The Hill Country of Texas - A Fun Family Adventure!

As spring break was approaching I began looking for places for us to visit for a couple of days.  I started out looking for destinations far away we could fly to.  However, I quickly realized during spring break airfare was too expensive for our budget, so I opted for a road trip.  After considering several locations, I selected the Texas Hill Country! 

We were really lucky that spring had come early to Texas & the bluebonnets & wildflowers were blooming. This made an already alluring part of our great state even more beautiful!

Where is the Texas Hill Country? 
The Texas Hill Country is a 25 county area of Central & South Texas. The major metropolitan areas include Austin & San Antonio.  We have previously visited both of these cities & this trip we were looking for small town charm.  To learn more about the Texas Hill Country towns & cities you can visit the Texas Hill Country website.

What did we do for fun? 

Day 1 Hiking. Let me begin by saying we love to hike! This is a great way for us to spend time together as a family without spending much money. The first day of our 3 day trip to the Texas Hill Country was spent hiking Colorado Bend State Park.  This state park is located 30 minutes west of Lampasas, Texas near the town of Bend, Texas. To say Colorado Bend State Park is remote is an understatement.  You drive the last 5 miles on a paved park road that more closely resembles a county road than a highway. Entrance fee is $5 per person aged 13 & up children are free. You will pay the fee at a drop box so make sure you bring exact change. 
Park road into Colorado Bend State Park
We went to Colorado Bend State Park during spring break so it was a bit crowded.  Reviews I have read say that some days the park closes due to reaching capacity.  Luckily we did not encounter a closed park, possibly due to the cold & wet conditions. 

After eating lunch in Lampasas we arrived around 12:30 PM. Our goal was to hike the 2.6 mile out and back trail down to Gorman Falls - a 60 foot waterfall.  In Texas this is a sight to see!  That morning & the night before a considerable amount of rain had fallen so this well traveled trail was very muddy! We found the trail to the falls to be mediocre.  However, the area where the falls are located is nothing less than gorgeous!  Be aware the last 150 feet of your hike will have a steep descent where you will need to hold on to the wires for balance. Once you arrive you will find Gorman Falls next to the pristine Colorado River. This area has lush green grass & trails along the river and up the rocks overlooking the river. During the summer you could cool off in the river, so bring your swimming suit.
The beginning of the Gorman Falls Trail is flat without much to see.

The descent to the falls is rather steep.

Gorman Falls


Colorado River

The Colorado River runs next to the falls adding to the overall beauty of the area.

As you go up river from the falls you will see trails that go up to an area where you can explore rocks & caves above the river.  My 13 year old son enjoyed seeing which cave he could find next.

After exploring the rocks above the Colorado River we hiked back to our car. Visiting a 60 foot waterfall in Texas was officially checked off of our bucket list of things to do. We would have liked to explore more of this park but it was time to head toward our hotel in Marble Falls 1.5 hours away.

Day 2 Vanishing Texas River Cruise. The second day of our 3 day trip included a 2 hour cruise with the Vanishing Texas River Cruise around Lake Buchanan & up the Colorado River. 
The cruise included a scenic tour of Lake Buchanan, the Colorado River, waterfalls, & Texas wildlife. The first hour of the cruise is highlighted by the tour guide, Candi, telling us the local history while also pointing out wildlife. Candi was informative & entertaining, she is great at her job!  The second hour of the cruise Candi mingles around the boat & asks if anyone has questions or would like to have their picture taken. You have the option of sitting inside on the lower level or you can sit upstairs with open sides. Even though the weather was a bit chilly we bundled up & headed upstairs.  What fun is a boat ride sitting inside right?
Prices for the cruise are adults $25, Seniors $22.50, Child (2-12) $17.50, Teen (13-19) $22.50, & under age 2 are free.  If you want to purchase a box lunch for the 11 AM cruise the cost will be $7.95 per lunch.  We did not purchase the lunch but instead brought our own food because the reviews I read said the lunch was not all that great.

The Texas Eagle II takes you up the Colorado River to see waterfalls, bluffs, & wildlife including the American eagle. 

The lower deck of Vanishing Texas River Cruise is enclosed with tables & chairs for seating.
The upper deck of the Vanishing Texas River Cruise.
Vanishing Texas River Cruise Scenery

After our cruise we headed back on  beautiful FM 2341. I highly recommend taking your time & enjoying the drive to and from Lake Buchanan. 

Day 2 Longhorn Cavern State Park.

Our river cruise ended at 1 PM & we headed to Longhorn Cavern State Park.  Longhorn Cavern is a beautiful 40 minute drive from Lake Buchanan. We arrived to find crowds of people on spring break. Thankfully the park was offering cave tours every 20 minutes because it was spring break so we did not have to wait long for our tour.  

While we waited for our tour we explored the grounds of the park. You will find nature trails, buildings, & structures built by the CCC during the depression. In addition there is a tower you can climb to have a birds eye view of the Texas Hill Country. You will be amazed at the craftsmanship that went into building the structures by the CCC. 
Longhorn Cavern State Park Grounds

Our tour started at the park headquarters back porch where we met our guide.  Wayne is a very knowledgeable & entertaining guide. We all enjoyed hearing how the cave was formed & the many uses the cave has served throughout time.  I won't spoil the tour for you by saying this cave really has some amazing history associated with it! 

After our brief introduction we headed to the cave opening behind the park headquarters. 
You will need to be physically capable of climbing stairs (75 I think) as well as walk bent over for 75 feet while entering parts of the cave. 

Our last view of daylight as we entered the cave.

