Discover the hidden gem that is Sonora, from its early ranching history to its unique ecology and landscapes. A haven for adventure enthusiasts and nature lovers alike, prepare yourself for an unforgettable experience as you tackle this list of all the best things to do in Sonora TX on your next trip to West Texas.
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The Caverns of Sonora
Know Before You Go
One of its crowning jewels are the breathtaking Sonora Caverns! They’ve been open to the public since 1960 and are internationally recognized as one of the most beautiful show caves in the world (note: a “show cave” is a cave that is open to the public for guided tours).
If you’re a spontaneous traveler, tour reservations are not required and they’re open year-round! Typically, you’ll be able to join a tour within 30 minutes of your arrival.
Despite a comfortable 71-degree temperature, the 98% humidity can make it feel quite warm. It’s recommended you keep the layers to a minimum.
The Caverns are an impressive 155 feet deep, span 2 miles, and are peppered with 360 steps. It’s recommended you come prepared wearing comfortable shoes.
Keep in mind you will not be able to bring anything into the caverns aside from your camera. This is to prevent damage to the formations that hang in close proximity to the walking trails.
What You Can Expect
Throughout your journey, you’ll traverse dormant, semi-active, and active zones, giving you a unique insight into the staggering geological processes that occur beneath our feet.
One of our favorite places inside Sonora Caverns were the “chandelier rooms,” named to describe the way the stalactites hang from the ceiling.
The caves even boast a unique feature — calcite formations that resemble popcorn or “roasted cauliflower,” making them distinct from other Texas caves. Additionally, the Sonora Caverns are hypogenic in that they were formed from water rising from underground rather than above ground.
For the more daring, you can embark on the Discovery Challenge Tour. You’ll be led by an experienced caver through off-trail pathways and rappel 50 feet down into Devil’s Pit!
Sonora Caverns also offers a Photography Tour. You’ll be led on a leisurely photo walk so you can snap all the photos your little heart desires.
This is an especially amazing opportunity to capture the crystalized helictite commonly seen in limestone caves. On this specific tour, you can bring a tripod but please use it with care due to the cave’s delicate nature.
For both of these specialty tours, you do have to call and make reservations in advance.
The on-site gift shop offers a variety of rocks and fossils. You can even participate in gem and fossil mining activities! Keep your eyes peeled for the resident peacocks and don’t skip out on the homemade fudge!
Eaton Hill Preserve & Nature Center
The Eaton Hill Preserve is the perfect mix of the native landscapes of the Chihuahuan Desert and the Texas Hill Country. It’s a haven for wildlife, plants, and consists of four trails leading up to a giant flag.
Although the Nature Center is open seasonally, this 37-acre nature preserve is open year-round!
The on-site nature center is inside a century old home full of hands-on exhibits. The home once belonged to John Eaton and his family. His son John Eaton Jr. was particularly dedicated to preserving the history of Sutton County, going as far as interviewing the early settlers of the area. He then compiled them into a book, which you can find inside the Nature Center.
Eaton Hill also hosts a variety of community events, including kid’s camps! Follow them on Facebook for updates.
Old Sonora Ice House Ranch Museum
John Eaton Jr. also wrote a book about Will Carver, a member of Butch Cassidy’s notorious gang, the Wild Bunch. The Old Sonora Ice House Ranch Museum is well-known for an exhibit that tells Will Carver’s story, including his unfortunate end during a shootout in Sonora in 1901.
The ice trade was a central industry in Sutton County during this time, including the Sonora Waterworks and Ice Plant that John Eaton Sr. owned. As such, the museum is inside a 1920’s ice house with additional exhibits on the early history of Sonora.
Sutton County Courthouse
Nearby the Ice House Ranch Museum is the county courthouse. Constructed in 1891, it shares the property with the town’s original well site, the first jail (it housed prisoners until 1980!), and an outdoor amphitheater.
You can also go on a self-guided, historical walking tour of Sonora. Simply grab one of the pamphlets on display in front of the courthouse by the historical markers.
Explore Downtown Sonora
The area is sprinkled with small shops including:
- Hodge Podgees Candle Company – They sell everything from make-up and jewelry to candles and kitchenware. They also have an online store and they’ll ship your order anywhere!
- La Mexicana Outdoor Décor – Home and outdoor décor
- The Parlor – A local beauty salon
- Oh Darlin’ at the Westerman – A country chic woman’s clothing store full of color
Downtown Sonora is also home to several historic buildings:
- John & Mildred Cauthorn Depot – A former train depot along the Santa Fe Railroad with an outdoor amphitheater in the back that is used for community events.
- Miers Home Museum – An early home built in 1888 by Sonora resident, Isaac Miers. After a dispute at the water well, he was shot. He managed to make it home where he unfortunately died. Now, there are exhibits on display that discuss the history of Sonora.
Where to Eat in Sonora TX
Honey Bee Café
After a day of exploration, unwind at the quaint Honey Bee Café, a family owned and operated coffee shop known for its wide array of coffee flavors, lemonades, and protein smoothies.
When planning your next trip to Sonora TX, keep in mind they are closed on the weekends.
La Mexicana Restaurant & Cantina
For a taste of traditional Tex-Mex, dine at La Mexicana, Sonora’s longest established Tex-Mex restaurant.
