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Watching The Solar Eclipse in Bandera, Texas: The Cowboy Capital of the World

Updated: Feb 11

October brought Central Texas a perfect view of the the annular eclipse, and April 2024's total solar eclipse is right around the corner - so where is the best place in the Texas Hill Country to watch these historic astronomical events?


Bandera, Cowboy Capital of the World, is perfectly situated in the path of the viewing area for 2024 total eclipse, and it is from there that I witnessed the annular eclipse on October 14, 2023.


A dog on top of a horse wears special solar eclipse glasses during the annular eclipse on October 14, 2023
Solar Eclipse at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in Bandera, Texas

The annular eclipse ran concurrently with the Hill Country Equestrian Lodge's (HECL) annual Cattle Clinic, a special weekend-long instruction of cattle sorting and penning techniques to riders of all experience levels.


One day before the eclipse, which fell on a Saturday, I drove two and a half hours from Austin to reach Bandera, and my winding drive through the Texas Hill Country took me through Blanco, another inviting Hill Country gem offering restaurants, shops and market days.

A sign showing the Bandera City Limit and total population of 957 cowboys
Bandera City Limit Sign

When I arrived in Bandera, I noticed a big sign proclaiming Bandera's claim of "Cowboy Capital of the World" and the town's many Western wear stores seem to back up this lofty claim.


There are numerous sights to see in Bandera; however, I was in a rush to arrive at the Hill Country Equestrian Lodge, located 11 miles from Bandera's Main Street.

the sign from the road for the Hill Country Equestrian Lodge in Bandera, Texas
Hill Country Equestrian Lodge Sign

After checking into my cabin, Friday's instructional session began at 4pm.


Riders from all over the country mounted their steeds and took instruction from Diana Lindig, co-owner of the lodge.


Horseback riders line up in an outdoor area for instruction on cattle penning and sorting
Cattle Clinic at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge

Meanwhile, I was strategizing about the ideal place to watch the eclipse the next morning.


In addition to its excellent horseback riding and hospitable staff, HCEL is nestled next to the Hill Country State Nature Area, a Texas state park replete with stunning views and miles of hiking trails.


Prior to my visit to Bendera, I was intrigued when, during my preparatory research, I read the following information on the Texas Parks and Wildlife website:


Explore over 5,000 acres of rugged canyons, scenic plateaus and tranquil creek bottoms at this former ranch northwest of San Antonio. Escape from the bustle of modern life to a more relaxed time and place.

Upon my arrival at the lodge, I produced a map of the nature area and decided that my destination would be The Scenic Overlook on the West Peak Overlook Trail inside the state park.


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I woke up early on Saturday morning and immediately noticed several horses having their breakfast - the grass right outside my window. They were clearly unperturbed by my presence.


After coffee, I put on my hiking boots and climbed through a side entrance accessible from HCEL into the nature area.


I was one of the first visitors to the park, and due to its elevated lookout points, I quickly noticed that it was an ideal location to watch the eclipse.


Hill Country State Nature Area's trails aren't incredibly well-marked but after a few wrong turns, I finally arrived at the trailhead for the West Peak Overlook.



Listed as a Challenging hike for experienced hikers, the West Peak Overlook Trail is a steep climb up a 1,500 feet elevation incline to an total height of 1,879 feet above sea level.


The trail is rocky, and I highly recommend hiking boots. Hiking poles are optional; however, they might be helpful if you aren't used to difficult terrain.


Several benches adorn the scenic viewing area at the top of the climb and you gaze westward towards the Hill Country, which stretches for miles.


The bench at the peak summit overlooking the Texas Hill Country
View from Scenic Overlook at Hill Country State Nature Area

I am a native Texan, and this was one of the highest elevations I had experienced in the state.


The view was breathtaking, and I highly recommend this as a prime location to witness the solar eclipse.


My advice would be to show up at the park right when it opens (around 8am) and immediately head towards the peak.


My only concern became the clouds - would they get in the way of the eclipse?


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Pondering this question and monitoring the skies, I decided to climb back down West Peak Overlook Trail and back to the HCEL.


When I arrived back at the lodge, the Cattle Clinic riders were sorting cattle, which involved have to get the cattle out of the pen in numerical order (1-9) like a 9 ball billiards.


A Horseback rider sorts cattle in Bandera, Texas
Cattle Clinic at Hill Country Equestrian Lodge

After completing this difficult exercise, the riders broke for lunch.


As the HCEL staff handed out the special solar eclipse glasses, the countdown to the eclipse began.


Thankfully for us, the clouds eventually made way for the sun, and we all gasped in excitement during the ring of fire at 11:52am.


A horse looks on during the annular eclipse on October 14, 2023 in Bandera, Texas
Solar Eclipse in Bandera, Texas

After lunch and the eclipse, I headed into Bandera's Main Street and experienced tons of traffic and tourists on the roadside who had set up special telescopic cameras. 


Clearly, many stargazers from all over Texas had also chosen Bandera as their solar eclipse destination.


Plans are being made already for the 2024 total eclipse in Bandera. Here is one event already listed on the town's website, and there will certainly be more to come.


If you enjoyed this article, check out my travel guide titled 3 Texas Hill Country Getaways featured in the Google Discover News feed.


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