The Texas heat is coming and the best place to escape the blazing summers is to cool off in a Texas Hill Country lake with the family. These Texas liquid assets provide a welcome respite. You’ll see some of the best scenery in the state, including cascading waterfalls, towering cliffs, pristine waterways, rolling hills, incredible sunsets, and the ultimate small town charm.
Pro tip: To access rental boats on the lakes, check out GetMyBoat here.
1. LBJ Lake (Lyndon Baines Johnson)
I learned to water ski years ago on LBJ Lake. It was less crowded and the water was glassy early in the morning, perfect for waterskiing. The lake is a reservoir on the Colorado River in the Texas Hill Country about 45 miles northwest of Austin, formed in 1950. Originally called Lake Granite Shoals, the name changed in 1965 to honor President Lyndon B. Johnson . With 6,534 acres in area and a maximum of 90 feet in depth, LBJ Lake offers the best in fishing, boating and general fun. Beginning at Kingsland, the lake follows the Colorado River for 21 miles to Horseshoe Bay.
Cruise around Horseshoe Bay and Applehead Island to see multi-million dollar mansions owned by ultra-wealthy Texans, professional athletes, local astronauts, and Hollywood figures. You may or may not want to avoid Sunrise Beach, a shallow sandbar in the middle of LBJ Lake where boaters drop anchor and spend hours partying with friends. Deep from the ankle to the waist, people set up volleyball nets, play music, play Frisbee, and soak up the sun. Don’t forget your sunscreen!
Fish for largemouth bass, white bass, crappie and catfish on the lake. You will find several bass fishing tournaments each year and you can hire a fishing guide to catch trophy fish in its secret fishing holes.
Horseshoe Bay Resort is THE lakeside resort with luxurious accommodations, family-friendly amenities and world-class golf. The 400-room resort is home to a variety of dining options, a relaxing day spa, tennis, fitness facilities, and a full-service marina. A private executive airport makes Horseshoe Bay the number one destination in the Texas Hill Country.
I like Whitewater putting course, an intriguing par 72 putting course designed to play like a real course, only in miniature. You will see waterfalls, rose gardens, exotic birds and a trail through Zoysia grass through fairways with challenging bunkers and water hazards.
To know the map of the lake, visit Worry B Gone Cruises for a personalized cruise on LBJ on a 21-foot pontoon boat lasting 2.5 hours.
2. Canyon Lake
Canyon Lake is known as ‘the jewel’ of the Texas Hill Country, a reservoir located on the Guadalupe River just west of San Marcos and northwest of New Braunfels, making it a great place to relax and enjoy the sun and cool water.
Known for water recreation, the Guadalupe River tube is at the top of your fun list. This “capital of water recreation” offers eight parks around the lake for fishing, boating, sailing, kayaking and river navigation. That’s not all. You will also enjoy jet skiing, water skiing, wakeboarding, canoeing, rafting and swimming.
Start with a stroll along the majestic River Road, 10 miles along the towering cypress-lined Guadalupe River between Canyon Lake and New Braunfels. The river route takes you through four river crossings, tree tunnels, campgrounds, farmland, ranches and finally ends at Overlook Park. Find activities like paddleboarding, geocaching, bird watching, fossil hunting, and live music performances at local restaurants.
Visit three parks with beaches at Canyon Lake. These are “swim at your own risk” with no lifeguards on duty. Be sure to wear a life jacket or borrow one of the loaner vests displayed around you. Snorkel in the lake and find an underwater ghost town, as well as cars, boats, bikes, motorcycles, houses, and even cemeteries.
You’ll find over 171 miles of hiking trails revealing curious wildlife, wild adventures and scenic views, as well as biking and horseback riding.
Explore the remarkable 1.6 km long Gorge Lake Canyon sculpted by catastrophic floodwaters in 2002, uncovering traces of dinosaurs, perfectly preserved fossils, fossilized sea urchins and fossilized ocean ripples in limestone. See the lagoon and the spring fed seeps and waterfalls. Gorge Preservation Society volunteers protect the throat and provide exceptional education and development. You can book a visit here.
In the town of Canyon Lake, let the par 72 golf course challenge you with rolling hills, scenic fairways, swift greens and gorgeous views of the lake and living oak trees.
Canyon Lake offers lodges, cabins, bed and breakfasts, cabins, hotels, vacation rentals, campgrounds, and RV parks.
