Texans know that we have some of the best year-round riding to be found anywhere, with our miles of two-lane highways packed with exciting turns and stunning vistas. We also know that it gets hot out there in the summer, so we’re offering you a timely list of some great spots across the state where you can strip off the leathers and take a leap—or a cannonball, or a belly fl op, just not a highside—into cool water after your long, hot ride. So pull on some Kevlar swimming gear under your two-piece, throw a towel and maybe a magazine (we can think of a good one) into your saddlebags, and prepare to have your core temperature lowered . . . if only until you get back on the bike.
By: Charlie Llewellin
BLANCO STATE PARK
The cute square with its antiques shops and restaurants is a popular destination for riders and cagers alike, but you can make the most of this lovely little town with a visit to the state park, just a couple of blocks away. Oaks, cypresses, and pecans shade the ducks and the fishermen whiling the hours away on the grassy banks of the river. Two small dams create wide lagoons for sitting or swimming, and there are shelters outfitted with grills if you want to cook out. This little city park (that’s what it is, despite being in the state parks system) has a perfect small-town-Texas feel. A tip: Bring your Texas State Parks Pass, and take your after-lunch stroll through Bindseil Park—at the southeastern end of the square—to the park’s secret entrance. If you’re hungry: axis burger at the Redbud Cafe.
101 Park Rd. 23. 830-833-4333. Open daily. $5 per person.
Visit tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/blanco to check on its status.
FORT CLARK SPRINGS
Las Moras Springs, named by Spanish explorers (moras means “blackberries”), was the local spot for rest and relaxation for some 12,000 years before Fort Clark was built along the creek in 1852. The old fort is now a gated residential community with a golf course and a motel, and it should be on your list of riding destinations. The adjacent pool—the third-largest spring-fed pool in Texas—is a serious rival to Balmorhea for the title of Best in the West, and may be the main factor in solving the age-old “I-10 versus Highway 90” quandary. If you’re the sort who always picks I-10, take the low road next time and spend a night in Brackettville. Warning: The swimming pool is open only to motel guests or those signed in by a guest. If you’re hungry: hot dogs at Brackett Burger & Shake.
Just south of U.S. 90 on Fort Clark Rd. 830-563-2493.
Open year-round. Free to motel guests (room rates start at $63).
HANCOCK SPRINGS POOL
Lampasas perhaps isn’t the first place you think of when planning a run, but combine a stop at these sulfurous waters (the less-famous sister to Barton Springs and Fort Clark Springs) with a visit to Colorado Bend State Park and you’ve got a great Texas day out. The town grew up around the springs, which were famous in the late 1800s as a health resort. Train travelers would be ferried by mule, one trolley carload at a time, from the station to the Park Hotel. The open-air swimming pool, always 69 degrees, was built in 1911, and gets its water straight from the ground. If you’re hungry: Jäger Schnitzel at Eve’s Café.
Hancock Park, at the intersection of U.S. 281 S. and U.S. 190 (E.E. Jr. Ohnmeiss Dr.). 512-556-5172.
Open June through Aug., Thu.–Sat., noon–7 p.m., Sun. 1–6 p.m. $3.50.
LAKE FRYER AT WOLF CREEK PARK
Even from Amarillo it’s a long ride to this 700-acre county park—it’s closer to Oklahoma City than Dallas. But if you crave wide-open spaces and the feel of the wind in your hair and the sun on
your back, you’ll want to experience a ride in the rolling grasslands around Canadian, Texas, up in the far north Panhandle. And when you are up there, you’ll want to stop in at this delightfully
low-key getaway, a popular fishing and camping spot. There are the usual picnic tables and grills, but don’t pass up the opportunity to eat at the park’s Lobo Restaurant. Designated swimming areas are on the north side of the lake by the concrete dam. Like many places on this list, Lake Fryer has drawn people for thousands of years, from the Indians who built villages along the creek to the local families who have gathered here since the land was settled. If you’re hungry: burgers at the Lobo, and leave room for a treat from the bake shop (restaurant closed on Mondays).
Six miles east of U.S. 83 on County Rd. U. 806-435-4559.
Open year-round, camping permit required after 10 p.m. Free.
There are so many reasons to make a run to Wimberley, but if you need another one, know that this gorgeous spot on Cypress Creek in the heart of Wimberley Valley is probably the quintessential Texas swimming hole. Tall, old-growth bald cypresses and other trees cast such enticing pools of shade that one might imagine this to be a mirage constructed to taunt the chafed and sticky. If you’re hungry (or if the park is full, as it quite often is in summer): ribeye at the Cypress CreekCafe.
100 Blue Hole Lane, Wimberley, TX 78676. 512-660-9111.
Open Memorial Day through Labor Day, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. $9.
Please be advised that the Swim Area is very popular during the summer season and may be closed due to their capacity policy.
From Conroe to Carthage, East Texas is a rider’s dream. Two-lane highways swoop over gentle roller coasters through towering pine forests. Rivers, brown with tannin, cut deep, secret channels
through the woods, and the area is dotted with lakes large and small. This pretty little body of water, hiding in the tall trees, is fed by three creeks: Prairie Branch, Big Chinquapin, and Little Chinquapin, and was built in 1937 as a recreation destination. Fishing draws most people here, but swimmers and sunbathers have the use of a roped-off area with a sandy beach and a floating dock. The water is the color of iced tea. Lying on the dock, watching the morning sun sparkling on the surface, it’s hard to imagine anything much better, though you have to wonder whether the park’s alligators know that the rope means the swimming area is off -limits for them. If you’re hungry: Southern cooking at the Farmhouse Cafe in Huntsville.
Huntsville State Park, six miles southwest of Huntsville, off I-45 on Park Rd. 40. 936-295-5644.
Open year-round, 7 a.m.–10 p.m.
$5 per person.