Frio and Sabinal Canyons
If the word “canyon” brings to mind sheer cliffs and towering vertical rock formations, then perhaps the geological structures along the Frio and Sabinal rivers should be referred to as “mini-canyons.” Even though they’re not dramatic in size, these canyons remain beautiful wonders of nature. Since most Texas rivers traverse through hills and across plains, these are spectacular scenes in comparison—especially from the vantage point of a canoe or inner tube. And, true to its name, the Frio River (frio means “cold” in Spanish) is refreshingly brisk on a 100-degree summer day. Visitors to this area relish the rural scenery and the abundant opportunities to camp in primitive areas or stay in rustic hillside cabins and lodges.
The Canyon Communities is the region of the state dotted with small riverside towns filled with resort guests, retirees, and the descendants of the German settlers who migrated to this area in the 1800s.
Concan is a tiny community (population 490) surrounded by gorgeous scenery in the form of tree-topped hills and cliffs overlooking the crystal clear Frio River. The meandering drive along Highway 83 leading to and from the town is unlike any other in Texas, with the adjacent canyons beckoning drivers to pull over and explore their scenic overlooks.
Perhaps the best place to experience this view is the one-of-a-kind Neal’s Lodges (located approximately three miles southwest of Concan on Hwy. 127, 830/232-6118, www.nealslodges.com, cabins cost $60–250 daily for up to eight people; three-night minimum stay during summer months). Established in 1926, Neal’s offers 62 cabins, ranging from funky to fancy. The most basic options are one-room wooden structures with “evaporative coolers” and the nicest of the bunch are upscale Hill Country lodges.
In between are cinder block–based structures overlooking the Frio and the “best swimming hole in Texas.” All but four of the cabins have kitchenettes. Other on-site amenities include a grocery store, restaurant, and laundromat. RV hookups and tent sites are also available, and Neal’s rents inner tubes for floating on the Frio, with a return stop on the property’s riverbank.
Just up the road on Highway 83 is Leakey (pronounced Lay-key), another small community (population 387) with riverside lodging and multi-generational Hill Country settlers. This is one of the closest towns to Garner State Park, so visitors often stay in a reliable Leakey cabin at night and visit the park during the day.
One of the more unique lodging options in town is the D’Rose Inn and Cabins (527 S. Hwy. 83, 830/232-5246, www.droseinn.com, $65–145). The D’Rose caters to motorcyclists and bicyclists only (guests must be riding or have their bikes on a trailer). The three-acre property includes four rooms and 11 cabins along with free wireless Internet service, a lounge, pool, covered pavilion, barbecue grills, and picnic tables.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition