Updated: Oct 20, 2021
Discover the land of rolling hills, mesas and valleys of the oak-filled savannah that is the Texas Hill Country. Locals from places like Dallas and Houston have been retiring in the hill country for decades, but can you blame them? With its local charm, rich cultural history and quaint beautify, the Texas Hill Country will steal your heart.
Adventure Rating: Epic
Trip Length: 148 miles, 1.5-3 days for the THC Tour "main" route. Consider adding 1-2 days if you plan on exploring the side roads/trails off the main route.
Season: Year round, but fall and spring tend to provide the best weather.
Technical Rating: Green. There are no technical features on this route, but it does include multiple creek and river crossings.
Typical Terrain: Primarily county dirt and gravel roads, with some pavement. The route does feature numerous river and creek crossings, but water levels are typically relatively low (under 18").
Recommended Vehicle: Subaru with all terrain tires. After periods of heavy rainfall, a stock 4x4 may be required to ford creek/river crossings. Recommended Gear: n/a
Adventure Vans: Sprinter 4x4s are good to go!
Alternative Routes: Yes! See bottom of route details for more info. Permits: n/a
The Texas Hill Country Overland Trial, the Texas Hill Country Trail, the THC Trail, there's a lot of different names the routes and trails are referred to as by locals. For the sake of simplicity, we'll call it the Texas Hill Country Tour, which is comprised of a maze of dirt and gravel roads (and yes, you'll need to burn some pavement as well) that criss-cross the splendor of central Texas' hill country. And while there is a "main" overland route (simply refer to the track "Texas Hill Country Tour" in the gpx and kmz files) that is the by far and away the most popular track of the overlanding and touring crowd, there are numerous options that allow the traveller to "choose your own adventure". Given the relatively tame manner of roads, it's easy to cover a lot of mileage in a single day. We've even heard of folks doing the Texas Hill Country Tour (main route) in a single day. But if you want to experience the scenery, nature, and local culture, we recommend slowing down and spending at least 2-3 days on the main route. For Texans who reside in or around the major population centers of Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston, the Texas Hill Country is the most popular overlanding destination in the state. And for good reason, the rolling green hills and mesas are a welcome reprieve the the great plains to the north and flatlands of the southeast. You may not find a whole lot of technical trail features in the Texas Hill Country (there are a few if you deviate off the main route), but there's an abundance of water crossings. Most water crossings can be managed by a stock AWD crossover (like a Subaru or RAV4), but after heavy rain a stock 4x4 may be required (never enter/drive into swift moving currents that may be dangerous). The semi-arid ecoregion of the Edwards Plateau is classified as a savannah, which features numerous species of cacti and oak. The rugged hills are comprised of granite and limetone, rising as much as 500 feet above the surrounding lowlands and canyons. Many consider the Hill Country to be the great divider between the American Southwest and the Southeast. The region contains a number of interesting rock formations, including the second largest granite dome in the United States at Enchanted Rock (DP12). Along the way you may encounter Texas longhorn, whitetail deer, armadillo, and even zebras (privately held of course!). If you're into wildlife, consider making a trip to the Eckert James Bat Cave (DP8). Beyond the natural beauty of the region, the Texas Hill Country has a rich cultural past. Anyone who isn't a resident Texan should take the time to stroll through the lazy downtown of Mason (DP4) and the historic district of Fredericksburg (DP13). The region was once a major destination for immigrants from Bavaria and Germany, many of whom settled in the region. The numerous German/Bavarian restaurants and cafe are evidence of these early waves of European immigration to the Hill Country.
Alternative Routes If you're concerned about crowds, consider taking one of the many alternative roads contained within the GPX file. Like the main tour, all of the alternative tracks feature dirt and gravel county roads (with some connecting pavement). Some of our favorite alternative options include the Llano River Loop (62 miles), the Junction Extension (57 miles), and the Willow City Loop (13 miles). Many of these loops and trails can be connected via paved county roads and highways for extended adventures in excess of 300 miles. Just keep in mind that many of the county roads dead-end at property, but if you want to go exploring just be mindful of any private property signs you come across!
The vast majority of the lands surrounding the main route and alternatives routes/trails is private property. You'll need to keep this is mind, as it means dispersed camping is prohibited along most of the route. Locals have been known to setup camp along the river bars and banks of the rivers and creeks in the region, but you'll need to rely on local knowledge to figure out where dispersed camping is permitted. In most cases, you'll need to make camping reservations in advance at one of the local campgrounds or RV parks. Below is a list of some of our favorite campsites in the area:
Liefeste Campground (fee)
Llano River (dispersed camping)
DP1 - Sandy Creek Crossing
DP2 - Hickory Creek Crossing
DP3 - Marschall Creek Crossing
DP4 - Mason
DP5 - Seaquist House
DP6 - Lanno River
DP7 - Eckert James Bate Cave
DP8 - James River Crossing
DP9 - Threadgill Creek
DP10 - Cherry Spring Schoolhouse
DP11 - Enchanged Rock
DP12 - Federicksburg
Maps + Navigation
Gaia GPS Recommended Map Layers
Gaia base layer
Download Digital Mapping Files
The vast majority of the route is surrounded by private land. Always be mindful/respectful of private property (especially in Texas!).