Explore the boundless beauty and pristine land in Texas, from San Antonio to Big Bend National Park, on a journey to two private Texas ranches. In this rare opportunity, you’ll have thousands of acres all to yourself to discover on foot, bike, or kayak.
Suggested journey at a glance: 8 days, 7 nights through San Antonio, Llano Springs, and Big Bend National Park
This suggested itinerary is just one of many ways to see Texas on your own customized Ker & Downey journey. Our designers are at their best when crafting a journey unique to you; contact us to get started planning, and read on to see one example of what’s possible on our Texas ranch journey.
The city of San Antonio is rich in colonial heritage. Among its most famous landmarks are a group of five missions situated along the San Antonio River basin. Together, they have been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The most well-known of the five is the 18th-century Alamo which marks the 1836 battle for Texas Independence from Mexico. Now preserved as a museum, the Alamo tells an intriguing tale of Texas gumption.
The San Antonio Riverwalk is another main draw to the city. The miles-long pedestrian promenade boasts plenty of cafes and shops. The main loop of the Riverwalk has become a hub for tourists, but just out of the central downtown portion, the river makes its way north to a less-frequented area known as the Pearl Brewery.
The trendy and historic Pearl Brewery district is a unique destination in San Antonio. The former brewery operated between 1883 to 2001. Trace its past throughout the 22-acre site of repurposed spaces and new buildings. Green spaces, coffee shops, a jazz club, and a wide variety of excellent dining options draw locals and tourists alike.
Walking is a nice way to take in the Riverwalk and Pearl Brewery. However, River Taxis are also available to ferry you down the river.
Intersected by the spring-fed South Llano River, the 4,600-acre Llano Springs Ranch lies on the western edge of the Texas Hill Country. On either side of the water, you’ll find limestone cliffs and rolling hills. Since purchasing the property in 1994, the Vandivier family has meticulously worked to restore the forest, streams, and grasslands to their native state. Their stewardship of the land has resulted in many state and national awards, including the prestigious Leopold Conservation Award for sustainable land-management practices.
Explore the property by mountain bike, kayak, paddleboards, or hiking. Take in the beautiful scenery from the hilltop. Don’t forget binoculars! On the hilltop, you may be able to spot endangered birds like the golden-cheeked warbler, a songbird that only nests in Texas, or the black-capped vireo.
A number of sites around the Llano Springs Ranch are worth a stop. Nearby, the Devil’s Sinkhole is home to one of the state’s largest colonies of Mexican free-tail bats. The vertical cavern is about 50 feet wide and drops down 140 feet. It then balloons out to more than 320 feet, reaching a total depth of more than 350 feet. From this enormous cavern, witness some three million bats fly out into the evening sky from late spring to early fall.
Sixty miles from the closest town you’ll find Chalk Draw Ranch, a hidden oasis in the desert set on 15,000 acres abutting Big Bend National Park. The ranch is home to home to diverse plant and animal species like mountain lion, bobcat, elk, and whitetail deer. Spend your days hiking into Bee Cave Canyon, the largest known rock shelter in Big Bend. Explore the ranch by mountain bike. There are also 46 known sites of prehistoric petroglyphs and pictographs to explore on the ranch.
A glittering swimming pool looking out over the Santiago Mountains is the perfect spot to spend afternoons in this part of West Texas. From the rooftop deck, take in the stunning views of the Texas sky. The Big Bend National Park region is designated as an International Dark Sky Park—one of just 10 in the world. It offers the darkest skies in the lower 48 states, so the star viewing is unparalleled.
You can also explore Big Bend National Park. At 801,163 acres, Big Bend National Park boasts the largest protected area of Chihuahuan Desert topography and ecology in the United States. Within its boundaries, you’ll find more than 1,200 species of plants, 450 species of birds, 56 species of reptiles, and 75 species of mammals. The park offers a variety of hiking opportunities with over 150 miles of hiking trails. There truly is a hike for everyone—from wheelchair accessible paths to full three-day backpacking experiences. Other activities in Big Bend include mountain biking on the extensive back road system or on the scenic paved highways, horseback riding, kayaking, and canoeing. We highly recommend rafting down the Rio Grande through the park’s five spectacular river canyons.