Known as the gateway between the southeast and southwest, Texas Hill Country spans more than 10,000 square miles of the Edwards Plateau in central Texas. Bordered by the cities of Austin, San Antonio, Concan and Junction, the region is defined by quirky mountain towns, amazing antiquing, beloved BBQ joints and epic scenery. Here are our favorite pet-friendly things to do, places to stay, and dog-friendly restaurants in the Texas Hill Country.
Posted by Billy Francis
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Things to Do
Whether Fido enjoys sniffing out precious items, hiking through stunning backcountry or swimming in lakes, this region has something for every dog.
Take a Texan’s Tour of State Parks
As featured in the 2021 edition of our Ruff Guide to the United States, the town of Fredericksburg serves as a central hub for exploring Texas Hill Country’s numerous dog-friendly state parks. Start your tour at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Situated 20 miles north of Fredericksburg, it’s home to the immense granite dome known as Enchanted Rock, one of the region’s most impressive landmarks. Drive an hour west to South Llano River State Park, where you can rent kayaks and canoes or go tubing with your pup down the scenic river. In nearby Johnson City, Pedernales Falls State Park offers excellent family-friendly hiking and wildlife viewing opportunities. Travel north to Inks Lake State Park in Burnet, where Fido can have a dip in the designated doggy swim area.
Have a Grape Time!
Texas Hill Country is home to more than 100 wineries and vineyards, helping build the region’s reputation as one of the premier winemaking destinations in the country. Take a ride on Wine Road 290, a long and “wining” 30-mile route that visits 14 dog-friendly wineries along the way. This scenic trip through Texas wine country starts at Chisholm Trail Winery in Fredericksburg, where you can grab a wood-fired brick oven pizza to fuel the journey, and finishes at Texas Hills Vineyard just outside Johnson City. If you want to sample all day, the 290 Wine Shuttle provides a personal designated driver and welcomes dogs under 25lbs on board.
Buoyant with your Good Boy
Located at the end of the Horseshoe Loop on the Guadalupe River, Whitewater Sports invites dogs and their owners to float for two, four, or six hours together in sturdy tubes down one of the earliest-explored rivers in Texas. Along the way, admire stunning views of the region’s backcountry from the varied and refreshing waterway. Over in Junction, rent a more sturdy craft from Paddler’s Porch. Hop in the shuttle, float down the South Llano River in a comfortable kayak, and grab a bite to eat on the pet-friendly patio back on dry land.
Drive Fido Round the Bend
Willow City Loop is arguably the most iconic scenic road in the Texas Hill Country. Strap Fido in for a short but sublime 13-mile drive outside Fredericksburg full of splashes of beautiful color during spring. As you drive, admire epic views of vivid meadows and valleys provided in part by the Texas Bluebonnet, the official state flower. You can also hit the road along Bandera’s Swiss Alps of Texas, an 85-mile drive that takes in incredible vistas along the way.
Bring Fido to the birthplace of the 36th president of the United States in Stonewall, TX. Lyndon B. Johnson State Park and Historic Site pays homage to LBJ and also offers a glimpse into other communities who have lived in the area over the years. The site is home to a 1.2-mile pet-friendly trail that takes in historic buildings like World War I-era farm structures and a German two-room dogtrot cabin built in the 1870s. Dogs can’t go inside buildings but are welcome on the trail, where bison and longhorns roam, and gorgeous wildflowers pop up during spring.
Get Your Antique On With Your Bichon
Fido doesn’t need a map to find hidden treasures in Texas Hill Country. The region is renowned for diverse and eclectic antique offerings. Start your whistle-stop tour of ye olde discoveries at Fredericksburg Trade Days. On the weekend of the third Saturday every month, antiquers peruse seven barns full of acres of collectibles, tools, crafts, shabby chic, primitives and much more. After Trade Days, drive 20 minutes south to Luckenbach. This Old West-style outpost offers souvenirs of times gone by. If you still haven’t struck gold, continue to Wimberley, one of the antiquing hotspots of the region, where you’ll find affordable gems at Kathi’s Resale.
In It to Swim It
The Texas Hill Country can be hot and muggy, which means Fido is going to need a place to cool off. Fortunately, the area is full of watering holes that are perfect for a doggy paddle. Located in West Austin, Red Bud Isle is surrounded by water on three sides. Join the doggy droves for a dive and a dunk. Before he has a chance to dry off, hop in the car for 10 minutes to Barton Creek Greenbelt Preserve, where dogs are free to walk off-leash on the hiking trails and cool off in the creek. Head north for more water fun at Cedar Bark Park. This popular 5-acre dog park boasts a large dog pond with a water fountain and showers for cleaning up after a mud bath. Finally, make your way to Johnson Park Off-Leash Dog Area in Marble Falls for leash-free fun with a wet dog smell guarantee.
Places to Stay
Fancy a photoshoot in a house devoted to dogs, or a night in a train by the river? Texas Hill Country offers an eclectic selection of incredible places to stay that will have you reserving your next vacation before the first one pulls in at the station.
The House That Dogs Built
Dogologie Haus is designed for dog lovers. Four-legged guests are provided with a welcome dog treat, dog beds and bowls, indoor dog crates, and an outdoor dog kennel. Enjoy an evening stroll on the walking trails around neighboring Frantzen Park that overlooks Winifred Creek. The park is a great way to safely walk with your pooch across the pedestrian bridge and onto Fredericksburg’s Main Street. There, you’ll find Dogologie, a local pet store owned by your rental’s host. Dogologie Haus guests receive a $25 gift certificate to the store and use of The Dog Pause at Dogologie, a crate service. You can even book a photography session to commemorate your stay with a local photographer. Furry guests are welcome for no additional charge.
