Deep in central Texas there are 14,000 square miles (36,260 square kilometers) with a bit of whatever you need most: trout fishin', cycling, craggin', and mind-blowing barbecue.
Day 1: Land a Lunker
Those who say Hill Country ain't as wild as it used to be have obviously never waited out the summer tubing crowd and waded into the clear, cold Guadalupe River, one of eco-minded Trout Unlimited's top 100 U.S. trout streams. Guide Bill Higdon's day-long fly-fishing trips include an introductory clinic and a shot at landing a 24-inch (61-centimeter) rainbow. Stay at Gruene Mansion Inn and two-step next door to Gruene Hall, the oldest dance hall in Texas.
Day 2: Cowboy Up
Monotonous, clip-clopping trail rides are antithetical to the cowboy ethic—which is why Hill Country Equestrian Lodge gives guests room to roam. Take a guided morning ride among the limestone peaks of Hill Country State Natural Area, then let your colt canter through 275 open acres (111 hectares) surrounding the lodge's four private cabins. Later, trade mounts and pedal the preserve's 40 miles (64 kilometers) of trail, including the 5.5-mile (8.8-kilometer) Hermit Trace-Cougar Canyon loop.
Day 3: Ride Like Lance
Get a feel for the hills that made Lance great by pedaling the 45-mile (72-kilometer) loop from Fredericksburg to Doss. The low-traffic circuit winds through cattle ranches and farmland with a pit stop in the single-steeple town of Doss. Near ride's end, grab a chocolate milk shake at cozy Hill Top Cafe, then bed down at Fredericksburg's Hangar Hotel, where an observation deck offers views of Cessna landings and cushy rooms comfort the road-weary.
Day 4: Go Cragging
Texas rockhounds channeled the Vulgarians, the brash New York climbers who pioneered Gunks routes in the 1960s, while naming crags in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Tackle Nobody Likes Bryant Gumbel or Baba Wawa during a day with Austin-based Mountain Madness Climbing School. Routes on the granite batholith stretch 180 feet and offer ample opportunity to work
up an appetite for Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, in Llano.
Do: In the Hills Fishing Excursions ($325 for two people; www.inthehillsfishing.com); Hill Country Bicycle Works ($25 a day; www.hillcountrybicycle.com); Mountain Madness Climbing School ($100 for a day-long clinic; www.mtmadness.com)
Eat: Hill Top Cafe (www.hilltopcafe.com); Cooper's Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que (www.coopersbbq.com)
Sleep: Gruene Mansion Inn ($165; www.gruenemansioninn.com); Hill Country Equestrian Lodge ($166; www.hillcountryequestlodge.com); Hangar Hotel ($110; www.hangarhotel.com)
The Playlist: Hill Country Soundtrack
Pat Molak, owner of Gruene Hall, Texas' oldest dance hall, picks his Hill Country favorites
1. Willie Nelson "Whiskey River"
The Texas native recorded this in 1973 after settling in Austin.
2. Asleep at the Wheel "Miles and Miles of Texas"
A toe-tapping road tune from an original country swing band.
3. Alvin Crow "NyQuil Blues"
Losing a chicken can drive a man to hit the cough syrup.
4. Joe Ely "Dallas"
Country music's Buddy Holly.
5. George Strait "Amarillo by Morning"
Put on your cowboy hat for this one.
6. Willis Alan Ramsey "The Ballad of Spider John"
Anybody who knows Texas music knows this song.
7. Jerry Jeff Walker "Hill Country Rain"
"Mr. Bojangles" wasn't the only Walker-penned classic.
8. Lyle Lovett "That's Right (You're Not From Texas)"
Sorry, one road trip does not a Texan make.
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