Things To Do

What to See & Do In and Around Castell, Texas

Kayak Rentals

The Llano River is an ecological gem in the Texas Hill Country, supporting dozens of native and rare plants and animals. Want confirmation that Texas is the best place on earth to live? Then drift down our section of the Llano on a warm day when the river is running and the fish are biting. The sun sparkles on water that splashes over the boulders lying in the shallow rapids and glints off high red bluffs. Book our kayaks for only $40 a stay!

Rent Kayaks

Bike Rentals

Leave your bike at home and rent ours and book our bikes for only $25 per stay! With miles of rolling hills on remote gravel roads in the middle of nowhere, we provide two sets of bikes that you can use for a sunset cruise or a more rugged adventure through the Texas Hill Country. You can expect amazing views while taking in some of the wildlife along the large county road through ranches that surround our property.

Rent Bikes

Castell is host of the famous “Castell Gravel Grind,” so we’d like to share the maps they use for the April race of 100k and 75k loops around the Town of Castell.

Castell General Store

Located along the Llano River, the Castell General Store offers everything from kayaking and groceries to Cockaroo the rooster, and on Saturdays, delicious BBQ—including some of the best pork steaks in the state.

Welcoming you to it all is the owner and town character, Randy Leifeste, who says… “If you can’t have fun in Castell, you can’t have fun anywhere.” Leifeste, a man not given to understatement, will tell you there’s no place in Texas like his little hometown.

We know he’s right! If you’re lucky, some of the Roosters will venture into our property to greet you properly. They are very friendly, don’t worry. They also cook a mean burger and cold beer—one of our favorite pastimes ‘round here.

Texas Monthly Feature

Fly Fishing the Llano

Walk-in fly fishing or floating the Llano River make for an unforgettable and rewarding experience. Views of clear water, open ranchland covered with the classic Hill Country mix of wild flowers, yucca, cactus, oak, and cedar sun sparkling on the water that splashes over the boulders lying in the shallow rapids and glints off high red bluffs will stay with you long after your trip.

This truly is one of Texas’s wild rivers. Deer, turkey and wild boar are plentiful, and bass, trout and sunfish, teem in the Llano’s spring-fed waters, making the river a popular fly-fishing destination, with the bonus of great sight-casting opportunities. Many fishing guides offer float trips, some opt to kayak or canoe and the river bottom, which is limestone bedrock alternating with pebbly gravel stretches, is solid enough for wading. Fly fishing on the Llano is one of the best ways to surrender to the rugged and beautiful Hill Country.

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Enchanted Rock

Enchanted Rock is a 425-foot batholith climb in the middle of the Hill Country where you can hike nearly eight miles of trails including the famous Summit Trail, which features 360-degree views of the Texas Hill Country at the top. Stick around after dark and enjoy a night hike or stargazing, as Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is one of the few International Dark Sky Parks in Texas. There are three primitive camping areas for those who like to get away from it all.

The name “Enchanted Rock” is thought to come from the Tonkawa, who heard spirits “groaning” when the rock cooled at night. Climbing this stunning pink-granite batholith is still on the top-ten list of things to do in Texas. And, thankfully, the view is as striking. The slope is steep—on average it’s greater than 30 degrees—but don’t be put off. Granite has a high coefficient of friction, and even the most inexperienced hikers can make it to the top with a little friendly encouragement. From 1,825 feet above sea level the dusty browns, greens, and grays of the Llano Uplift disappear into a blur on the western horizon. Look around for weathered pits in the rock, called gnammas, where ferns and grasses grow on blown-in soil. Close by, on the north face, is Enchanted Rock Cave, another rite of passage that takes about 45 minutes to crawl through. (There’s often a line to get through the cave, so more-adventurous types can scout out other fissures on the backside of the rock that is great for spelunking and bouldering; beginners should try the routes called Sanders Traverse and Lunch Rock.)

After you’ve soaked up the scenery, eaten your picnic, or exchanged vows—yes, weddings have been performed here—make your way down the south slope to Echo Canyon and follow the path back to Moss Lake. From here you can pick up the Loop Trail and circumnavigate the entire formation. Enchanted Rock is also a great place to experiment with backcountry camping, as the park’s three primitive camping areas are fairly close; Moss Lake is less than a mile. Going to bed under a blanket of stars and waking up to a hot cup of coffee and a view of this entrancing dome is one of the best experiences Texas has to offer.

