Great Rides and Drives
First time visitors to the area always ask us about things to do and places to go. Without hesitation we always suggest a drive/ride through our beautiful part of the Hill Country as a great way to get familiar with the area and enjoy the sites. Please don’t take our word for it as Ride Texas Magazine, Texas Highways, Texas Monthly plus numerous other destination publications list our area as one of the 10 most beautiful parts of Texas.
Starting in Bandera we suggest you take Hwy 16 north towards Medina. Hwy 16 crosses the Medina River at several spots and provides great entry points for floaters and fisherman who want to enjoy this beautiful river. There are outfitters in Bandera that provide guide and shuttle service over this beautiful stretch of the river.
Once in Medina you have two options: Continue on to Kerrville via Hwy 16 or take Hwy 337 towards Vanderpool, Leakey and Camp Wood. Both drives are beautiful and offer great views of the Texas Hill Country. The Hwy 16 route to Kerrville takes you out of the Medina River Valley over a divide and down into the Guadalupe River Valley. The route via Hwy 337 takes you over several divides and into the Hondo, Seco, Sabinal, Frio and Nueces water sheds.
A good plan is to stop at the Patio Cafe at Love Creek Orchards in Medina, indulge in some wonderful apple pie or apple ice cream while you debate your options. Their hamburgers where recently votes as one of the best in Texas by Texan Monthly. If dieting, we suggest you turn left on Patterson Street, go down the hill and cross the Medina River to Moffett Park. Moffett Park is a (usually) quiet park and a great place to share a bottle of wine and cheese, wet your feet and listen to the river. It will be apparent, but Medina is the apple growing capital of Texas.
If you choose the Hwy 16 route to Kerrville plan to return via Hwy 173. Kerrville is home to Schreiner State Park, which is located just off Hwy 173 and is a beautiful 517-acre recreation area rising from the banks of the Guadalupe River to the deer and wildlife-filled hills just a few miles from the center of the city. Additionally, Camp Verde (about half way between Bandera and Kerrville) is always worth a stop. Camp Verde was opened in 1855 on the banks of scenic Verde Creek. It is most famous for its experiment with camels that was the brainchild of U. S. Secretary of War Jefferson Davis. An option in Kerrivlle is to take Hwy 39 up to the beautiful area of Hunt. Hunt is the headwaters area of the Guadalupe River and home to some of the best summer camps in Texas.
Taking Hwy 337 out of Medina towards Vanderpool and on to Camp Wood is probably our favorite. It offers some of the best views of the Texas Hill Country and provides some very interesting stops along the way. Hwy 337 seems to dead end into Hwy 187, but just turn right, go through the small community of Vanderpool and follow 187 to Hwy 337 west to Leakey (pronounced Lay-key… people in Leakey get quite upset when you pronounce their community Leak-ey) and on to Camp Wood.
A great option here is to follow Hwy 187 a few more miles north to Lost Maples State Park, home of the revered bigtooth maple trees. Lost Maples is one of our hidden wonders and well worth visiting especially during the fall colors. It offers great wildlife and bird watching. Other fun stops in this are the Lone Star Motorcycle Museum and the Lost Maples Winery which produces Spanish/Lenoir award winning wines.
The drive to Leakey and Camp Wood is both breathtaking and spectacular. It’s called the little Switzerland of Texas. It is so nice we suggest you take it both ways interrupted only by a quick dip in the Frio River (Spanish for cold). The cool and consistent flow of the Frio has made it a popular summertime destination. In Camp Wood we suggest a rest stop at BJ's Cafe and Sweet Shop. If time permits, drive north from Camp Wood towards Barksdale and take FM 335 to Hwy 41 and return via FM 336 to Leakey. This is a spectular drive through some of the most remote and beautiful parts of the Hill Country.
An option in Leakey is to take Hwy 83 south to Garner State Park and then take Hwy 1050 to Utopia (hard to get much better than finally getting to Utopia). Garner Park is a wonderful stop with great access to the Frio River and a very popular summer playground. A good eat and rest stops in Utopia is the Lost Maples Cafe.Take Hwy 187 north through Utopia two-miles and then east on Hwy 470 for another beautiful drive back into Bandera.
If you previously returned via Hwy 337 through Vanerpool, take Hwy 187 south towards Utopia and turn left on Hwy 470 towards Tarpley/Bandera.
Between Utopia and Bandera, in the Hondo River Valley is the tiny community of Tarpley. Home of Naylene’s famous roadside eatery called Mac and Ernie’s, open Fridays and Saturdays for lunch and dinner and Sundays for Breakfast and Lunch. It has been written up in Texas Monthly, Southern Living and featured on the Food and Travel Channels. A fun, casual, experience right in downtown Tarpley. Another great place in Tarpley is Williams Creek Depot Cafe. They offer yummy hamburgers, lunch and dinners, great live music by a variety of local artist on weekends and is a fun place to "hang out" for the evening.The park across from the Depot offers another good rest stop to enjoy the afternoon and dip your feet into the gin clear waters of Williams Creek.
Hwy 470 takes you very near the Hill Country State Natural Park Area. Tucked away in the rugged terrain five miles south of Tarpley on Hwy 462 is this undeveloped and secluded retreat with five thousand plus acres and 40 miles of multi-use trails that wind up grassy valleys, cross spring-fed streams, and steep limestone hills. Equestrians, hikers and mountain bikers can enjoy exploring the trails of this wonderful hide-a-way.
Back in Bandera, it is always fun after a long day on the road to visit some of the local honky tonks and enjoy a cool drink. The 11th Street Cowboy Bar, Arkey Blue’s Silver Dollar, Longhorn Bar and the Chicken Coop are great places to do just that. If you are in town on a Wednesday night try the BYOS (bring your own steak) at the 11th Street Cowboy Bar. You bring the steak and they provide all the fixin’s and live music, another favorite of the locals. For a nice glass of wine and great finger food try Mulberry's Wine and Cheese Bar. It's located at Main and Mulberry and open Thursdays, Friday and Saturday. Restaurant suggestions: OST Cafe, Brick's River Cafe, Busbee's BBQ, The Grill, China Bowl, Pap's Itallian Grill, Mi Pueblo, Sid's Main Street BBQ, and El Jacalita.
While in Bandera, take time to visit the Frontier Times Museum. The museum attracts visitors to Bandera interested in the history of the region and is home to over 40,000 old west, pioneer and prehistoric artifacts. One block north of the Court House at 510 13th Street. Open Monday – Saturday 10 am to 4:30 pm.
We hope you enjoy your stay in our lovely area and please call us if you have any questions about our little part of the world. We welcome any suggestion you might have as well.
Photos courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department © 2006
P.O. Box 967
Bandera, Texas 78003