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08 May . 2020

10 places to hike in the Hill Country

With the opening of Wilderness Park, Rancho Sienna’s six-mile trail system is now complete, linking more than 100 acres of parks and natural open space throughout the community.

You can spend hours exploring the parks and trails throughout Rancho Sienna, and when you get the itch for a longer adventure, our north Austin location is within easy reach of many incredible Hill Country hiking destinations.

Here are our top 10 picks for getting out and exploring the Texas Hill Country around Rancho Sienna and Austin. Happy hiking!

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area – Located just 16 miles north of Fredericksburg, Enchanted Rock State Natural Area has cast its spell on human visitors for more than 12,000 years. Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 1700s, and the era of modern-day explorers began in 1978, when this massive pink granite dome became a state natural area. Rising 425 feet above the base elevation of the park, Enchanted Rock peaks 1,825 feet above sea level. The entire dome covers 640 acres, and climbing it is equivalent to climbing the stairs of a 30- to 40-story building. Activities include hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, bird watching and stargazing.

Inks Lake State Park – Approximately 40 miles from Rancho Sienna awaits Inks Lake State Park, a Hill Country gem offering sparkling blue water, colorful rock outcrops and striking sunsets. For hiking, the park has 7.5 miles of trails through shady forests and rocky hills. One of the newest trails is the Devil’s Backbone Nature Trail, offering a 2-mile hike with plenty of opportunities to see birds and wildflowers. You might want to save water activities for warmer months, but you can enjoy swimming, boating, diving and fishing. The park has 200 campsites and 22 cabins, including many with lake views.

Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge – Located approximately 24 miles from Rancho Sienna, this scenic and internationally important refuge hosts 245 bird species part or all of the year, plus myriad species of dragonflies and butterflies. Ten trails range from gentle to moderate, and additional activities include hunting, guided nature walks, workshops and festivals.

Lake Georgetown – Just about 12 miles from Rancho Sienna, Lake Georgetown is a scenic lake on the north fork of the San Gabriel River. Several parks surrounding the lake offer picnicking, boat access, fishing and camping. There are 24 miles of trails for hiking and mountain biking.

Lake Buchanan – The second largest of the Highland Lakes, Lake Buchanan has 124 miles of shoreline, making it a paradise for camping, boating, fishing and swimming. Other activities include cruising on a 200-passenger boat, offering views of the historic Colorado River Canyon, nesting Bald Eagles and waterfalls. About 40 miles from Rancho Sienna, this lake is surrounded by dozens of restaurants and a popular winery.

Pedernales Falls State Park – About 58 miles from Rancho Sienna (and well worth the drive) this beautiful park in Johnson City offers camping, hiking, mountain biking, bird watching, horse riding and water activities amid scenic creeks, canyons and waterfalls. The nearby LBJ National Historical Park and more than a dozen wineries along U.S. 290 make for a great day or overnight trip.

Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center – This 75-acre Hill Country preserve offers guided tours that take visitors from an arid savanna through a limestone crevice into a sheltered canyon of lush plant life. At the head of the canyon stands Westcave, with a stunning 40-foot waterfall replenishing the emerald pool below. In the Uplands, rustic hiking trails wind through a dynamic live oak and Ashe juniper savanna, which provides essential habitat to a variety of wildlife. Visitors can enjoy bird watching, solitude and the sounds of nature, animal tracks, wildlife sightings, and pristine views of the surrounding Texas Hill Country. A cabin dating back to the early 1900s is just off the trail. It’s about 46 miles away.

Canyon Lake Gorge – One of the Hill Country’s newest natural wonders, the Canyon Lake Gorge was formed in 2002, when floodwater roared through and carved it out of the earth. This 64-acre gorge exposes ancient limestone, fossils and dinosaur footprints estimated to be 110 million years old. Visitors can take scheduled tours to see the lagoon, waterfalls, and fossils including sea urchins and ocean ripples. About 85 miles away, this geological marvel offers an adventurous day trip.

Lost Maples State Natural Area – This Hill Country gem is famous for its fall foliage, when its colonies of Uvalde bigtooth maples offer spectacular colors, when all the conditions are right. Lost Maples is a hiker’s paradise throughout the year and is less crowded in seasons other than fall. The area has more than 10 miles of trails, including one loop that takes you to the top of a 2,200-foot clip. The Sabinal River and Can Creek offer relatively easy water crossings (though you might get your feet wet) and scenic waterfalls. About 164 miles away, this unique Texas park offers an extended day trip, and overnight camping is available.

Colorado Bend State Park – Spectacular Gorman Falls is the main reason so many people visit this park, about 90 minutes from Rancho Sienna and completely worth the drive. You can take a self-guided, three-mile round trip hike to see this lush 70-foot spring-fed waterfall, but be aware that the terrain includes rough and rocky sections. Colorado Bend offers 35 miles of hike and bike trails overall. You can also make a reservation to take a guided wild cave tour.

Explore more with our Outdoor Recreation Guide.