South Llano River State Park Trails Exceed All Expectations

South Llano River State Park is a two hour drive up I-10, from San Antonio. This Texas State Park is located in Junction, Texas, and there is a lot to see within the hills here. Many of the photos I saw online prior to visiting this park did not adequately reveal its greatness. Once I saw the South Llano River State Park trails on the map, I knew it was going to be worth a visit. After visiting this park in Texas Hill Country to hike the dog friendly trails, we saw wildlife and scenic views which have not been matched.

A scenic view of the hills from Overlook Trail at South Llano River State Park.
A view from Point of Interest 3

Things to Do at South Llano River State Park

  • Walk your dog to the second highest elevation in Hill Country
  • More than 22 miles of hiking and biking trails
  • Paddling and tubing along two miles of the South Llano River
  • Fish without a license
  • Track down the turkeys inside the Turkey Roost Area
  • Camp at a walk-in or primitive site
  • Spot hundreds of bird species from the bird blinds

South Llano River State Park shares many similar amenities with the other parks in Hill Country. The river it is named after runs from west to east on the north side of the park. Paddling, tubing and fishing can be done in the South Llano River.

A unique feature, the Turkey Roost Area, is located between the river and the HQ. You may spot Rio Grande Turkeys on some of the nature trails in this area. However, the Turkey Roost Area is only open from 10am-3pm during certain seasons (fall and winter). Don’t worry, the area is open all day the rest of the year.

The Turkey Roost Area at South Llano River.
Turkeys run behind the trees in the Roost Area

All of the trails inside this park are dog friendly, even within the Turkey Roost Area. Campsites with water and electricity are located near the HQ. Primitive campsites can be found in the middle of backcountry from Mid-Canyon Trail.

Pro Tip – Make a reservation if you plan on camping at South Llano River State Park. The sites were full during our visit, and campers were being turned away because they did not have a reservation.

South Llano River State Park Hours of Operation

Address: 1927 Park Rd 73, Junction, TX 76849

Fees: $5 without a Texas State Parks Pass

If using I-10 to reach this Texas State Park, exit and head south on US-377. Follow the route through Junction, Texas, and you will find the entrance about two miles to the south. This park is open daily from 8am-10pm.

There are only a few small parking lots near the HQ, but larger parking areas can be found near the South Llano River. The Turkey Roost Area will close at 3pm (October – March), but you will be able to exit after it closes if you or your vehicle are inside. Tubes and fishing gear may be available at the HQ if you do not bring your own.

A very scenic trail heading to point of interest 3.
The dangerous-looking Overlook Trail

Things You Will Need on the Trails

The trails near the South Llano River will not require hiking shoes, but those in backcountry may. The terrain is not overly difficult, but hiking shoes might make the rocks easier to manage. Bring plenty of water because some trails receive a lot of sunlight, and have steep areas. Carry a trail map on your hike so that you do not get turned around in the woods. Binoculars will come in handy because there are more than a few far reaching views of Hill Country.

Pro Tip – You can find the highest elevation in the park along the Frontera Trail. The peak is labeled to the east on the trail map. Bring your binoculars and see for miles from 2,130 feet. This is the 2nd highest point we have found in Texas Hill Country!

The Frontera Trail has one of the highest views in Texas Hill Country.
2,130 feet high along the Frontera Trail

Wildlife on the Trails

Apparently, there have been more than 250 species of birds sighted inside South Llano River State Park. While we did not see that many, we did notice more wildlife along these trails than in any other park so far. Many people probably visit to see the turkeys. We eventually saw a group of turkeys (running away from us), but we also saw several other animals in Hill Country.

  • Rio Grande Turkeys
  • Common birds
  • Turtles
  • Farm animals (goats and sheep)
  • Armadillos
  • Rabbits
  • Deer
  • Javelinas

The turkeys were found in the Turkey Roost Area, of course. However, we hiked all the way through from east to west before we spotted the turkeys near West Field Trail. Many common birds can be seen or heard in the area as well. The turtles were getting some air in Buck Lake, and there were more than a few.

Farm animals can be seen outside the park boundary from the Turkey Roost Area, and the Scenic Overlook. Even though it was the middle of the afternoon, armadillos were wandering around in the Turkey Roost Area as well. In backcountry, I swear I saw a javelina chasing a deer along the Frontera Trail. We noticed rabbits along the Agarita Trail prior to finishing our hike.

A butterfly on the trail at South Llano River State Park.
A butterfly rests on the Overlook Trail

Hiking Trails at South Llano River State Park

Most of the trails are wide, and the park vehicles seem to navigate through them. The easier trails are located inside the Turkey Roosting Area. The trails in backcountry are longer and moderately challenging. There are at least 15 trails to hike, and the potential distance is about 22 miles. Most of the trails are fairly short, with the longest being the Frontera Trail (4 miles).

Turkey Roost Area

This area is open year-round at South Llano River State Park, but the hours are limited during the fall and winter. The turkey roost is one of the largest in central Texas. It is the only Texas Hill Country park in which I have seen turkeys. The river, and Buck Lake are also in this area. Paddling, floating and fishing are popular river activities.

We stopped at Buck Lake, which is point of interest 2, and saw several turtles peaking out of the water. The lake used to be part of the South Llano River, but was cut off during a flood. By the appearance of the crumbling bridge in town, the area has been victim to powerful floods.

The South Llano River appears to be eroding.
South Llano River

Backcountry Points of Interest

Behind the HQ you will find an old cemetery. At least four pioneers are buried here. The graves date back to the late 1800’s. Several people were at the HQ, but I was the only one checking out the first point of interest. Behind the cemetery are the camping areas, as well as the backcountry trails.

The Scenic Overlook, point of interest 3, is a must-see to the east. The trail marked on the map is a paved road, but there is a natural trail you can access from the final parking area. The natural trail is steep and snake-like, but it’s fun to hike and provides amazing views to the north and west. This is one of the best trails in the park.

The Canyon Seep at South Llano River State Park.
Point of Interest 4 – Canyon Seep

The final two points of interest are toward the south end of the park. The 4th is Canyon Seep, where water can be seen seeping from the rock wall. This point of interest is near the primitive camping area along the Mid-Canyon Trail. From this trail you can find the 5th point of interest along the Windmill Hill Trail. It’s less than a mile to the south.

Challenging Trails at South Llano River State Park

The Frontera Trail is probably the most difficult trail inside the park, but it’s not very challenging. However, it is the longest trail, and contains several steep areas. Keep an eye out for wildlife, and the highest point in the park which is not listed as a point of interest. The rocky hills in backcountry will increase your heart rate, and test the muscular endurance of your lower body. You will find the elevation gains to be fairly significant.

A scenic view from Double Loop

Parks Near South Llano River State Park

The nearest Texas State Parks are about an hour away. Devil’s Sinkhole to the south is the closest, but it is an entirely different type of park. Lost Maples is a bit further south, and Enchanted Rock is to the east. All of the state parks in Texas Hill Country have amazing sights and qualities. South Llano River State Park is no exception, and it definitely exceeded my expectations.

I’m a certified personal trainer in San Antonio. After adopting Abbey, I created Places for Pups to help you get outside, exercise with your dog and have fun doing it. We have mastered hiking in Texas Hill Country. Though we emerge from the woods unharmed, we are not responsible for you or your pets. You are solely responsible for trying exercises, or places discussed on this site. Grab the best hiking gear and go dog friendly.  I wish you good fortune on the trails to come.

David Earley


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