visit. Look through the telescopes and learn about how grand our universe is, it is really quite amazing!

Other cool events to attend:

  • Twilight Program – Sign up for this before your star party (this starts at 8pm and star parties start at 9pm). Definitely worth the $5 entry fee!!
  • Solar viewings at 11am and 2pm
  • See the many events on their main webpage

If you get hungry…

You should try Star Date Cafe.

And There’s Shopping!

You may be in the middle of nowhere but don’t worry, you don’t have to give up shopping! McDonald Observatory’s gift shop has some unique treasures, from blown glass paperweights that contain miniature galaxies (not sure how they did that) to astronaut ice cream to games that will stir up the astronomer in you or your child.

What if it gets rained out?

Happened to me! I’ve done it both ways, and it’s just as good when it rains.

You still get to see the telescopes, but instead of heading there first, they take you into a theatre where experts lead through a computerized display of the night sky. It is like watching the football game on the jumbotron even though you’re in the stadium–we all do it, let’s be honest, and the show is just as good if not better.

With the click of a button they can overlay constellation diagrams on a night sky image, and drag the sky around with their mouse, allowing you to see so much. Then, they show you incredible Hubble telescope photos and tell you stunning facts about the immensity of the universe. By the end, you are left pondering your minute existence–a wonderful state of affairs to be in.

Do kids like it?

YES! Though the star parties are a little past their bedtime, it’s worth it for an educational experience once in a blue moon. No pun intended! This is the perfect place to spark your child’s curiosity about the world around them, and who knows what kind of interests might be inspired by looking up at the night sky through a telescope. There are plenty of exhibits to entertain them and best of all, there is a small SLIDE inside.

What to Wear

As it does get chilly, most times of year you will wish for a jacket–it is at 6,800′ above sea level, after all so think “Colorado weather.” A flashlight or headlamp is a must, and ideally you want to get one with a red light setting.

My partner in stargazing crime.

Fun fact for my female readers

It was a woman who donated the ranch where this observatory now sits! The U Up U Down ranch, and kind of a perfect name for a ranch in the mountains.

Fun fact for my Longhorn readers

Money for the Observatory was donated to the University of Texas a long time ago, when UT didn’t have much of an astronomy program to speak of, and now this is a leading hub of research and UT is a player in much more astronomy work around the world thanks to what happened here.

Oh by the way, Saw Em Off. 🙂

All in all, this place gets the Whit’s Wilderness Seal of Approval!

Good Links

 

A Must-See in West Texas: the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute

A place called “research institute” couldn’t be that fun, could it? “Research” while on vacation? No thank you! Yet, despite the name, the Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute is actually a fun place designed for visitors like you and me, the recreational “researchers” of pretty things and pretty places, in West Texas. If you are looking for a nice nature walk and scenic views of the mountains, this is your place!

So why care about the Chihuahan Desert? The Chihuahuan Desert is special because it is an ecological region more diverse than most parts of the world–enough to be a bragging point about Texas. And the beautiful succulents and scenery make this one of the most gorgeous parts of our state.

One of the reasons I like the CDRI so much is that inside its grounds there are all of the unique cacti and succulents you would see out in the wilds of West Texas, and in a short walk you can see a good sampling of everything you might see if you trekked across the whole of the desert.

I LOVED their wraparound porch. It is the perfect respite after a hike!

I loved their coffee and tea station. They know what weary travelers need!

The winding path through the boulder studded gardens and the incredible view of the mountains are pretty hard to beat!

Things to Know

  • Flat, stroller-friendly around building and in gardens
  • Plenty of hiking trails for agile hikers (ages 6+)
  • Fabulous porch and rockers!!
  • Pay attention to the thorny plants in the gardens if you are with small kids. Our two and three year old nieces were fine as long as we held their hands and kept them from running into cacti.
  • There is plenty to see other than thorny plants though so don’t let that hold you back.

What to See

  • Hummingbird and Butterfly Trail: (0.33 mile loop) Inside the Botanical Garden, among the outcropping of rocks just beyond the Pollinator Garden, is this easy hike providing pretty vistas and interesting rock formations. — CDRI.org
  • Cactus & Succulent Greenhouse: One of the largest Chihuahuan Desert cactus collections in the world, with over 160 species and varieties of cacti and succulents.
  • Clayton’s Overlook: (1.5 mile loop) A moderate hike that ascends 220 feet to the hilltop where you can take in a 360 degree view of the area.  An interpretative geology exhibit at the top of the hill provides a detailed description of the formation of each of the mountains in view, including excellent illustrations of the formations. — More info on CDRI.org

When to Go

  • Morning or late afternoon in summer
  • How is it in winter?? Has anyone been?

Location

The CDRI is located SE of Fort Davis, Texas in West Texas, 20 minutes from Alpine, 30 minutes from Marfa, 1.5 hours from Fort Stockton. About 6 hours west of Austin!

43869 St. Hwy 118 (4 miles SE of Fort Davis)
Fort Davis, TX 79734

More Pics

If you want to see my friend Lindsey’s amazing macro pics of the cacti at this place, check out my blog post here! The Amazing and Strange Cactus of West Texas

Have fun ladies!

www.cdri.org

The Most Scenic Trail in Davis Mountains State Park

This is my favorite hike in Davis Mountains State Park, by a long shot. Lots of great panoramic views of the surrounding mountains, and the trail is wide and flat at many places. Not to mention, the reward at the end is definitely worth it!

If you’ve hiked it before, let me know in the comments!

