Historic Hill Country resort unveils new look that beckons for a getaway
Giant cypress trees loom over crystal-clear waters in Wimberley, where 7A Ranch and Pioneer Town offers cabins, lodges, and other attractions across several acres on the banks of the Blanco River. Here, visitors can hike a half-mile of shady riverfront oasis, take a dip in the river or pool, kayak the slowly winding Blanco, hit the arcade in Pioneer Town, barbecue outdoors with family, and more.
Established in 1946, the family-owned resort was nearly destroyed in the Wimberley flood over Memorial Weekend 2015. The lower-half of the 7A property was devastated. Wood cabins floated downstream with rushing waters; brick buildings crumbled, and many trees on the river bank were swept away.
Despite the damage, the ranch remained open. In February 2016, 70 years after the birth of 7A Ranch, it gained new ownership through another Wimberley-based family and Alexa Management, an Austin-based hospitality development and operations company. Today's team reflects a blend of new members and a core crew that has been with the ranch for more than a decade.
Alexa Management immediately began repairing the wreckage. Many cabins and lodges have already received a contemporary facelift and others are currently undergoing renovations. Original concrete slabs of the old cabins were preserved. Pioneer House, for instance, features its historic façade with refreshed interiors. Fallen cypress trees lost in the floods were reclaimed, fashioned as barn doors, coffee tables, and nightstands.
“The intent is to maintain as much of the original footprint of the buildings as possible,” says Bree Carrico, co-founder of Alexa Management. The hospitality group has simply added modern amenities like plush beds, air conditioning, and resort-wide Wi-Fi. The newly constructed swimming area features chaises to lounge and catch some rays, plus a sweet splash-pad for the kiddos.
“We’ve tried to create a true ‘home base’ for families with fully equipped kitchens and barbecue pits; well-lit, modern cabins and lodges; as well as super comfortable beds to relax and enjoy a good night’s sleep after long days in the river and sunshine,” says Brian Carrico, who co-founded Alexa Management with his wife, Bree.
Lodging options vary from cabins, an ideal retreat for smaller groups (up to 10), to larger lodges that can accommodate up to 40. Loft cabins are coming soon.
The resort is a magnet for wildlife. Geese waddle along the shore. Friendly goats roam a cliff overhanging the Blanco, and occasionally meander through Pioneer Town, along with plenty of deer. Wild turkeys were recently spotted on the property, says Amanda Callaway, general manager of 7A Ranch.
The passion project of Raymond L. Czichos and his wife, Madge, the original 1946 inscription by Czichos, "Built for Pleasure," is still visible on the cantina threshold. “We like to think there’s a bit of magic here. You can feel the history, the memories and the love that went into creating 7A,” Callaway says.
Callaway and her husband, who serves as the 7A maintenance manager, reside on the 7A property and enjoy engaging with guests. She has remained involved with the resort in some capacity for 17 years. “I started as the weekend secretary when I was 16, and I worked on and off here throughout graduate school. It’s just part of who we are,” she says.
The ranch’s Pioneer Town was created as an homage to the Old West. In its heyday 40 years ago, Pioneer Town hosted reenactments of desperado gun fights. Today visitors can walk the main thoroughfare and venture down enchanting side streets.
The recreation of an 1880s Western town features an old-time ice cream parlor that whips up handmade tasty treats, an arcade, as well as shops closed for business (yet open to explore) — like The Bottle House, constructed entirely of glass bottles. Storefronts feature throwback elements like a five-cent shoe shine station.
Pioneer Town hours are seasonal. The ice cream parlor and Cowboy Museum, featuring Western memorabilia, are currently open on Saturdays; in summer months, they operate seven days a week. Like the rest of the property, Pioneer Town will receive an update. Plans call for more entertainment, food, drinks, shopping, and one-of-a-kind experiences.
Downtown Wimberley and nearby
For those hankering to visit downtown Wimberley, Callaway recommends dining al fresco at The Leaning Pear, which serves Hill Country-inspired cuisine. For drinks and live music, hit up Buzzard Bar at Cypress Creek Café. And for lovers of coffee and freshly baked goods like croissants and kolaches, Sugar Shack Bakery (next door to The Leaning Pear) beckons for breakfast or dessert.
The rural town of Wimberley has become a haven to local artists, and you can admire their works at the numerous galleries in town. Wimberley experiences the highest traffic the first Saturday of the month March through December for Wimberley Market Days, the oldest outdoor market in the Texas Hill Country and the second-largest in the state, featuring roughly 475 booths and live music.
Avid golfers will be delighted to know that Wimberley offers 18 challenging holes at the semi-private Quicksand at Woodcreek Golf Club Course.
For visitors eager to experience Hill Country wineries and breweries, Wimberley Valley Winery is located in nearby Driftwood, and Middleton Brewing, a small brewery and brewpub, is less than a 10-minute drive away in San Marcos. While the annual Wimberley Wine Walk takes place each April, visitors can enjoy wine tastings year-round at various venues on the downtown Wimberley square.
Wimberley’s swimming holes
Part of the Guadalupe River basin, the Blanco River rises from springs in Kendall County, meandering southeast for 87 miles to its mouth on the San Marcos River. The best, hidden swimming holes along this stretch are arguably in Wimberley, at Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well — both just a few miles from 7A Resort. At these idyllic attractions, sunlight streams between branches of towering trees. The summer heat beckons a glide on a rope swing and release into the pools' cool, aquamarine depths. Admission fees and restricted swimming hours apply to protect these local treasures from overuse; check the City of Wimberley or Hays County websites to reserve a dipping time slot or for more information.
Those traveling from San Antonio or inclined for a brief drive southwest of 7A Resort should consider traversing down the “Devil's Backbone,” officially RM 32, the winding ridge overlooking Hill Country vistas. Make a pit stop at the overlook in Canyon Lake, and take in the beautiful “mountain” scenery and potentially bluebonnets in bloom. Alternatively, throw back a beer at the legendary, cash-only Devil's Backbone Tavern in Fischer, just a two-minute drive east of the overlook. It's obligatory to listen to Todd Snider’s “Ballad of Devil’s Backbone Tavern” on your drive.
Host an event at 7A Ranch
It doesn’t get much more authentic than 7A Ranch & Pioneer Town for a Hill Country getaway on the river. The rustic yet contemporary riverside resort provides an ideal setting to hold a special event, whether in the chapel, two-story Opera House or at any of the beautiful outdoor spaces. Book your weekend escape, summer vacation, family reunion or celebration online. During non-peak times, 7A Ranch’s lodging rates start at $130 per night.