3. Lake Marble Falls
Lakeside Park in Marble Falls is a green space with covered picnic tables, barbecue grills, a swimming pool, pavilion, tennis and basketball courts, restrooms, and a boat launch. Falls Creek Park and Skatepark are connected, with a 12,000 square foot concrete and granite park with incredible skating features like the Parthenon Loop, Rainbow Rail, Bowless Corner, and Double-Dorito Hip. Liability is limited here, so take it easy and don’t hurt yourself.
Enjoy Lake Marble Falls whether you wake up at dawn for bass fishing or kayaking, or wakeboarding late in the afternoon. There is always an excuse to be on the water.
Go on a hike Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge, formed in 1992 to conserve the threatened habitat of two songbirds, the golden-cheeked warbler and the black-capped vireo. There are two kid-friendly half-mile trails you can hike, the Pond and Prairie Trail and the Creek Trail. A vigorous 3.6 km journey, Rimrock Trail takes you across the scenic plateau to a magnificent viewpoint. Or hike the 1.5 mile Indiangrass Trail through meadow and forest.
For a unique place to stay, explore Falkenstein Castle, a Bavarian-inspired castle recently opened to the public in Burnet.
McKenzie Bed and Breakfast at Marble Falls is a boutique vacation rental with six remodeled suites on Historic Main Street and close to world-class golf, award-winning wineries, shops, restaurants and art galleries.
Pro tip: Cafe Blue Bonnet in Marble Falls is the number one restaurant in Texas for breakfasts, according to readers of Texas Highways Magazine.
4. Lake Travis
Zipline Adventures at Lake Travis has five ziplines ranging from 250 feet to the longest and fastest zipline in Lone Star State at an incredible height of 2,800 feet. Take in unique views as you cruise the treetops, canyons and serene waters of Lake Travis. Get there when you drive 14529 Pocahontas Trail in Leander and start with a workout that’s guaranteed to keep you safe and enjoyable. The guides will gently break you down to a stop at the end of each zip.
Adventures of Waterloo, a floating water park, is a wet and wild ninja obstacle course adventure like no other. Don your life jacket and fight your way through more than two soccer fields filled with obstacles, slides, floats and bouncing balls, then relax under umbrellas by the lake at the Cabana Bar or on a floating picnic table. Enjoy a delicious meal at the food truck.
Volente Beach Resort and Water Park is the gathering place on the shores of Lake Travis. You will find the Beachside Billy lakeside restaurant, a water park, a sandy beachfront children’s pool, an adults-only pool with a tiki bar in the pool, three volleyball courts and accommodation in nine holiday bungalows.
Sail with Austin Charters, a private yacht charter service with a highly knowledgeable skipper, is excellent for sunset cruises, weddings, special occasions and sailing lessons.
Well known for camping on the cliffs overlooking Lake Travis, Pace Bend Park includes boating, beach swimming, and miles of hiking, biking and horseback trails. The park protects white-tailed deer, racoons, foxes, ringtail cats and dozens of bird species.
Since the 1970s, Hippy Hollow Park is still the only legally recognized optional public clothing park in Texas. The park on Lake Travis is on a steep slope with steep limestone steps. You will want to wear protective shoes against water because of the rocks.
5. Buchanan Lake
The second largest lake in central Texas, Buchanan Lake, is located 60 miles northwest of Austin and is known for boating, camping, swimming and fishing.
Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Resort is nestled on the shores of Lake Buchanan on 940 acres of rural Texas Hill Country, offering spectacular sunsets, breathtaking views and starry skies.
Endangered Texas Cruises, a daily Buchanan Lake cruise line, offers views of birds including herons, ospreys, ducks, Canada geese, pelicans, egrets and eagles from mid-November through February. You’ll see rugged cliffs, waterfalls, wildflowers, and sunsets from the air-conditioned double-decker cruise ship.
Longhorn Cavern State Park, a 20-minute drive from Buchanan Lake, is a picturesque underground cave carved out by an ancient river. Enjoy a guided cave tour, explore great Texas tales, and admire the historic architecture of the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC). Learn more about Texas Caverns here.
Spicewood Vineyards combines award-winning wines with a memorable experience, combining the heritage of a Texan family with a passion for Spanish wines. Winemaker Ron Yates produces the best quality wines from grapes grown in Texas. Savor 2016 The Good Guy, a blend of Tempranillo, Graciano, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon with aromas of fresh cherries and graphite with flavors of raspberries and cedar. Click here to learn more about Texas wineries.
Wrap it up, don’t forget your sun hat and sunscreen, because life is better by the lake.