Wild and Wonderful: Highland Lakes Area
Start in Llano, with an espresso and homemade biscuits and gravy at Little Red Espresso Hut & One Garden Nut on Texas 29, then head east toward Burnet, keeping an eye out for bluebonnets, prairie verbena, goldeneye phlox, and Engelmann’s daisies. Soon after crossing the Inks Lake bridge, turn right on Park Road 4 to Inks Lake State Park. Hike through cedar and oak woodlands, where abundant bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush pop up amid granite outcroppings. Bring a picnic or fishing pole, or spend the night in one of the cabins.
Those who prefer cushier digs can drive a bit farther down Texas 29 and north onto RM 2341, skirting the eastern shore of Lake Buchanan to Canyon of the Eagles Resort, which has 62 Hill-Country-style guest rooms designed by Lake|Flato architects, all with porches and views. Wildflowers such as pink evening primrose, horsemint, white prickly poppy, wild foxglove, as well as sleepy, chocolate, Tahoka, and huisache daisies, cover much of the 940-acre nature park. Enjoy them along more than 14 miles of hiking trails, or from the wall of windows in the aptly-named Overlook Restaurant.
Back on Park Road 4, continue to Perissos Vineyard and Winery, a family-owned operation making wines from Texas grapes. Enjoy a tasting in the middle of the working winery; try a red blend called Racker’s Blend, or a crisp, citrusy white known as Roussanne. Put a designated driver behind the wheel, as the hilly park road from here to US 281 is a scenic roller-coaster ride with plenty of bluebonnets, blackfoot daisies, pink evening primroses, and winecups at which to gawk. Stop into Longhorn Cavern State Park for an hour-and-a-half guided tour of wonders far below ground.
Turn south on US 281 to Marble Falls, and detour through its historic main street district, home to shops, restaurants, whimsical sculptures, and great people-watching. Be sure to save time for a slice of one of the legendary pies (14 in all) at Bluebonnet Café.
Close out a colorful day back in Llano at the Badu House, an 1891 bank turned brew pub offering an extensive selection of Texas wines and craft beers, complemented with original recipes designed for both. You don’t have to leave here at the end of the night; book one of three rooms upstairs in the bed and breakfast.
For information on Llano, call 325/247-5354; Inks Lake State Park, 512/793-2223; Canyon of the Eagles, 512/334-2070; Marble Falls, 877/638-3927.
From the April 2013 issue.