The Willow City Loop is your chance to escape the day-to-day and wander into a bluebonnet-studded paradise. This is one of the most beautiful scenic drives in the Hill Country. This drive, once known only to locals, has become a sought-after jaunt for pretty spring wildflowers.
The dramatic landscape of the loop makes a great, quick getaway. And during the wildflower season, this countryside absolutely comes alive in vibrant colors. This should absolutely be on your travel bucket list!
What is the Willow City Loop?
The loop is a short, scenic drive located due north of Fredericksburg, Texas. This scenic drive is one of the top attractions in Fredericksburg and the Hill Country. It is also a great day trip outing from either Austin or San Antonio.
The loop itself is a 13-mile paradise of rolling, rocky hills and vistas, riverbeds, ranchlands and groves of trees. There’s not much on the loop other than the tiny town of Willow City, Texas and a bunch of ranches.
Of course, you come here for the nature: a landscape of beautiful, blooming wildflowers blanketing the streams and lining the roadway. It’s as if the earth itself spews out beautiful hues of color and eye-popping scenery.
When to Visit
For the best of views, March to May is the best time to visit if you are hoping to get a look at the wildflowers. The loop is rich with bluebonnets (the Texas State flower), Indian paintbrushes, sunflowers, and poppies.
While Spring is the most popular time to visit, the drive is pretty year around. In the hot Texas summer, the rocky hillsides offer beautiful views. In the winter, the long shadows create a moody environment.
How to See It
There are a couple of ways to experience the loop, but the easiest is driving. From Fredericksburg, take Texas State Highway 16 North to Ranch Road 1323. Take this east to the town of Willow City. When the road turns South, instead turn left and head north. The road will wind its way through the hills for 13 miles before coming out on Highway 16 North again.
While driving is the easiest, fastest, and most popular way to take in the Willow Loop, it is also extremely popular with cyclists (the entire route is paved). On weekends, you’ll see cyclists by the dozens taking in the rolling hills and beautiful flowers at a much slower pace. The Willow City School parking lot makes a good place to drop the car before heading out on two wheels.
Not to be outdone, you might even encounter runners or hikers on the loop. The 13-mile distance makes it a perfect (albeit challenging) half marathon distance.
Where are the Bluebonnets?
If driving the route from south to north, the Willow City Loop bluebonnets (and the majority of the wildflowers) will be in the second half of the drive. You’ll first encounter bluebonnets in the streambed at Cottonwood Hollow (sometimes called Ship Hollow). The GPS coordinates are: 30.447602, -98.657510.
There will be large pockets of wildflowers for the rest of the drive until it intersects Highway 16 again.
What Else is There to See?
This scenic drive is about…well…scenery. Look at all that beauty that mother nature provided. However, there are a few other things to see on the drive.
Willow City School
This two-story building on the edge of Willow City is one of the 12 historic schoolhouses in Gillespie County. Originally built as a one-room schoolhouse in 1876, the current school dates from 1905. The large, paved parking lot makes a great place to leave a car if you are cycling the loop.
The Boot Fence
One of the most photographed spots in Central Texas, the fence along TK Ranch is adorned with upside down cowboy boots. It’s a popular photo stop.
If you are a city slicker who gets excited by rural life, check out some of the ranches and livestock. Kids can get a real kick out of the cows.
We’ve done the Willow City Loop drive several times. Here are a few tips to help make your trip more successful.
Timing. The biggest question is when to go. Yes, the season runs from March to May, but within that, there is variability. The best bet is to watch Facebook and Instagram pages like this one. Once the flowers bloom, you’ll be in the know.
Alternately, if you are already in the Fredericksburg area, you can drop by Wildseed Farms. If the wildflowers are looking good there, then there is a good chance they are also blooming out in the Hill Country too.
The day of the week can also make a big impact on your enjoyment. Consider making your trip mid-week to have a quieter, more relaxed trip. The loop can be extremely busy on peak wildflower weekends.
South to North. You can do the drive (or cycle) in either direction, but we recommend going from south to north. The reason is that the second half the drive is prettier (and has more flowers) than the first half. So there’s a saving-the-best-for-last aspect to this approach.
Backtracking. That said, after having driven it from south to north, we like to backtrack and head back along the loop again (vs. taking the direct Highway 16 back to Fredericksburg). It’s more scenic than the highway and gives you a second chance to photograph anything you might have missed.
Time of Day. If you are interested in photography, the light early in the morning and the afternoon is better. We particularly enjoy the morning.
Make a Day of It. After driving the Willow City Loop, make a day of it by continuing to explore the Hill Country. After a morning of sightseeing, we enjoy visiting some of the Fredericksburg wineries or the local breweries for a drink.
Lance Longwell is a travel writer and photographer who has published Travel Addicts since 2008, making it one of the oldest travel blogs. He is a life-long traveler, having visited all 50 of the United States by the time he graduated high school. Lance has continued his adventures by visiting 70 countries on 5 continents – all in search of the world’s perfect sausage. He’s a passionate foodie and enjoys hot springs and cultural oddities. When he’s not traveling (or writing about travel), you’ll find him photographing his hometown of Philadelphia.