The Texas Hill Country is one of the most popular vacation areas in the Lone Star State. Austin, the capital city, is the gateway to the region known for its rolling hills dotted with juniper and majestic live oaks and tinted year around with colorful wildflowers. Ranches, wineries, state parks, lakes, and winding rivers tempt canine travelers to break away for a couple of days of country fun.
This portion of the state was shaped by an earthquake roughly 30 million years ago. The convulsion buckled strata of limestone and granite into rugged hills and steep cliffs. The dividing line created by the earthquake, the Balcones Escarpment, zigzags down the state and divides the eastern flat farmland with the western rugged ranchland.
Geographically the Hill Country was shaped by an earthquake but culturally its influences came from many lands. German settlers founded Comfort, Fredericksburg, and New Braunfels and their impact is still seen in the communities’ architecture, food, and festivals. Native American, Mexican, and Polish cultures have melded in the dude ranch capital of the world, Bandera.
More recent history is the focal point of Johnson City, birthplace of Lyndon B. Johnson, and nearby Stonewall, where the Texas White House is now part of a state and national park that welcomes four-legged travelers. LBJ was instrumental in the construction of the Highland Lakes, a chain of lakes where Fidos can frolic. State and county parks, lakeshore cottages, and even canoe trips welcome man’s best friend.
South Texas Plains
Texas’s top vacation destination is San Antonio, a city that Will Rogers once described as one of only three unique cities in the country. (Wonder what the other two were? San Francisco and New Orleans.)
The Alamo City is also the gateway to the South Texas Plains, a region that extends to the Mexico border and south to the Rio Grande Valley, a region filled with miles of citrus groves and coastal flats dotted with birds from throughout North America.
The eastern portion of Texas is known for its dense forests perfect for long, shady dog walks. An especially popular getaway during the fall as well as spring during azalea and dogwood seasons, the region offers plenty of opportunities for weekend camping among a cushion of pine needles, enjoying small town festivals that celebrate the changing season, and cruising the countryside to see color displays.
Prairies and Lakes
One of the most expansive sections of Texas, the Prairies and Lakes region starts in the prairies that give away to the Gulf coastal plains and works its way all the way up to a large expanse of North Central Texas best known as the home of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth have long been touted as the city slicker and the country cousin, two destinations that share a geographic area but boast very different atmospheres.
South along I-35 lie many historic communities such as Waco, home to Baylor University and Temple and Belton with their nearby lakes. East of I-35 lie Brenham and College Station as well as small Texas towns Lockhart, and Luling, well known among barbecue buffs.
Like the Big Bend area, much of the Panhandle Plains is composed of wide-open space, a fact that our dogs love. Here, Amarillo and the nearby community of Canyon are the gateway to the nation’s second largest canyon, Palo Duro Canyon State Park, a dog-friendly Texas-sized wonder that stretches 120 miles.
Amarillo has long been a stop for cross-country travelers thanks to the famous Route 66, which ran right through the heart of the city. South of Amarillo lies the cotton production capital of Lubbock now also known for its wine industry. Lubbock area grapes are shipped to wineries throughout Texas and their home product has won numerous international awards. Further south, the city of San Angelo grew from historic Fort Concho and Abilene, where history and culture join together. On the northern boundaries of this region lies Wichita Falls, just minutes from the Oklahoma border.
Beaches and Bowsers go hand in paw, and Texas offers nearly 300 miles of coastline for the two of you to explore. From the Louisiana border to the Mexico border, the Gulf coast is lined with vacation options that range from big city bustle to nearly deserted stretches of Padre Island National Seashore accessible only by four-wheeler.
The eastern stretches of the Gulf are the busiest. Easternmost communities like Beaumont and Baytown recall Texas’s oil heritage. Galveston offers resort getaway with a true island atmosphere but a short drive inland, Houston is filled with world-class parks, shopping, and big city fun.
Midway down the Texas coast lies Corpus Christi and the Coastal Bend, populated by the communities of Port Aransas, Rockport and more. Continuing south, you’ll find the southernmost reaches of Texas: Port Isabel, Brownsville, and South Padre Island, the vacation destination that’s separated from the rest of Padre Island by a man-made channel.
Big Bend Country is the Texas of the movies: vast canyons, border excitement, and miles of open space. Miles of rugged plains. Oil derricks on the horizon. Tumblin’ tumbleweeds rolling across a quiet highway.
The portion of Texas known as Big Bend Country is known for its untamed beauty and rugged parks but you’ll find several small communities including Marfa, Fort Davis, and Alpine plus Del Rio in the eastern reaches.
For all its open country, this area is also home to the largest city on the U.S.-Mexico border: El Paso, a destination filled with south-of-the-border charm. And the neighboring West Texas cities of Midland and Odessa maintain a friendly competition for vacationers, each offering its own assets and located in Texas oil country.
For more on traveling in Texas with your dog, please order a copy of our DogTipper’s Texas with Dogs guidebook!