10 Best Things to Do in Canyon Lake

During the scorching hot summer months, there is only one thing in every Texan’s mind: cooling off and having a good time with family! Located deep in the Texas Hill Country, Canyon Lake is the perfect place to do just that–and there are plenty of fun things to at Canyon Lake.

Canyon Lake is a reservoir on the Guadalupe River, whose location makes it a great place to relax and enjoy the great outdoors.

Whether you’re visiting this mesmerizing town to hunt, fish, camp, swim, or just to take some time off, you are sure to something exciting to do in Canyon Lake!

Bright orange sunset over Canyon Lake TX. Sunsets are a fabulous idea of what to do in Canyon Lake TX

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Best Things to Do in Canyon Lake

Cruise the spectacular River Road.

The perfect road trip to Canyon Lake will start with you and your family cruising down the magnificent River Road. Even if you can’t start your trip this way, the one thing you absolutely must do while visiting Canyon Lake is to take a cruise along the majestic River Road.

The River Road travels alongside the Guadalupe River between Canyon Lake and the New Braunfels area.

This beautiful road runs 10 miles and is lined with enormous Cypress trees.

Make sure you keep your eyes open while on the road for fun outdoor activities. Some of the activities that you might find include fossil hunting, bird watching, geocaching, paddle boarding, and entertaining live music at one of the local restaurants.

The River Road takes you through 4 river crossings, campgrounds, tree tunnels, farmlands, ranches, and eventually, comes to an end near the glorious Overlook Park.

Guadalupe River lined with cypress trees near New Braunfels TX

Visit a scenic park near Canyon Lake.

One of the easiest ways to enjoy the breathtaking views of Canyon Lake is to visit one of its many local parks. The US Army Corps of Engineers builds and provides maintenance for 8 parks around Canyon Lake. These parks are perfect for camping, swimming, biking, boating, hiking, horseback riding, and even allow some bow and arrow hunting.

If you are more of a laid back person and just want to enjoy the wildlife, this is the perfect spot to do so. The parks around Canyon Lake are filled with an abundance of wild animals some of which include deer, both gray and red foxes, roadrunners, and plenty of different migratory birds species.

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Go for a swim.

It doesn’t matter why you end up at Canyon Lake, one thing is for sure, once you’re here you have to visit the lake! Once you are at the lake admiring the cool water, and you feel the Texas heat beating down your back, you are sure to want to go for a refreshing swim.

Canyon Lake has 3 parks with beaches on them, and visiting each of them ranks best things to do in Canyon Lake!

All of the beaches, and the shoreline, are “swim at your own risk” and do not have lifeguards on duty. Because of this, make sure to bring a life jacket or borrow one of our loaner jackets.

View of Canyon Lake TX from above with swimmers visible on the shore in the distance

Enjoy some fishing.

It is no surprise that if you go to Canyon Lake you will want to experience some of the best fishing in the area. According to the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, largemouth bass is the most popular and most abundant sport fish in the reservoir.

Other fish you can find include smallmouth bass, Guadalupe bass, White & Striped bass, and several species of catfish.

TPWD has worked with the Army Corps to install fish attractors made out of plastic and cedar to provide housing for fish. You can find a map to where these attractors are here. If you want more information about the current Canyon Lake fishing conditions, click here.

Fishing rod extending out into a lake with a hand holding it on an overcast day

Go scuba diving (and look for a ghost town)!

Canyon Lake is a favorite among scuba divers in Central Texas! 

There is plenty of hidden treasures to explore underwater. With a visibility of about 20 feet, you can find your way to some of the sunken treasures which include cars, boats, bikes, motorcycles, and there are even rumors that if you look hard enough, you can find an underwater ghost town.

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During the 50s and 60s, the US Army Corps of Engineers gave residents being displaced by the construction of the lake, a warning so that they could leave in time and take all their valuables with them.

Even though they had plenty of time to evacuate, there were plenty of things that the townspeople couldn’t take with them, so they had to be left behind. Some of these things that they were forced to leave behind, and can still be found underwater, include houses, buildings, and even graveyards.

Scuba diver walking into lake to start a dive, facing away from the camera. Scuba diving definitely belongs on any divers list of what to do in canyon lake tx

Go for a hike or two.

Canyon Lake has over 31 trails covering over 171 miles! Follow one of them and discover plenty of picturesque views, curious wildlife, or a wild adventure in the Texas Hill Country.

Whether you’re a beginner or an expert, you are sure to find a trail that is right for you!

If hiking isn’t your thing, don’t worry, there are plenty of biking and horseback riding trails to pick from.

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Explore the Canyon Lake Gorge.

In July of 2002, torrential rains and flooding caused up to 67,000 cubic feet of water per second to flow over the spillway of Canyon Lake, Texas for approximately six weeks.

As a result of this, a 1-mile long gorge covering over 65 acres was created! Visiting the Gorge is like stepping out of a time machine, as the gorge provides exposure to rock as old as 111 million years old!

The gorge is an outdoor classroom where you can explore fossils, dinosaur footprints that have been undisturbed for millions of years, a series of pools that are fed by springs, waterfalls, and a relatively new ecosystem.

Canyon Lake Gorge in central Texas as seen from above. one of the best things to do canyon lake tx

Visit the Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country.

Texas has a very long history and The Heritage Museum of the Texas Hill Country has records of that history that date up to 111 million years back! Going back to prehistoric Texas, when the dinosaurs ruled the land, you can find more than 200 dinosaur tracks and 28 trackways, afterward you can check out a collection of fossils from a time when Texas was under a prehistoric Ssa.

Once you are ready to come back closer to the future, make sure you check out the museums’ collection of Native American artifacts. You can also find antique and vintage pieces from the 1800s through the 1950s in their collection.

Before you go, make sure you stop and see the vintage farm equipment, to get an idea of how the first white farmers and settlers on the Texas frontier worked the land.

The Heritage Museum of Texas Hill Country is a must-visit for anyone interested in a crash course of our beautiful state’s history.

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Go fossil hunting.

It is no secret that central Texas is a hot spot when it comes to prehistoric fossils. The Canyon Lake area is no exception, being filled with fossils and footprints! Most of these fossils have been undisturbed for millions of years and are from a time when the area was part of a shallow prehistoric sea.

Earlier we talked about one of Texas’ newest geographical features, which was caused by a flood uncovering layers of rocks up to 111 million years old. You can visit the Canyon Lake Gorge and get educated about the footprints and fossils found in the area.

Afterward, make sure you head over to the museum and see what fossils others have discovered in the area.

seashell fossil in limestone as found in central texas

Enjoy one of many Christmas events at Canyon Lake.

If you’re in Canyon Lake to celebrate Christmas in Texas, you are in for a treat! Canyon Lake is home to many annual Christmas events, some of which include a boat parade of lights, an annual Christmas parade complete with Clydesdales, and a North Pole Village perfect for kids hoping to meet Santa or get their face painted!

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Where is Canyon Lake, Texas?

Canyon Lake is located in the heart of the Texas Hill Country, just west of San Marcos and northwest of New Braunfels.

You can reach Canyon Lake from Austin in about 1 hour, 15 minutes, from Houston in about 3.5 hours, and from San Antonio in about an hour.

No matter where in Texas that you’re coming from, it’s worth checking out some of the best things to do in Canyon Lake when exploring the Hill Country!

two photos of canyon lake tx, one from overlook the other of gorge. black and pink text on a white background reads "10 best things to do canyon lake tx"

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