Explore nearby Burnet County, which features some of summer’s best-kept secrets.
By Niki Jones
Spending the summer at the lake is a time-honored American ritual, and in climates like Texas’, it’s practically a necessity. The Austin area has plenty of cool spots where locals can swim, but these days, they often come with crowds on top of crowds.
One area that is consistently overlooked is just a stone’s throw from Austin, Burnet County. An easy 60-minute drive on wide-open roads delivers Austinites to Canyon of the Eagles, a family-friendly resort on a 940-acre nature preserve set on the shoreline of bucolic Lake Buchanan.
Densely wooded, Canyon of the Eagles evokes a feeling of a quintessential summer camp. The wooden buildings are rustic and fit in with the scenery seamlessly. A small pool surrounded by rock and a stone fire pit, complete with cut and stacked firewood, beckons visitors to sit a spell fireside and take it all in.
The 62 guest rooms at the resort maximize views of the lake, each room graced with its own private balcony and pair of rocking chairs so lodgers can while away the day taking in spectacular courtyard or lake views. Reminiscent of classic lake cabins, the room décor is simple and clean, allowing the beautiful nature scenes outside to become the focus, even while indoors. Spacious and featuring high ceilings, the rooms at Canyon of the Eagles include no TVs to distract from the natural splendor. (Free Wi-Fi is included, though, and is particularly helpful when trying to identify the friendly songbirds that so hospitably welcome visitors to the resort.)
Though it may be tempting to luxuriate in the guest room and listen to the sounds of birds chirping, activities abound at Canyon of the Eagles for all ages and abilities: Day or night hiking, yoga, kayaking and bird-watching are just some pursuits that bring guests closer to nature. There are also educational programs, including some focused on eagles, owls and reptiles.
But the most extraordinary activity to partake in at Canyon of the Eagles involves the Eagle Eye Observatory, a rolling-roof observatory set in a dark-sky location staffed by astronomers and equipped with telescopes and other astronomical instruments that enable visitors to stargaze in an epic way. An observatory visit is complimentary for Canyon of the Eagles resort guests and the space is open to the general public for a small fee.
While the land activities at Canyon of the Eagles are numerous, getting out on the water is highly recommended. Just minutes from Canyon of the Eagles, the Vanishing Texas River Cruise is an 18-mile excursion across Lake Buchanan and up the Lower Colorado River. The Texas Eagle II is a 120-passenger double-decker boat with both indoor and outdoor decks, ample seating and lots of oversized picture windows for taking in the scenery during the lake adventure. For those who prefer a smaller, more intimate experience, visitors don’t have to stray far from the resort; the wilderness-centric Canyon Cruise takes as many as 10 passengers up the Lower Colorado River on a pontoon boat, getting up close to the splendor, like the mesmerizing Fall Creek Falls, lofty cliffs and heavenly riverscapes. Lucky visitors may even spot eagles soaring above or wild Spanish goats high on the cliffs.
A thrilling adventure worth the 45-minute drive to the town of Marble Falls, Texas, is Hidden Falls Adventure Park, a 2,700-acre park featuring thousands of acres of off-road trails perfect for blazing on all-terrain vehicles, utility terrain vehicles, dirt bikes and Jeeps. On the two-hour UTV guided tour, adrenaline junkies can navigate hills, rocks and cliffs in top-of-the-line machines that really get the blood pumping.
Inks Lake State Park is another nearby gem in Burnet County offering hiking, camping, geocaching and even nighttime star parties during the spring and summer months.
Burnet County also offers underground exploration at Longhorn Cavern State Park, where a Wild Cave Tour serves up a primitive caving adventure involving wriggling, climbing and crawling through the undeveloped portion of the cave.
Whether visiting the resort or the many neighboring nature experiences and excursion-focused ventures, Burnet County offers Austinites the perfect close locale to truly get away. As they say at Canyon of the Eagles, “Where the road ends, the adventure begins.”
MORE CENTRAL TEXAS STATE AND NATIONAL PARKS
Lyndon B. Johnson State Park | Stonewall, Texas
Colorado Bend State Park | Bend, Texas
Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge | Marble Falls, Texas