~ 40 MILES FROM OUR CABINS & 24 MILES SOUTH OF LLANO
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Eckert James River Bat Cave Preserve

This unique preserve is home to 4 to 6 million Mexican free-tailed bats and one of the largest concentrations of warm-blooded animals in the world. The cave supports a maternity colony where females give birth and raise their pups. Because this species roosts in such large numbers, colonies are vulnerable to disturbance and could be destroyed by a single destructive act. Additionally, the population recovery rate for a colony of Mexican free-tailed bats is slow because females give birth to only one pup each year.

Richard Phillip Eckert and Virginia Eckert Garrett donated the cave to The Nature Conservancy in honor of their father, Lee Eckert, and grandfather, W. Phillip Eckert. The Eckert family acquired the property in 1907 when W. Phillip purchased the ranch on which the cave is located.

In the early 1900s, W. Phillip mined the bat guano in the cave and sold it to local farmers for crop fertilizer. W. Phillip’s son, Lee Eckert, continued his father’s legacy of bat conservation and guano mining and left the site to his wife and children when he passed away in 1967. This generation of Eckerts wanted to ensure permanent protection of the bats, so in 1990, they donated the cave to The Nature Conservancy on condition that the land around the cave remain open to the public for enjoyment and education, as it had been for more than 100 years.

The preserve is on a dirt road, and you must cross a limestone bridge. Water will be flowing over so be sure to have the right car!

~ 40 MILES FROM OUR CABINS

The Town of Llano, Texas

The peaceful Llano River winds through fields of bluebonnets and boulders of granite, leading you to the charming Texas Hill Country town of Llano. Visit Llano and you’ll be greeted with outdoor adventure, some of the best deer hunting in Texas, and an inviting historic downtown with a movie theater, unique shopping, and a one-of-a-kind coffee house that often hosts live music.

Spend a day hiking Enchanted Rock or attend a rodeo. There are several arts, music, and nature festivals in Llano throughout the year that provides that iconic Texas experience you’re looking for. A little more than an hour northwest of Austin, Llano offers an idyllic setting to slow down and connect with nature.

You’ll find an abundance of outdoor recreation in Llano. It’s known as the “Deer Capital of Texas,” and rightfully so. Thousands of hunters from across the globe travel to Llano from November through early January to take advantage of some of the best deer hunting in the state. Of course, the Llano River is a big draw with its pristine flowing waters that are ideal for swimming, kayaking, and fishing. Don’t miss the opportunity to walk across the river on Inks Bridge — one of the best places to watch a sunset in Llano. Learn to fly fish on the river with Castell Guide Service, or boat on the nearby Lake Buchanan, another fishing and swimming hotspot.

Llano is a designated Texas Main Street community with its well-preserved downtown and historic buildings. The Llano County Courthouse was built in 1893 and is one of the most breathtaking historic courthouses in Texas. On Saturdays, you can tour the Llano County Red Top Jail, which was built in the late 1800s out of Llano County granite and served as the county jail from 1895 to 1982. Both are good examples of Romanesque Revival-style architecture common for the time period. To get a full understanding of the town and county’s history, head to the Llano County Historical Museum.

While you’re in Llano, share a bucket of buttered popcorn when you see a movie at the historic LanTex Theater downtown. If you’re in town on the second Saturday of the month, you can watch a live music performance by the Heart of Texas Country Music Association’s Llano Country Opry. Then head to Fuel Coffee House in an ornate Main Street building for a cup of joe and, if you time it right, live music on their stage as well.

With fairly moderate weather, anytime is a great time to visit Llano. But you might want to plan your trip around an event. There are several festivals in Llano throughout the year that are the perfect excuse to get away. Rodeos, holiday celebrations, and cultural gatherings abound here. In the spring, you can learn to stack rocks at the Llano Earth Art Festival (LEAF), tour artist studios and shop for your own masterpiece at @LAST Llano Art Studio Tour, watch some of the state’s best fiddlers compete at Llano Fiddle Fest, and eat some tasty crawfish at the Llano Crawfish Open. The Llano Heritage Weekend each October celebrates the town’s history and embraces its future while serving up a warm chuckwagon dinner with live reenactments, music, and a rodeo.

