Had there been a grand design for the benefits that the trio of Hood, Somervell and Johnson counties would provide, it might well have been that of providing residents of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex an escapist’s dream. Urban dwellers will enjoy exploring the towns of Granbury, Glen Rose and Cleburne.
The drive detailed here is about 40 miles, following Texas Highway 144 from Granbury to Glen Rose, then U.S. Highway 67 from Glen Rose to Cleburne. You could rush through it in half a day, but what would be the fun in that? Stretch it out over two days to reap the most from the route’s holiday-worthy benefits.
The restored Hood County Courthouse square served as a model for many other town revivals across the state. At the center, the three-story courthouse—done in the Lone Star version of a French Second Empire design—dates from 1891. Facing it, the Granbury Opera House, circa 1886, brings in crowds for Broadway-style productions, while Granbury Live, another theater
on the square, tempts you with its foot-tapping, family-friendly musical revues. If you’re not around for show time, however, you can tour the historic district via horse-drawn carriage on Fridays and Saturdays or browse in shops selling books, antiques and housewares any day of the week. When you’re hungry, stop in the Merry Heart Tea Room for a chicken salad plate or go to Stringfellow’s for grilled salmon; both restaurants are on the square.
Granbury Convention & Visitors Bureau, 116 W. Bridge St., Granbury; (817) 573-5548, 1-800-950-2212
If you’ve been provided with a nice day, better head right to Dinosaur Valley State Park, 4 miles west of town via FM 205 and Park Road 59. You’ll find dinosaur tracks in the limestone beds within the pretty, clear Paluxy River, along with terrific, shaded hiking paths. In warm weather, paddle a canoe at Tres Rios River Ranch, a mile outside of town via U.S. Highway 67 and CR 312, where the Paluxy and Brazos rivers join Squaw Creek. Any time of year is perfect for a spin through Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, an 1,800-acre spread of ranchland where you’ll see 60 kinds of exotic creatures, including cheetah, wildebeest and white rhino. Feel like staying overnight? You can, at Fossil Rim’s lovely lodge or in one of the luxury safari camp tents. Before heading down the road to Cleburne, stop at the Loco Coyote Grill, just south of town via U.S. Highway 67 and CR 1004, for a sensational chicken-fried steak and unforgettable, made-from-scratch blackberry cobbler.
Glen Rose Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1505 NE Big Bend Tr., Glen Rose; 1-888-DINO-CVB (346-6282), (254) 897-3081
Dinosaur Valley State Park, Park Road 59, Glen Rose; (254) 897-4588
Fossil Rim, 2155 CR 2008, Glen Rose; (254) 897-2960
The Johnson County seat offers a superb example of what wonderful things can be done with an old Carnegie Library. You’ll find this graceful, 1904 version has been turned into the Layland Museum, an exhibit space for myriad historic items that include fossils, relics from the Caddo who lived here, and early pioneer artifacts. There’s information on the cattle drive era, as the Chisholm Trail passed right through this area. Set to reopen later this year, the old 50-room downtown landmark known as the Liberty Hotel is getting a new life. You’ll find retailers on the ground level of the boutique hotel, which is being restored by local business folk and the Clarion chain. Don’t leave town without taking on a plate of fried green tomatoes, a smoked brisket sandwich or a prime rib feast at Caddo Street Grill, also found downtown.
Cleburne Convention & Visitors Bureau, 1511 W. Henderson, Cleburne; (817) 645-2488
The seventh edition of June Naylor’s book, Texas: Off the Beaten Path, is now in stores.