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.
in Willow City Loop
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.
| View of Bell
Mountain from Willow City Loop
Barr, March 2017
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.
| 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
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.
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.