Throughout our 1.5 hour tour Wayne explained the formations, stalactites, stalagmites, columns etc. but what I found the most interesting was the history of the uses of the cave. Wayne had a way of telling the story of the discovery of the cave & the many uses over time that was very entertaining while also informative. He did not just recite a memorized tour Wayne KNEW his material & was happy to share it with our group.  

Inside the cave is lit, however my camera would not focus so please forgive the blurred image of inside the cave. 

I highly recommend touring Longhorn Caverns.  Of the three caves I have toured (Carlsbad, Longhorn, & Innerspace) this was my absolute FAVORITE!

Cost: To tour the grounds of Longhorn Cavern State Park there is no fee.  Cave tours are available daily & the cost is $16 for adults aged 18 and over, 15 for teens (13-17),  $12 for children (2-12), & babies are free. Military & seniors cost $15.

Day 3 Inner Space Cavern

On our final day in the Texas Hill Country we went to Georgetown, Texas to Inner Space Cavern. Inner Space Cavern is located conveniently off of I-35.

Inner Space Cavern was discovered by accident when Interstate 35 was being built.  It is one of the best preserved caves in Texas. We took the Adventure Tour that lasted 1 hour 15 minutes. The tour guide tells you the history of the cave discovery as well as explaining the formations in a way even small children can understand.  It was an entertaining tour. HOWEVER, I guess we got off on the wrong foot when there was a photo shoot area when we first entered the cave.  YES! You too can purchase a photo of your cave adventure up top when you return from the tour. This cheesy (looking to make more money) offer made the tour feel more like a ride at Disney than an actual cave tour. One other problem I had was the tour guide did not seem to know much about the cave other than her canned presentation. Even though there were some negative aspects of the tour, I would recommend Inner Space Cavern. However, my favorite cave is still Longhorn Cavern State Park. 
Cost: Adventure Tour Adults $19.95 Child (aged 4-12) $11.95, Children 3 & under are free.
Inner Space Cavern


We stayed at the Hampton Inn Marble Falls for two nights during our trip. The hotel is located in the heart of Marble Falls right on Lake Marble Falls. Marble Falls is a quaint town in the heart of the hill country.  It offers many shops and restaurants making it the ideal vacation destination. We enjoyed our stay & would recommend this hotel to others. 

Despite the hotel being booked to capacity, we never heard our neighbors. The beds were comfortable, making for a great night's sleep. 

The room had a chair & ottoman which was nice for relaxing after a busy day. 

The bathroom area had the sink, toilet, & shower/tub in the same room.  I prefer to have the sink outside the bathroom for ease of getting ready.

A FREE breakfast is available daily. The typical breakfast fare was available, eggs, sausage, oatmeal, waffles, pastries, fruit, yogurt, milk, coffee, juices.  The breakfast area overlooks beautiful Lake Marble Falls. 

The patio, pool, & hot tub overlook Lake Marble Falls. 

The view from the Hampton Inn patio was gorgeous!

When we travel I always try to book hotels that offer a free breakfast. We always eat a good breakfast so we are ready for the day.  I also grab some fruit to take with us to snack on during the day. Our days tend to be quite busy so we usually do not eat a big lunch.  On our trips, lunch often is trail mix & beef jerky. Our trip to the Hill Country included the following restaurants:

Schlotzsky's Cafe 102 Riverview Drive Lampasas, TX 76550: This chain restaurant is known for unique sandwiches. On our visit I tried the broccoli cheese soup for the first time & it was great! We also had the Original sandwich which was tasty as always. We highly recommend Schlotzsky's Cafe. 

River City Grille 700 First Street Marble Falls, TX: The River City Grille is next door to the Hampton Inn Marble Falls, they share a parking lot. It serves a variety of meals ranging from fish, to steak, to chicken.  I don't know if it was because we visited during the busy spring break week or not but we found the food to be bland & overpriced.  My husband had the fish planks, my son had fried shrimp, & I had the peppered smothered chicken On a positive note, the views were spectacular as it overlooks Lake Marble Falls but you have the same view at the Hampton Inn. We do not recommend River City Grille - maybe they were just having an off night but we cannot recommend based on our experience. 

Blue Bonnet Cafe 211 US-281, Marble Falls, TX: Since 1929 the Blue Bonnet Cafe has been family owned & operated. This restaurant has been featured in several magazine articles. Knowing Blue Bonnet Cafe was a popular spot, we arrived at 4:30 PM to find a line waiting to be seated with about 8 people in front of us.  We were seated quickly.  After studying the menu we each  made our selections.  My husband would have the daily special of 1/2 rotisserie chicken with 3 YES I SAID 3 SIDES. My son would have the Mexican plate with 2 enchiladas, a taco, & rice & beans. For me I selected the chicken fried steak with 3 SIDES. (Make sure you come hungry!) All 3 enjoyed our meal & had NO complaints. Blue Bonnet Cafe is known for their pies.  Now we don't normally order dessert at a restaurant but given the critically acclaimed pies of Blue Bonnet Cafe, we indulged our sweet tooth. My husband had the coconut meringue, my son the fudge pie with vanilla ice cream ala mode, & I had the chocolate meringue. I must say it was the best pie I have ever tasted in a restaurant.  (My husband and son concur!) The wait staff were top notch. By the way, when we left the restaurant at 5:45, the line was out the door with at least 30 people waiting for tables. Guess everyone knows the quality of Blue Bonnet Cafe. We HIGHLY recommend Blue Bonnet Cafe. If you are anywhere near Marble Falls, Texas you do not want to miss it!

Map of our adventure:

Our trip to the Texas Hill Country was one of the best 3 day trips we have experienced. We did a variety of activities that were new to us all. It was fun spending time together while making memories that will last forever. Wherever your travels take you, may God bless you each step of the way.

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