I never expected to get a kiss from a giraffe in the Texas Hill Country, but that was just one of the incredible surprises in store for us during our amazing, non-stop weekend at the Historic Y. O. Ranch Headquarters outside Kerrville!
One of the Texas ranch dynasties, the Y. O. Ranch once was composed of almost 600,000 acres in the Texas Hill Country, northwest of San Antonio. Former Texas Ranger, Charles Schreiner, purchased the ranch following the Civil War. Through ups and downs ever since, Schreiner’s descendants have owned the ranch, although it has slowly been sold off in parcels. The Y. O. Ranch Headquarters, consisting of 5,400 acres, was purchased just 2 years ago, and while it has undergone many renovations and upgrades, still includes most of the historic buildings. A visit to the ranch is truly a step back in time!
A huge THANK YOU to the Y.O. Ranch Headquarters, who invited us out for a wonderful weekend! While our stay was complementary, I was not financially compensated for this post, and as always, all opinions are my own!
It was just getting dark when we arrived at the Y. O. Ranch Headquarters entry on Friday Night, and in the golden hour of sunset we pulled over to observe the menagerie of animals all around us. My camera shutter clicked almost rhythmically with my children in the backseat, as they sang out their observations of the animals who passed in front of us! A herd of Blackbuck Antelope were the first to greet us, as they performed almost a ballet of runs and leaps across the road. We were so captivated by their progression that we were surprised to see the American Bison standing to our left, just feet from the road.
Here’s a Fun Tip: Grab a powerful flashlight for a night drive along the road! You’ll be amazed how many animals you can see, including shy nocturnal Texas natives such as raccoons, porcupines and much more!
Upon pulling into the Ranch Headquarters, we were greeted by Lisa, who welcomed our late arrival with both hospitality and grace, a trait we soon found was exuded by all the Ranch staff, who truly open up their home to you, hand over the keys and ask you to turn out the lights before you go to bed!
We were thrilled to be staying in the Sam Houston, one of the historic cabins on the property. Built in 1858, it was once the schoolhouse in the nearby community of Center Point. The cabin was dismantled, brought to the ranch and carefully restored.
The Sam Houston consist of a living area, downstairs bedroom and one upstairs with four beds, along with a bathroom and 2 showers.
It opens up into the Stagecoach, a later addition that has a double and a twin bed, with its own full bathroom.
Within minutes, clothes were scattered across the beds as the kids raced to change into their swimsuits and head to the pool. It was a chilly night, but the hot tub is kept at 102 and felt amazing! There were other families there, as well, and soon the kids were all jumping in the chilly, well-water filled pool!
Still excited and full of energy even after our swim, we changed and went next door to the Ranch Lodge to get drinks and play cards. The Lodge had several different card games, but my daughter grabbed a deck of cards to teach us how to play a game called… BS! It’s a silly game where you lie about the cards in your hand, and my 9-year-old, without knowing what it stands for, exclaimed it loud and proud!
Before turning in for the night, we all huddled up outside to watch the Orionids Meteor Shower! The dark ranch night gave us the perfect stage to see them shoot across the sky! Want to catch a Meteor Shower, click HERE for a schedule of the next one!
Ranch life starts early, but the ranch was buzzing even earlier than usual on Saturday morning as guest were coming in for the race the Y. O. Headquarters was hosting that morning! We quickly dressed and headed down to breakfast! Staying at the Ranch, your meals and drinks are included. They served us delicious breakfast tacos, cooked outside on a big open-pit!
Conquer the Gauntlet
Because of its large size, open spaces and ability to accommodate big crowds, the Ranch host many races. Conquer the Gauntlet is an extreme, 4-mile obstacle race….. that we weren’t competing in but really enjoyed watching those that did! However, our son was able to run in the Kids Course, which he loved! To read more about Conquer the Gauntlet, which holds races around the country, click HERE to visit their website!
Exotic Animal Tours
After lunch, we were ready for a tour of the animals with Debbie, the head of the ranch’s tourism, and my son’s new best friend! She is incredibly knowledgeable about all the animals at the park, and our tour was a mixture of information about the animals and the history of the Ranch!
In the 1950’s, Charles Schreiner III began bringing in exotic animals deer for hunters, in addition to the whitetail hunts that were already taking place on the ranch. Today, the ranch has numerous species of animals, and they are kept for tourism as much as hunting. Large charter buses come out just for tours of the animals, which include 3 species of animals now extinct in the wild, and has successful breeding programs!
One of the huge attractions to me is that the animals are wild, and act like wild animals, running free. During the tour, we don’t feed (most of) the animals, so they aren’t standing in a line along the road. We actually went off-road several time to cut across the land and find them!
Okay, there are a few exceptions, like Fiona, a damsel gazelle. She had to be bottle-fed as a baby, and came running at the promise of a cookie from Debbie.
The Y. O. Headquarters Ranch also has several zebras!
This little cutie is a Zonkey, a hybrid mix of a zebra and a donkey.
Mom and baby. Mom seems to be pregnant, too!
This was one of the special highlights of our tour, a baby Kudu!
