Whether you're a seasoned hiker, a water sports junkie, or just someone craving a breath of fresh air, winter is the perfect time to explore Texas. And, to help you get started, I've identified 10 outdoor adventures to do in the winter along with some fantastic places to refuel your energy and enjoy delicious bites and sips. So, let's gooooo!
1. Hiking in Big Bend National Park:
Winter turns Big Bend National Park into a hiker's dream. Cooler temps make exploring the Chisos Mountains and canyons more enjoyable. Take on the Emory Peak Trail or opt for a chill stroll along the Santa Elena Canyon. Afterward, head to Terlingua for some grub at the Starlight Theatre. The Starlight is less a theatre and more a restaurant that offers a unique dining experience in a historic building, serving up tasty Tex-Mex and American delights. Order the "Chisos Mountain Enchiladas" paired with a local craft beer or a refreshing prickly pear margarita.
2. Bird Watching at the Gulf Coast:
Calling all bird lovers! Winter brings a flurry of migratory birds to the Gulf Coast. Head to places like Galveston Island or the Aransas National Wildlife Refuge to witness the spectacular sight of whooping cranes and other feathered friends. Post-bird watching, check out Gaido's Seafood Restaurant in Galveston for fresh Gulf Coast seafood, or keep it casual at Shrimp 'N Stuff. Indulge in the "Gulf Coast Seafood Platter" with a side of their signature seafood gumbo.
3. Camping in Palo Duro Canyon State Park:
Escape winter blues by camping in the second-largest canyon in the U.S. Palo Duro Canyon State Park offers stunning vistas, hiking trails, and stargazing opportunities. Campfires, crisp air, and starry nights make for a memorable winter camping experience. For a culinary adventure, drive to Amarillo after camping and indulge in hearty Texas fare at the Big Texan Steak Ranch. Take on the iconic "72-Ounce Steak Challenge" or opt for a hearty Texas T-Bone paired with a local craft beer.
4. Mountain Biking in the Hill Country:
Explore the rugged beauty of the Texas Hill Country on a mountain bike. Barton Creek Greenbelt and Hill Country State Natural Area provide exciting challenges and picturesque landscapes for bikers of all skill levels. After your biking escapade, dive into Austin's food scene. Head to The Salt Lick BBQ for mouthwatering barbecue or explore food trucks and craft breweries. Feast on the "Family Style All-You-Can-Eat BBQ" with sides of coleslaw and peach cobbler.
5. Rock Climbing and Scrambling in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area:
For the adrenaline seekers, winter is an ideal time to tackle the granite dome of Enchanted Rock. Don’t forget to explore the bouldering niches and crawl through the cave near the rock pile at the top of Enchanted Rock. With cooler temperatures and clear skies, climbers can enjoy the breathtaking views from the top of this iconic Texas landmark. Afterward, satisfy your hunger in Fredericksburg with some German delights. Try bratwurst and schnitzel at Otto's German Bistro or Altdorf Biergarten. Enjoy a plate of "Sauerbraten" with a cold German beer to celebrate your climbing triumph.
6. Fishing on the Guadalupe River:
Cast your line into the Guadalupe River for winter trout fishing. Enjoy the peaceful surroundings and, with a bit of luck, reel in a trophy-sized catch. For a riverside dining experience, explore eateries in New Braunfels or Gruene. The Gristmill River Restaurant and Bar is a great spot. Savor the "River Road Royalty" burger with a local craft beer on the scenic riverside patio.
7. Exploring Lost Maples State Natural Area:
Experience a burst of winter color in November at Lost Maples State Natural Area. The changing leaves of the Uvalde bigtooth maples create a stunning display. After hiking the trails, head to Utopia or Medina for Hill Country cuisine. The Laurel Tree offers upscale dining in a historic setting. Delight in the "Grilled Venison" with a side of sweet potato mash and finish with a slice of pecan pie. The Apple Store serves burgers and sandwiches, but the real treats are inside within the bakery where they offer pastries and apple soft serve ice cream.
8. Kayaking on the San Marcos River:
For water lovers, winter kayaking on the San Marcos River is a refreshing adventure. Paddle through crystal-clear waters and take in the scenic beauty. Afterward, explore San Marcos' culinary scene. The Root Cellar Café & Brewery offers locally sourced ingredients and craft beer. Pair your adventure with a flight of their craft beers and the "Root Cellar Burger" made with local ingredients.
9. Stargazing in McDonald Observatory:
Clear Texas night skies in winter are perfect for stargazing. Head to McDonald Observatory in the Davis Mountains for an astronomical experience. Attend a star party or explore the observatory's telescopes to marvel at the wonders of the universe. After a night of marveling at the cosmos, explore Fort Davis for breakfast or lunch at the Fort Davis Drug Store and Hotel. Enjoy a leisurely breakfast with a "Davis Mountain Omelette" and a cup of freshly brewed coffee.
10. Wildlife Safari at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center:
Embark on a unique safari adventure at Fossil Rim Wildlife Center near Glen Rose. In winter, animals are more active, and guided tours provide a chance to observe exotic species in a natural habitat setting. For a post-safari treat, check out the Loco Coyote Grill in Glen Rose for Tex-Mex dishes and outdoor seating. Indulge in the "Coyote's Special" featuring a variety of Tex-Mex delights, and sip on a margarita with a view of the outdoor seating.
Winter in Texas beckons adventurers to explore diverse landscapes, from the coastal regions to the rugged canyons and everything in between. Whether you seek the thrill of rock climbing, the tranquility of bird watching, or the beauty of changing leaves, Texas in the winter promises unforgettable outdoor experiences for adventurers of all kinds. So, gear up, embrace the cooler temps, and discover the magic of winter in the Lone Star State. Don't forget to check operating hours and make reservations in smaller towns. Happy adventuring and bon appétit in the beautiful state of Texas!