The Texas Hill Country River Region may be best known for the crystal-clear Frio River, perfect for a float in the summertime. But the area — which is made up of several charming small towns — features so much more. Only here can you watch twelve million bats fly out of a cave, hike a state park with glorious views, enjoy a straight-out-of-France wine tasting at a vineyard atop rolling hills, rock out at a country concert, eat a tasty dinner of chicken-fried steak, and stay the night in a one-of-a-kind renovated train caboose.
Just an hour and a half west of San Antonio, this region packs in plenty of scenery, charm, and fun. Here’s our guide on what to see, do, and eat in the Texas Hill Country River Region.
Where to Stay
For an experience truly unique to the area, plan a stay at the Rimkus River Retreat. The property is comprised of small cabins on the edge of Garner State Park, and features The Caboose: an actual train caboose-turned-guest room. The Rimkus family put a lot of love into these accommodations, and it shows. Waking up to the river in your backyard in this homey retreat is pretty special. Rates for The Caboose from $129 per night.
Alternatively, consider a stay at the activity-filled Chalk Bluff River Resort. This property along the Nueces River is complete with a petting zoo of exotic animals, hayrides, fishing, tubing, kayaking, and hiking. Cabins here start at $109 per night.
Where to Eat
The Texas Hill Country River Region offers plenty of great eats. For a wholesome breakfast, head over the Lost Maple Cafe in Utopia. Along with the charming interior, the restaurant serves everything from biscuits and gravy to breakfast tacos paired with a jar of homemade salsa. The best part? Nothing on the breakfast menu is over $9.
For lunch, head to Bent Rim Grill, a biker-type joint in Leakey. Adjacent to the scenic Frio Canyon Motorcycle Stop, Bent Rim Grill is the perfect place to go to enjoy a delicious burger as you lounge in their open-air seating area and take in the excellent views of the hills. Be sure to try an order of the Texas Toothpicks, which are fried onion and jalapeño slivers served with ranch dressing. Menu ranges from $1.50 to $17.29.
Bonnie’s Bakery off of Highway 83 serves up sweet pastries to grab along your tour of the region; don't miss the cinnamon rolls. Back in Concan, stop by Hippie Chic’s River Shack for the Pablo’s Pleasure brisket tacos, or a Shack’s Mac Attack burger stacked with macaroni and cheese.
A long day hanging by the Frio River calls for a hearty dinner. Grab a ribeye steak at the House Pasture Cattle Co., and maybe even catch a country concert at their outdoor venue located out back (entrées from $12). Both local favorites and big-name icons have toured here, including Willie Nelson and Tanya Tucker. Alternatively, if you're craving a classic chicken-fried steak, head to Neal’s Dining Room (from $10.79), a well-loved local establishment in Concan.
What to See and Do
Many summer travelers flock to the area to enjoy the Frio River. Its pristine, cool waters make the perfect refresher on a hot summer day. Grab a tube or kayak rental (starting at $10) at Andy’s on River Road and enjoy the two-hour-long float; or, park at the Gravel Bar at 7 Bluff Crossing if soaking is more your speed.
After breakfast at Lost Maples Cafe, check out some more of Utopia. This charming small town, which is just twenty minutes north of Concan, is home to quaint antique stores as well as the idyllic riverside Utopia Park that’s great for picnicking (entry to the park is $10). It's also is home to a nine-hole golf-course, which inspired the 2011 film Seven Days in Utopia starring Robert Duvall.
A quick drive into Vanderpool brings you to Lost Maples Winery at Polvadeau Vineyards, where you can enjoy a tasting of 12 wines for just $16. Afterwards, buy a bottle and lounge by the pond as you take in the pristine views of the surrounding hill country.
If there's one must-do item on your Uvalde County list, it's the Frio Bat Flight. As the sun sets behind the Texas hills, witness ten to twelve million Mexican free-tailed bats flying out of their cave, right above your head and into the evening sky. This is the second largest bat population in the world open to the public. Be sure to plan a trip between March and September to experience the flight, as the bats head south for the winter. Tickets for the flight (including an informational guide) for adults are $12, children are $10, and toddlers five and under are free.
This region is also home to the popular Garner State Park. The 1,774-acre area along rests along almost three miles of the Frio River and features 11 miles of scenic hiking trails. The park is also great for swimming, biking, hiking, picnicking, and fishing. Plus, in the summer season, you can enjoy a traditional hayride. The park is also home to the iconic “Old Baldy,” a 400-foot peak with sprawling views of the region. Also if you love horseback riding, visit Neal’s Lodges or Elm Creek Stables.
End your activity-filled days with drinks and at Joe Jimmy’s. This family-friendly joint features fun nighttime activities everyone can enjoy, including karaoke and line dancing.