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10 fall bucket list adventures in the Highland Lakes

Get a great view of Lake Buchanan and Spider Mountain on the mountain biking park's chairlift. Keep reading for other adventures to put on your Highland Lakes fall bucket list. Photo by Ronnie Madrid/Divine Radiance Photography

Build your bucket list for a fall trip to the Highland Lakes with help from 101HighlandLakes.com, your guide to adventure in Burnet, Marble Falls, Kingsland, Llano, Spicewood, Horseshoe Bay, and beyond.

Sometime toward the end of September, temperatures usually dip below 90, marking the perfect time for nature-based adventures in the Highland Lakes. In between, plan stops at local wineries, breweries, and distilleries. Here are our top 10 Fun Things to Do in the Highland Lakes in the fall.

1. Spot an American bald eagle

The American bald eagle is a famous Winter Texan. iStock image


Visit any and all of the five public bird blinds and viewing stations in the Highland Lakes to get a close look at the birds migrating through the area each fall. You can also visit Canyon of the Eagles or take a tour on the Vanishing Texas River Cruise, which winds its way up the arm of the Colorado River that flows into Lake Buchanan, where a variety of raptors nest for the winter, including American bald eagles.

2. Ride the chairlift up Spider Mountain

The state’s only year-round chairlift takes bikers and hikers 350 feet to the summit of Spider Mountain on the shores of Lake Buchanan. A series of descending trails ranked by difficulty await beginners to extreme mountain bikers at the bike park. A hiking trail offers an alternative descent by foot. Of course, you can also ride back down in the chairlift. A wristband gets you as many rides as you want during a designated period of time.

3. Set up camp

Take the family camping at any of the state, LCRA, or private parks in the Highland Lakes. Or, venture out into the backcountry for a wilder trip. Staff photo


Whether you want to backpack a mile or more into the wilderness with your own food and water or prefer to pitch a tent near picnic tables, grills, and restrooms, the Highland Lakes has it all. Campsites are available at Texas state parks and natural areas, Lower Colorado River Authority facilities, or private parks across Burnet and Llano counties.

4. Fish from the shore

You can fish from the shore, including on the Llano River in Castell, across the Highland Lakes. No need for a boat! Staff photo


Go ahead and put up the boat for the winter (after cleaning off the zebra mussels). The Highland Lakes provides plenty of opportunities to fish from the shore in city, state, and LCRA parks. If you want to know what kind of fish you’ll find in which lakes, check out our list right here.

5. Go below the surface at Longhorn Cavern State Park

Take a Wild Cave Tour through the tightest spots of Longhorn Caverns or explore the more well-traveled passages. Photo by Ronnie Madrid/Divine Radiance Photography


If it’s still too hot to hike, take a 90-minute walking tour in the cool, dark recesses of Longhorn Caverns. You’ll descend along clearly marked trails 135 feet into the earth, where the temperature is a constant 68 degrees. You’ll learn about the history of the caverns, which have served as a speakeasy during Prohibition, a Native American meeting hall, and a source of gunpowder (bat guano) for Confederate soldiers.

6. Take a wine-tasting tour of the vineyards

Enjoy a sunset and a glass of wine at a variety of Texas Hill Country wineries and vineyards, including Torr Na Lochs in Burnet. Staff photo


The Texas Hill Country is wine country with a variety of varietals in the Highland Lakes. You’ll also find breweries and a distillery or two or three.

7. Go hunting

White-tailed deer are arguably the most popular game for hunters in the Highland Lakes. iStock image


For many, fall in the Highland Lakes means hunting, beginning with dove hunting and followed by deer, turkey, and quail (just not in that order). By the way, you can hunt for feral hogs year-round. If you’re not into shooting things, you can always go bargain hunting at the many shops in Highland Lakes.

8. Turn your eyes to the sky

The stars at night are big and bright at several stargazing spots in the Highland Lakes, including the Kingsland Slab. Staff photo


Discover the wonders of the night sky at the Eagle Eye Observatory at Canyon of the Eagles Nature Park and Resort on Lake Buchanan. Several telescopes are housed in a sliding-roof observatory complete with computer-enhanced imaging. You can also set up your own telescopes at a number of other stargazing spots across the Highland Lakes, including the Kingsland Slab and Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.

9. Scare yourself silly on a ghost tour

The historic Red Top Jail in Llano is reportedly haunted. Staff photo


The Highland Lakes has an impressive list of haunted houses, roads, jails — you name it. You can even eat a delicious meal in the very house where the “Texas Chainsaw Massacre” was filmed. Find out about the haunted Red Top Jail, a murderous hitchhiker on U.S. 281, and ghost prints at Old Oak Square in Marble Falls, where you can also do a little shopping.

10. Hike the hills and trails

Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City is a great place to explore on foot. Staff photo by Jennifer Greenwell


Fall is the best hiking time of the year in the Highland Lakes. The weather is cooling off, the colors are changing, and wildlife is on the move. We have a whole guide for hiking the hills and trails in Burnet and Llano counties and beyond. You can trek through the granite formations around Inks Lake at Inks Lake State Park, climb the batholith that is Enchanted Rock, or discover the vistas at Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge. The choices are endless.

suzanne@thepicayune.com

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