Deep in the heart of the Lone Star State, nestled among the rolling, tree-specked hills of the Texas Hill Country, nature lovers can find Canyon Lake.
A reservoir formed on the Guadalupe River, this well-loved watering hole lies outside New Braunfels, within a convenient drive of Austin and San Antonio.
This stunning lake offers a welcome reprieve from hot summer days. And while that statement is true about any cool body of water on a warm afternoon, Canyon Lake is of an entirely different caliber. The crystal-clear waters mimic the intoxicating hues of Mediterranean waters. It's no wonder why Canyon Lake is one of my favorites in Central Texas and the entire state.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created the reservoir to construct Canyon Dam in 1958. We do love that this Comal County getaway protects the surrounding cities and residential areas from floods. But we mainly love the ample outdoor recreation and days of fun in the sun this beautiful lake provides!
Drive the Beautiful River Road
The best way to take in the full spectrum of beauty in the Canyon Lake Area is by embarking on a scenic drive down River Road. This ten-mile country roadway crosses the mighty Guadalupe four times on its meandering way between Canyon Lake and New Braunfels.
If you want to relish in the beauty but don't have as much time as you'd like, this majestic drive is an absolute must. Cypress trees caress each river's edge, blanketing the light-blue waters with their branches, wooing visitors to stop for a nap under its welcome shade.
Keep your eyes out for wildlife, launch a paddleboard or kayak at one of the outfitters, or enjoy an ice-cold beer and live music at one of the local establishments. There are also a few options for fabulous campgrounds throughout the drive, so if you are keen on some camping riverside, we highly suggest taking the plunge!
One tip, however. Most of the riverfront property along this road is private, so as tempting as it may be to jump in, wait until you make it to one of the beautiful public parks or spaces.
Relax at One of the Lakefront Public Parks
Visiting Canyon Lake is like seeing the water recreation capital of Texas! The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers manages and operates a beautiful handful of parks to recreate, enjoy, and discover.
Seven major recreational areas offer ample opportunities for you and the family to kick back, unwind, and soak up the incredible lake views! While only a few parks are allowed for day use, the other parks offer overnight guests an array of camping options. Guests can utilize boat ramps, swim beaches, picnic areas, fishing spots, and more throughout the seven parks!
Day-Use Parks for Fun in the Sun
Suppose you aren't planning to go camping or stay in a hotel or vacation rental. In that case, I highly suggest choosing one of the fantastic day-use parks to claim your stake blissful summer days. These are such great options for a day trip from the major cities in the area.
Suppose you want to get on the water (the best way to appreciate the area), rental boats, jet skis, and other watercraft items at Crane's Mill Marina or Canyon Lake Marina. In that case, you can find all information here.
Upon your first arrival to the turquoise waters of Canyon Lake and at the tail end of your River Road drive, you will find the beautiful vistas and grassy fields of Overlook Park. This fee-free park is open all year and sits atop the rolling hills at the south end of Canyon Dam. Take the spectacular vistas and take the Verada Real hiking trail across the dam at this scenic outdoor space.
This is also the location of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers headquarters office, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 AM to 4:30 PM (except on holidays).
Hours: Open year-round from 7 AM to sunset
Another great park to hit after your drive on the iconic River Road, Guadalupe Park, is below Canyon Dam alongside the Guadalupe River for approximately one mile. You can stroll the trail down to the fishing pier on the north side of the park or take the other hiking trail to the park's south side.
This area is home to a hydropower plant run by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA). It's also one of the best trout fishing streams in the state and the southernmost sustainable trout fishing stream in the nation (cool, right)?! Note that this park does not offer restrooms, camping, or picnic areas, so plan accordingly. Pack it in and pack it out!
Hours: Open year-round
One of our favorite parks to check out. Comal Park is first-come, first-serve until it hits capacity-it fills up pretty quickly on the weekends.
Nestled along the lake's south shore near Startzville, this 116-acre park is open seasonally from March through October. It features two boat ramps, a colossal swim beach, restrooms, sand volleyball, SUP and kayak rentals, and a playground for the kiddos.
Fee: $5 per vehicle with Comal County registration sticker and $20 per Non-Comal County registered vehicle
Hours: March and October 10 AM to 6 PM and April through September 8 AM to 7:30 PM
Canyon Beach Park
One more option for day-use fun on Canyon Lake is at Canyon Beach Park, which rests on the north shore of the lake. This park features picnic areas, closable grills, a swim beach, a vault toilet, and a water fountain.
Hours: Seasonally open from April 1 to September 30. Saturday, Sundays, and holidays from 8 AM to sunset and Monday through Friday from 1 PM to sunset
Explore the Canyon Lake Gorge
A newer gorge in the area, the Canyon Lake Gorge, was formed in 2002 after flooding and rains cascaded over the spillway from the lake for six weeks straight! Now we have a one-mile, 65-acre gorge to explore, featuring rocks and fossils that are dated back as far as 111 million years!
This natural classroom provides educational resources for everyone who visits. You can find dinosaur footprints, a series of spring-fed pools, waterfalls, and this great, recently-birthed area that is quite the treat to native Texans and visitors.
It is a great way to learn more about the area and the preservation efforts to protect it. Take a guided tour at The Heritage Museum.
Wine & Dine
Let's not forget the most critical way to end your incredible days of lakeside fun: with some good old-fashioned wining and dining.
Depending on what side of the lake you are on, there is a delicious winery for you to enjoy small eats and wine tastings. These include La Cruz de Comal Wines, Ponita Vineyard and Winery, Seventh Son Vineyards, and Dry Comal Creek Vineyards.
You have to go to one spot as far as dining - Plooky's (but it is only open on weekend evenings). Recently on the sixth season of Netflix's Queer Eye, this cajun staple in the Hill Country is serving up the best of seafood boils. Even better, it's BYOB. We can't think of a better way to end your gorgeous Canyon Lake getaway.
An avid adventurer and lover of all things outdoors and travel, Sydney Paschall has explored and discovered as many beautiful places as she can, with extra time spent in Oregon, Colorado, and driving up and down the west coast. Now based in Austin, Sydney focuses her time on writing, social justice, activism, living more mindfully, and staying active to optimize the mind, body, and soul. Instagram: @_sydshine
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