~ 17 MILES FROM OUR CABINS

The Town of Mason, Texas

Mason is known as the “Gem of the Hill Country” and the only place in Texas where you can find Texas Topaz in nature. But if you day trip here, you’ll find that the whole town sparkles with culture, history, great people and excellent food.

More Local Geology

Fredericksburg, Texas

A Texas road trip isn’t complete without spending a few days in Fredericksburg. Centrally located just an hour outside of Austin and San Antonio and only a 45-minute drive from our cabins, the town is an easy scenic drive. With 1.2 million visitors a year, the Fredericksburg region is the most popular wine-tasting destination in Texas. Between Fredericksburg and Johnson City, dozens of wineries and wine-tasting rooms have popped up in recent years, along with two breweries and three distilleries.

Strolling Main Street you will find more than 150 unique shops and boutiques filled with home goods, clothing, locally-made soaps and lotions, handmade boots, the best in specialty foods like dips, jams and jellies, and more.

A summertime tradition that can’t be missed is enjoying a juicy Fredericksburg peach straight from the orchard. Mid-May through mid-August, dozens of roadside stands are filled with bushels of just-picked peaches that are ready to be eaten. In addition to fresh peaches, one can expect to find homemade peach cobbler and homemade peach ice cream, along with peach jams, jellies, and other fresh-from-the-farm produce waiting to be enjoyed.

Fredericksburg is Texas Wine Country, where you’ll find dozens of Texas Hill Country wineries – from small urban wine tasting rooms located in the downtown historic district to large acreage vineyards located on the outskirts of Fredericksburg and nearby Stonewall. The wide variety of tasting rooms and vineyards allow a visitor to experience wines from all over Texas – and beyond – with a visit to Fredericksburg.

Another can’t miss thing to do in Fredericksburg – immerse yourself in history. Visit the Pioneer Museum located in downtown Fredericksburg to learn how the little German Texan town came to be – and all about the town’s upcoming year-long 175th Anniversary Celebration, set to kick off in May 2021.

Don’t miss the National Museum of the Pacific War’s brand new Admiral Nimitz Gallery, which opened in February 2020, bringing dozens of artifacts and exhibits to the public for the first time. For the latest information and details on visiting the nine-acre campus, be sure to visit pacificwarmuseum.org.

~ 30 MILES FROM OUR CABINS

The Joy of Gravel Grinding

Texas Cyclists Are Discovering the Joys of Gravel Grinding — Why many are exchanging paved roads and traffic for rural routes and breathtaking scenery.

Photograph by Travis Hallmark; Keyserville Road in Castell, which runs adjacent to a small vineyard, on August 19, 2020.

Texas Monthly Article

Castell Gravel Grind

Join in on the “Castell Gravel Grind” one of the biggest gravel events in Texas, where they end enjoying the post-race ritual of chili, baked potatoes, and beer at the Castell General Store.

The Grind route starts and finishes at the bright yellow Castell General Store, funnels cyclists alongside the Llano River for eight miles, and features views of House Mountain, Kings Mountain, and Bodie Peak. Participants choose from three distances—100, 75, or 50 kilometers—all of which include a spin-up notorious Keyserville Road, where, as veterans put it, the carnage happens, with cyclists slogging uphill through the sand.

The appeal of “gravel grinding,” a laid-back category of bicycling that takes riders off paved streets, where cars can whiz past at 60 miles an hour, and onto rural routes, where they’re more likely to encounter a slowly whirling windmill or curious farm animals.

Because gravel riders pedal roads that, though not paved, are built for motor vehicles, they won’t encounter the cyclist-launching obstacles—boulders, roots, rocky ledges—that mountain bikers love to conquer. Almost any sturdy bike with wide tires will do, although built-for-gravel bikes have become all the rage, with a more relaxed riding position and frames that are beefier than fine-boned road bikes but not as rugged as the mountain variety.

Event Website