Muller’s Ark Caboose in Bandera is a genuine Southern Pacific caboose permanently stationed along 2,000 feet of Medina River frontage. Fish, swim and float down the river with your pooch, or just enjoy the relaxing sounds of water flowing from the train deck. When the stars come out to play and your pooch starts to yawn, catch the train to the land of Nod together. The pet fee is $12 per day.
No Designated Driver Needed
Carter Creek Winery Resort & Spa in Johnson City prevents arguments about the designated driver. Instead, human guests can enjoy fine wine produced on-site and walk back to a room in the resort after a glass or three. Dogs are welcome to join their owners on the tasting room patio and for walks on the green space and trails throughout the property. Carter Creek provides canine guests with treats, bowls, a bandana and blanket. Dogs are welcome for $50 per pet, per stay.
Homestead With Your Hound
This peaceful farmhouse on 3 acres is a throwback to farms of yore. The large backyard is the perfect space to play fetch with your pooch, enjoy the sounds of songbirds and the occasional deer sighting. During your stay, take a day trip to nearby Natural Bridge Caverns and imagine the unexplored caverns beneath the very ground of the farm. Two dogs are welcome for $25 per pet, per day.
Twice The Dog, Twice The Fun
Sitting against a cliff above the Frio River in Leakey, Double Dog Cabin #1 is a marvelous rural escape. Take a hike in the shallow waters of the river, immerse yourself in natural springs or hang out at the cabin and enjoy a BBQ with your best friend. Fido’s hosts are also happy to invite him for a stay at Double Dog Cabin #2, which offers canoes and kayaks for guest use. Dogs are welcome for no additional fee.
Hang in a Hill Country Hotel
If you find yourself in the middle of Texas Hill Country, La Quinta Inn & Suites Kerrville is the comfortable lodging you’ve been looking for. Fido will appreciate the treats available at the front desk and the convenient field adjacent. While you’re here, don’t miss a visit to the town’s beautiful, off-leash Flat Rock Park along the Guadalupe River. Two pets are welcome for no additional fee.
Sip and Stay
Located on Wine Road 290, this dog-friendly cottage with on-site tasting rooms keeps the Pinot flowing. Take your pick of four on-site tasting rooms and a lovely shared courtyard within walking distance to four wineries. Dogs are welcome for no additional fee.
Sample succulent brisket, German favorites and more in a famous foodie region that offers a bite to eat for every palate.
Dine at a Distillery
Home to 25 distilleries and breweries, Dripping Springs is known as the “Gateway to the Hill Country'' and is a dream destination for lovers of liquor. Taste the tipple on the pet-friendly patio at Deep Eddy Vodka, which offers a variety of flavorful cocktails. For the water of life, otherwise known as whiskey, Treaty Oak Distilling combines old-world techniques with modern methods to inject familiar flavors with new life. Dogs are welcome outside as their humans sample the sauce, and at the outdoor tables at Alice’s Restaurant at Treaty Oak Distilling.
The Taste of Texas
Texas music, Texas food, and Texas fun is the motto at Hondo’s On Main. Named for the owner’s father, self-proclaimed Mayor of Luckenbach John Russell (Hondo) Crouch, this All-American eatery brings a feel-good atmosphere and comfort food to the Texas Hill Country. Dogs are welcome to join their owners outside, but orders must be placed inside first.
A Flaming Good Time
Bryans On 290 in Johnson City has garnered a reputation among locals and visitors alike as a must-visit restaurant. What sets it apart from other Texas Hill Country eateries is the live fire cooking style. Dig into a ribeye, tenderloin or smoked chicken accompanied by fine wine from the region, and enjoy it all on the patio with your pooch for company.
Schnitzel With Your Schnauzer
Waves of German settlers began to move to Texas in 1831. Over the years, they have remained the largest immigrant population in the Texas Hill Country. For more than 20 years, The Auslander has paid homage to German culture by offering authentic Bavarian cuisine. Dogs are welcome to join you on the patio.
Bring Your Canine to the Cookout
Make a quick trip to The Salt Lick in Driftwood near Austin for a meaty meal with your hungry hound. A large portion of cookout connoisseurs considers Texas to be the best BBQ state in the country. Sample the finest brisket, pork ribs, sausage, whole chicken and turkey at this local favorite. Wash it down next door at Salt Lick Cellars, where you can sample a beer in the dog-friendly tasting room.
Lean Into a Tasty Meal
Like the tree in its name, The Leaning Pear grew and grew. By 2013, they elected to relocate to a suave new building more in line with the modern cuisine on the menu. Dogs are welcome to join their owners at the outdoor tables as they indulge in wood-fired pizzas with a selection of brews on tap.
An Apple a Day Keeps The Vet Away
Texas isn’t the only state to claim the title of best apple pie, but when you taste a slice from Love Creek Orchards, you might struggle to argue. Share your main course of a burger or shrimp basket to ensure you have enough room for double dessert. Although the star of the show is undoubtedly the Grand Champion apple pie, the Southern Champion pecan pie is also hard to pass up. Tasty treats can be enjoyed on a pleasant picnic table under a huge oak tree outside.