Move over, Vermont — Texas just may be the best state for fall foliage

By Brett Anderson
August 16, 2018, 3:55:48 PM EDT

With its rolling prairies and limestone cliffs, historic towns and oak-filled nature parks, Texas Hill Country is a land apart. On a weeklong road trip at the beginning of fall, when the trees are a riot of orange, yellow, and red, Brett Anderson discovers homegrown barbecue restaurants, sun-splashed swimming holes, and endless blue sky.

Not long after arriving in Texas Hill Country, I found myself committing one of my favorite sins: eating barbecue for breakfast. I’d ducked into Keese’s Bar-B-Que in Medina — a sleepy town surrounded by apple orchards, roughly 90 minutes from San Antonio — and ordered a plate of beef brisket tacos with fresh pico de gallo. I ate it in blissful silence, observing the other diners in the small café, none of whom appeared to be in any hurry to leave. Afterward, I stepped onto Keese’s side patio to enjoy the morning sun at one of the picnic tables, whose surfaces were painted to resemble the Texas state flag, and check Google Maps for the route to Lost Maples State Natural Area. But I’d lost cell service, so I’d have to wing it.

TEXAS fall

The equestrian center at the Inn at Dos Brisas, a luxury ranch in Washington, Texas. (Photos/Matthew Johnson)

Leaving Keese’s, I took my best guess, picked a lane, and drove out of town. The music of Robert Earl Keen (a Texas country music legend and Hill Country resident) drawled from my car’s speakers. I opened a window, remembering that breathing the warm air that hangs over these alternately lush and arid hills is its own reward. I rubbernecked to stare at what looked like antelope but turned out to be native pronghorns, grazing near vineyards along an old cattle trail around Bandera Pass.

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An area covering some 11 million acres, Hill Country is bookended by San Antonio to the south and Austin to the north. This sprawling region is a wild, rural place, and its size presents considerable challenges to taking it all in. You could stuff three Connecticuts into Hill Country and still have enough space left over for Rhode Island.

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