Sutton County Steakhouse
This local, family-style restaurant has been open since 1976 and serves everything from burgers and steak to salad and Tex-Mex.
The Water Hole
Grab lunch at this family grill on-site at the Sonora Golf Club (one of the best public golf courses in Texas). You don’t have to golf or be a member to dine. You can expect live music, lunch specials, and covered patio seating.
JL Bar Ranch Resort
To complete your visit to Sonora TX, consider a $75 day pass or booking an overnight stay at JL Bar Ranch Resort. With access to their pool, hot tub, trail and bike riding, hiking, putting/chipping green, and game room, it’s the perfect way to relax.
As an overnight guest of JL Bar Ranch Resort, Guest Services will help coordinate complimentary activities of your choice around Sonora. See their website for a full list.
Annual Festivals in Sonora TX
Cinco de Mayo Music Fiesta (May)
Celebrate Cinco de Mayo in Sonora with two days full of live music, vendors, a parade, lotería, and raffles!
Sonora Wool and Mohair Show (June)
As a homage to the region’s strong ranching heritage, Sonora hosts the Wool and Mohair Show. This 3-day event showcases the skill and craftsmanship of local youth who work with wool and mohair fibers, among other ranch-related skills.
Visitors can enjoy exhibitions of handmade textiles, participate in sheep shearing demonstrations, and even purchase unique products made from these natural materials.
Sonora Outlaw Rodeo & Sutton County Days (August)
This festival has celebrated the history and heritage of Sutton County and Sonora for over 50 years. It features live music, arts and crafts vendors, food stalls, parades, rodeo events, and a carnival.
Dry Devil’s River Music Flood (September)
This small town music festival features several band performances, arts and crafts, children’s activities, and a cook-off in a variety of categories like potato salad and brisket. What began as a street dance in downtown Sonora outgrew its original venue and is worth seeing!
More the Merrier Christmas Bazaar (December)
During this festive event, the historic Sutton County Courthouse is beautifully adorned with lights and decorations. There are often caroling sessions, visits from Santa Claus, and opportunities to shop for locally-made crafts and gifts. It’s a perfect occasion to gather with friends and family during the holiday season in Sonora TX.
Things to Do Near Sonora TX
X Bar Ranch Nature Retreat (20 minutes)
This remote lodging option in nearby Eldorado TX is a collection of nine cabins on a 75 year old, 5400-acre working ranch.
Some of the buildings and cabins have been around since the early operations of X Bar Ranch. Members of the founding family, the Meadors, still live next door!
Rentals are available for every budget with opportunities to experience the natural beauty the ranch is notorious for.
The Hummer House (45 minutes)
Thousands of birds migrate along the South Concho River corridor, including the beautiful Black-chinned Hummingbird. During their breeding season, it is actually the largest concentration of these birds in all of Texas!
You can observe them from the Hummer House’s air-conditioned viewing room on Saturdays from 9:00am to 12:00pm starting the first Saturday in April and ending the last Saturday in July.
You may also spot deer and wild turkeys in the area beginning in the fall if you stay at their lodging on-site.
Or, make Sonora TX one of your many stops as you explore West Texas. Some other notable towns in the area are:
- Junction (less than 1 hour) – kayak, go tubing, and dance at London Hall
- Kerrville (1.5 hours) – visit a replica of Stonehenge, spend time on the Guadalupe River, and order a giant pizza at a local joint
- Fredericksburg (less than 2 hours) – go on a wine tour, stay in unique treehouses, and hike Enchanted Rock
- San Saba (2 hours, 15 minutes) – go pecan-picking in the fall, visit wineries, and hike Colorado Bend State Park
- Brownwood (2 hours, 15 minutes) – learn all about trains, visit one-of-a-kind shops downtown, and explore a replica Wild West town
Frequently Asked Questions About Sonora TX
Q: What is the best time of the year to visit Sonora, Texas?
A: Sonora enjoys a relatively mild climate throughout the year. However, the spring season (March to May) and fall season (September to November) are considered the best times to visit due to comfortable temperatures and lower chances of rainfall.
Q: Are there any notable landmarks in Sonora?
A: Yes, Sonora is home to several notable landmarks. The Sonora Caverns, a stunning natural wonder, is a must-visit. The historic Santa Fe Depot, now a community meeting place, provides a glimpse into the town’s past. Eaton Hill Nature Center is a great spot for hiking and wildlife viewing.
Q: What kind of events does Sonora host?
A: Sonora hosts a variety of events throughout the year. The Dry Devils River Music Flood festival is a popular music event that attracts visitors from far and wide. The Sutton County Days and Sonora Rodeo is another major event featuring live music, a rodeo, a parade, and more!
Q: Is Sonora a good destination for families?
A: Absolutely! With its natural beauty, rich history, and variety of recreational activities, Sonora is a great destination for family trips. Whether it’s exploring the caverns, visiting the nature center, or attending a local festival, there’s something for everyone in the family to enjoy!
Things to Do in Sonora TX: Final Thoughts
Sonora TX is an unsung hero of Texas tourism, offering a blend of natural beauty, adventure, and hospitality that will leave you with unforgettable memories. So pack your bags and experience all the things to do in Sonora TX for yourself!