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"Hindsights"


Looking back at:

The Willow City Loop

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

The Willow City Loop is nothing like the massive, crowded, multi-lane, circular, concrete demolition derby arenas that encircle San Antonio or Houston. The Willow City Loop has no exit ramp, frontage road or flyover - not even an HOV lane, whatever that is.

No, the Willow City Loop is a narrow, mostly paved road through some of the most spectacular landscape anywhere. If there is a prettier place in Texas, especially in April and May when the bluebonnets are showing off, I don't know where it is.

It's easy to get carried away by the scenery on the Willow City Loop, even as your allergies kick in.

TX - Bluebonnets in Willow City Loop
Bluebonnets in Willow City Loop
Courtesy Michael Barr, March 2017

A drive along the Willow City Loop is a slow roller coaster ride through narrow valleys and over steep rocky hills, cattle guards and low water crossings. Multi-colored wild flowers hug the road, cover the pastures and crawl up the hillsides. Even the thistles, the prickly pear and the mesquites are unusually perky and photogenic.

Time it right and a traveler on the Willow City Loop will be rewarded with a bumper crop of bluebonnets, Indian paint brushes, fire wheels, wine cups and white poppies. Climbing every hill is like turning a page in a picture book.

Throw in a herd of cattle lazily munching grass, some cautious white-tailed deer, a few tin barns and a couple of rusty tractors and the Willow City Loop transforms into the most picturesque setting in the Hill Country. It is one of the most photographed and most painted places in all of Texas.

TX - View of Willow City Loop
View of Willow City Loop
Courtesy Michael Barr, March 2017


TX - View of Bell Mountain from Willow City Loop
View of Bell Mountain from Willow City Loop
Courtesy Michael Barr, March 2017

There are several ways to get to the Willow City Loop. From Fredericksburg I take Highway 16 towards Llano, through the metropolis of Eckert, past Bell Mountain (you'll know it when you see it), cross Legion Creek at the bottom of the hill and then turn right at the first road past the Legion Creek Bridge. Rumble across the cattle guard, and you're there.

One of the first things you will notice is that the countryside changes from grassy hills dotted with live oaks on the Fredericksburg side of Bell Mountain, to a rockier and more rugged landscape with sharper edges as one approaches the Llano County line. A lot of the soil along the loop is more like red gravel than dirt.

TX - View of Bell Mountain from Willow City Loop
Bell Mountain
Courtesy Michael Barr, March 2017

The road on the north side of Willow City through Coal Creek Canyon has been known locally as The Willow City Loop since at least 1950. It was a Hill Country secret for years until folks from Austin and San Antonio sneaked in and discovered it. Then journalists from the Austin American-Statesman, the San Antonio Express-News and the San Antonio Light let the cat out of the bag.

Although some area ranchers did private road work in the early 20th century, that part of Gillespie County to the northwest of Willow City, including Coal Creek Canyon, had no public roads. Then in 1934 the Gillespie County Commissioners Court established a third-class road, 40 feet wide, from the Holmes-Moss Ranch over to the Llano/Fredericksburg Road.

The process of paving the Willow City Loop began in the 1960s. Rancher A. F. Buie, owner of the Serpentine Mine, donated material for the pavement. Commissioners completed the paving project in 1976.


Motorists are encouraged to enjoy the view along the Willow City Loop, but they should remember this is a special place. Don't trash it. Stay on the main road and stay in the car. The right-of-way is mostly unfenced so deer and livestock can move freely. It's not an invitation to take an off-road excursion. Remember it is private property, both sides of the road.

The Willow City Loop is nothing at all like its big city counterparts, although weekends in the spring can get a little crowded. Even then the traffic along the loop is slow, peaceful and relaxing.

The scenery is beautiful anytime of the year, but in the spring, when mother-nature is in a good mood, the Willow City Loop is the most breathtaking flower show on earth.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" April 1, 2022 Column



"Hindsights" by Michael Barr

  • Freedom for Millie Tinker 3-16-22
  • Fredericksburg's Tourist Park 3-1-22
  • Strolling Through the Gillespie County Fair 2-15-22
  • Teamsters were Fredericksburg's Lifeline 2-2-22
  • A Jail Without Walls 1-15-22

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