Media is loading

Document Type


Publication Date



Over the next couple of months, many Texans will set off for the Hill Country to enjoy the splendor of the wildflowers celebrating spring. The flowers light up the hills and roadsides and bar-ditches with carpets of vibrant blues, yellows, violets, reds and pinks.

And it is not just the kaleidoscope of colors that the tourists love: Many of them are flatlanders, so they also love the rolling hills and driving the roads that snake through billions of blossoms.

I want to suggest that you consider also driving through what I call the other hill country, composed of a gentler, less dramatic topography – one that also offers wildflowers galore and winding roads but has the advantage of being far less traveled than its cousin to the west.

You start in Clay, about six miles north of Independence, Texas, on State Highway 50, heading south. There, you will encounter the first hill rising off the flatlands into a changing ecosystem. You can see the gentle rise sweep across the land like a stationary wave, from left to right. It’s not huge, but it is noticeable and alerts you to changes coming.

Once you get into Independence, take a right on 390 and stay on that road all the way to Burton. This is a famous scenic drive that passes through the old ghost town of Gay Hill. Wildflowers are often bountiful here. In Burton, you will want to hop on 290 for a few miles and pick up 237 to Round Top, headed toward LaGrange.

This 30-mile stretch of winding rural road will take you through dozens of antique shops – some enormous in size, almost Home Depots of antiques, but with more congenial architectural styles. Round Top itself is charming in the way that Jackson Hole or Aspen is charming, without the same exorbitant real estate prices, but they are getting there.

What I appreciate most about the road from Round Top to La Grange are the frequent white fences curving along emerald green pastures. Reminds me of the horse country in Kentucky.

Once you get into La Grange on 159, you’ll take a left on 77, climb the big hill and head south out of town, crossing the Colorado River. Just four miles down that road, you’ll take a right on County Road 2436. Look to your left and, quite soon, you will see the largest lawn mower graveyard you’ve ever seen. That’s Keith’s Lawnmower repair.

Not sure it’s actually a good advertisement for Keith’s skills, or maybe it’s an endorsement of his genius as a seller of new lawn mowers. In any case, that graveyard is a sight you won’t soon forget.

This road dead ends into FM 609; take a left. Here, the hills get bigger and the wildflowers more robust. There are little reservoirs here and there and creek ponds that dot the landscape, adding to the pastoral charm of the region. Watch for a Texas flag shed off to the left. It is magnificently situated among wildflowers as if the shed is posing for you, offering an ideal composition that Instagram’s photo editor could not improve upon.

It won’t be long before you will arrive in Flatonia, which is not particularly flat. The name does not mean flat, either; it comes from its founder, F. W. Flato, who was a merchant.

In Flatonia, pick up State Highway 95 headed toward Shiner. On this stretch, you will enjoy more rural roads and gentle hills and wildflowers, including panoramic views worthy of your attention off to the west.

In Shiner, you can end your drive through the Other Hill Country at the Shiner Bock Brewery, which is the oldest independent brewery in Texas. Have yourself a Shiner Bock or two. After this tough two-hour drive through wildflower country, you’ve earned it.


.MP3, 192 kbps








© 2024 William F. Strong. Uploaded with permission of copyright holder.