Skyline Drive Trail

  • Maps at end of this post
  • Distance: 2.6 miles but with shortcut options
  • Perks: Excellent panoramic views, with Indian Lodge and McDonald Observatory in the distance, scenic picnic tables. mostly flat or downill terrain (so much better than hiking uphill, am I right?!)
  • Challenges: The terrain is mostly flat or downhill, but the surface of the trail is rocky in some areas. It proved difficult for our 3 year old and 1.5 year old nieces.
  • Rock “fortress” at CCC overlook that is wildly popular with kids
  • Recommended for kids 5+ or that you can carry on your back

Best Part of the Trail

The best part of the trail is the segment between the two scenic overlooks. It has varied terrain, panoramic views, and great rewards at each end of the trail with the scenic vistas!

 

Route Option 1: Recommended Option

The best scenario is to have two cars or someone willing to drop you off at the easternmost parking area on the top of the mountain, so you can hike down to the campsites. This is great because it is all downhill!

There is plenty to look at for miles around.

 

Route Option 2: Shorter, Good with kids 5+

Drive to the first parking area you come to at the top of the mountain and hike to the CCC overlook at the easternmost parking area. Have a picnic or break here, and then hike back. This is about 1 mile round trip.

Route Option 3: Slightly more challenging version

Only because it involves going uphill to the top and then retracing your steps back downhill.

That said, if you get up early in the morning when the weather is nice and cool I could see this being a great work out with a very rewarding ending of easy hiking downhill!

Round Trip: 5.4 mi

You will start at the trailhead near the Interpretive Center (shown on map) and follow Skyline Drive up to the scenic overlooks for 2.6 miles.

 

What You Will Love

The ample photo opportunities.

The picnic areas by the scenic overlooks.

The breeze at the top of the hill and being up there with your loved ones!

What Kids Will Love

The tower at the end of the trail.

I don’t know what the CCC thought this would be used for when they built it back in the 1930’s, but let me tell you — today it is the prime place for little kids with imaginations to play princess, house, or cowboys and Indians. If Rapunzel didn’t let down her hair from a place like this, then I don’t know what she did. It did not surprise me that by the time my husband and I arrived after our hike, my nieces had already taken command of the “castle” and we had to gain admission by pretending to be magical visitors from a distant land.

We thoroughly enjoyed our hike on Skyline Drive Trail and bet you will too! Happy hiking, ladies.

 

9 Reasons to Visit LBJ Ranch and State Park

A couple of weeks ago, I stopped by the Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and historic site while en route to Fredericksburg. It was so cute and worth the stop! I am glad to finally know the charming park behind the gates.

This ranch is where former President Lyndon B. Johnson was born and lived most of his life. I love that both President Johnson and former First Lady Lady Bird Johnson were advocates for the environment, and no doubt their childhood in the scenic Texas Hill Country was a huge reason for their love of the land. As First Lady, Lady Bird used her platform to promote the restoration of native landscapes across America, and President Johnson brought to pass many of the environmental policies we still have today. And in typical American fashion, they led a quaint little small town life, which you can see at the park.

Here’s what I loved:

1. It’s Free!

Woo hoo!

2. Nearby there is plenty of nice lodging.

This is quick trip from Austin or San Antonio and the area is known for its charming B&B’s. Check out this website for more info!

3. You’ll get the Texas ranch experience.

Without having to shovel manure or clean dead rats out of a barn! Cows, barns, old ranch structures, white picket fences, tall oak trees, and acres upon acres of rolling hills greet you as you drive around. This ranch is also home to part of the Official Texas State Longhorn Herd. Because this is Texas, y’all, and we have an official longhorn herd.

4. It’s next to 2 of Texas’ best state parks.

You can hit the trifecta of Hill Country Parks on your trip to this area. Pedernales Falls State Park and Enchanted Rock State Park are both within a half hour. If you’re a Texan, and you haven’t been to Enchanted Rock or Pedernales, you need to get in the car now!!

Enchanted Rock State Park

5. Extremely kid friendly–all trails are stroller friendly and the rest can be seen from the car!

I loved being able to see the highlights from my vehicle…the air conditioning and music was so nice.

6. Pretty views of the Pedernales River.

Perfect for a dip or for the fishermen and women in your crew.

7. Lots to do in the area.

If you like shopping, cute B&B’s, or brunch, then you are in luck! (And we need to be friends.) Nearby is Johnson City, a charming little town with a market and restaurants. Fredericksburg is just thirty minutes away and has lots of good shops and eateries as well, like the Fredericksburg Herb Farm (their brunch is fantastic.) And a discussion of Hill Country sites wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the area’s famous wineries and Texas Wine Trail! Get your nature fix at the park and then go find an excuse to dress up in Fredericksburg.

8. Great wildlife and wildflowers.

I saw bison, axis, butterflies, and tons of wildflowers. If you need pics in the wildflowers, this is your place. Heaven!

9. An Interesting Dose of History

The lessons that stick with us are ones which we relate to–that affected us, involved us, or told stories of people like us. Seeing President Johnson’s humble beginnings on a Texas ranch, and learning about his Presidency from that perspective, is an enriching history lesson. If you want your kids to learn about American history or political science, why not take them to see the country home of one of two Presidents from Texas? They will see how someone from a simple life grew up to be a great President and what could be a better lesson than that?

10. Lovely picnic area.

The picnic area has plenty of tables and room to spread out, so if you are looking for a fun lunch stop on your way to Fredericksburg then stop here.

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