Down the Bluebonnet Trail...
Mar 22, 2013 09:21AM ● Published by tina
Wandering along the backroads of Texas in search of the perfect field of bluebonnets is a beloved pastime during the spring
By Tina Auten, Staff Writer
This is the only place on earth bluebonnets grow
Once a year they come and go
At this old house here by the road...
Gulf Coast Highway, Nanci Griffith
Texas singer-songwriter Nanci Griffith immortalized the ephemeral quality of the beloved state flower, the Texas bluebonnet in her classic ballad, Gulf Coast Highway. These perennial beauties stretch across the state along highways and in open fields during the early weeks of spring and depending on variables such as location, seasonal temperatures, and rainfall during the winter months, can be seen until early May.
Traditionally, people loaded up in cars and trekked around the back roads of Texas in search of bluebonnet fields. Over the years, it became a major event in Central Texas with bus tours, photographers, and vacationers all looking for the perfect bluebonnet field. Websites, such as Texas Bluebonnet Sightings, have sprung up in recent years with reports to guide spectators in finding these glorious flowers across the state.
Today, the Bluebonnet Trails are self-guided tours on lesser-travelled highways in and around various counties of Central Texas. Some trails can be driven in a few short hours while others are longer and better suited for an entire weekend. Local attractions, historical sites, festivals, and shopping are but a few of the enticements for those on the trail.
Starting in Austin, visit the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center and brush up on the native plants of Texas. To get on the Bluebonnet Trail, take Highway 183 North to FM 1431 West and enjoy the scenic rocky hill country. The town of Marble Falls is the first stop on the trail and its claim to fame is Granite Mountain, one of the largest granite quarries in the world. From Marble Falls, continue on FM 1431 to Kingsland, the site of the last Indian battle in the region. Continuing on FM 1431 to Highway 29 west, the town of Llano is the westernmost stop on the drive and features a festival during Bluebonnet Trail weekends. From Llano head east on Highway 29 to Lake Buchanan and enjoy the miles of undeveloped shoreline, which boasts an abundance of color. Near Lake Buchanan is the town of Burnet, which also hosts several Bluebonnet Trail events including 5K and 10K marathons for the energetic. After Burnet, stay on Highway 29 through Leander and you’ll have made the circle back to Austin. Without stops, the drive takes approximately three and a half hours.
The Bluebonnet Trail - Brenham
Approximately 90 miles east of Austin is Washington County. Considered by many to be the birthplace of Texas, Washington County is also home to the city of Brenham, famous for its Blue Bell Ice Cream. With a smaller bluebonnet trail of roughly 80 miles, this family-friendly destination offers self-guided tours to significant historical sites along with spectacular bluebonnet views. And if the kids are good, there’s always a stop off at Blue Bell Creameries to see how Blue Bell ice cream is made. Tours are 45 minutes in length and include a serving of delicious Blue Bell Ice Cream.
Closer to Home
For those who are short on time but still want to enjoy the azure fields, check out the festival and trails in Ennis, which is just over an hour’s drive from Southlake and southeast of Dallas. In Parker County, the Shaw-Kemp Ranch south of Weatherford has hosted an annual open house on one April Saturday since 1960. This year’s open house is scheduled for April 13 and welcomes families for picture taking and to enjoy the historic buildings on the property.