Another thrill was seeing the wildebeest!
I loved watching them run along the hillside! The babies are born in July, so these are about 3 months old! How much fun would it be to come back in July when they have newborn babies?!
But look who spotted us! It’s Carlita the giraffe! She loves Debbie and came running up the hill to say hello!
Y.O. Ranch Headquarters has 2 giraffes, Carlita and her daughter Bella. A male giraffe is being delivered in just a couple of days, who will hopefully be a good match for Carlita and Bella!
We’ve fed giraffes before, but NEVER like this! This once in a lifetime opportunity was definitely the highlight of our tour!
The giraffe enclosure. From a lookout next to the pool, you can sit back and watch as they run and play along the hillside, along with an ostrich and these rare Pere David Deer.
These semiaquatic deer spend most of their time in the water. Native to the subtropics of China, they are now extinct in the wild.
Beautiful Oryx look at home in the Texas Hill Country, but are actually from Eastern Africa.
I’m not a fan of ostrich in wildlife parks, which are usually too aggressive when they think you’ll be giving them food! This pretty bird was happy just to stand and stare as we stopped and stared back!
One of the GREAT things about the personalized tours is you can spend time looking at what interest you! Debbie told us about a family with a boy who was fascinated in the animal scat along the ranch, and seeing what the animals were eating, and they spent a good amount of time searching it out! While the scat is interesting, I loved seeing the last of the migrating monarch butterflies as they headed down to Mexico for the winter, and we stopped to walk along the bitterweed and take pictures!
Back from our tour, I grabbed my book and was busy looking around for a hammock to crawl into, but my kids wouldn’t allow that! We still had so much to explore!
Since the ranch was purchased from the Schreiner family 2 years ago, they have made many improvements, including these cute hotel-type rooms with a Western Town theme!
See the mannequin standing above on the balcony? On my first night at the ranch, in my tired state, I thought that was a real person. A very snooty person who just wouldn’t respond back to me when I said hello, and tried to start a conversation….
We were ready to do some hiking on the Y. O. Adventure Trail! It’s a fun little hiking trail that leads down past a pond!
We didn’t have time to go horseback riding during our stay, but we did go say hello to some of the horses, and sneak them a few cookies…. but don’t tell anyone!
The clouds started parting during our hike, and the sun quickly warmed things up! We all changed and ran to jump in the COLD water, then quickly got in the HOT tub! The well water was chilly, but it felt great!
I love the sunken, swim up bar! We spent the rest of the afternoon going from pool to hot tub, and I never did get that nap!
Here’s a fun tip: Bring everything you need to make smores and light up one of the many, many, many fire rings you’ll find all over the ranch! I can’t believe we didn’t spend an evening sitting under the stars watching a fire! They even have wood chopped up near all the pits!
Meet Franklin, the ranch’s resident tortoise!
Here’s a fun hint: Bring some apples and carrots to feed to him, and the camel, miniature horses and longhorn cattle!
After a full day of adventures, we were ready for dinner! They had a big fajita dinner served in the chuckwagon! They have tables outside, also, and we enjoyed the cool late afternoon and watching as the wildlife started to emerge!
Dinner was a wonderful treat, and the entire staff, all of which live on the ranch, are all incredible and make you feel like so much more than just guest!
Here’s a fun tip: Bring your bikes! It’s a nice walk to the Chuckwagon, but it would be a terrific bike ride along all the road, and you’d probably see even more wildlife!
As dusk was approaching, the wildlife was coming out all around us! We spotted so many whitetail deer as we headed back to the Lodge after dinner!
Water is always a precious thing on a ranch, but even more on the Y. O. Ranch, which has never had any flowing rivers or creeks on the property! Schreiner had to use windmills to pump up water from wells for drinking water for the livestock!
Gobblers Knob is the highest point on the ranch, and offers an incredible view of the sunset! We came up to watch the sun go down, and say goodbye to an incredible day on the ranch!
I did finally get a chance to curl up in a rocking chair and read once the sun was down, while my husband and the kids swam, played horseshoes and then games in the Lodge.
Since I really enjoy books about Texas History, especially fictional history, I’d recommend a week of sitting back and reading Lonesome Dove by Larry McMurtry, or Smokey the Cowhorse by Will James if you want something to read with your kids, either before you go or while you’re there!
I was able to get a copy of the book, Long Days and Short Nights, A Century of Ranching on the Y.O. by Neal Barrett Jr., from my local library! I didn’t have time to finish it until we came home, but I would really recommend it if you truly love Texas History!
After a peaceful night, we woke up early to watch the sun rise across the giraffe’s pasture! What a beautiful land!
Y. O. Ranch Headquarters is full of turkeys… wild ones that is! We loved hearing and seeing them all around our cabin in the morning!
After breakfast, we went around to say our goodbyes! We’ll miss sweet Samburu!
I dared my daughter to take the plunge into this cattle tank, but she wouldn’t do it. I didn’t dare my son, because I’m pretty sure he would have!
Schreiner knew the value of the Texas Longhorns, and there are still some on the ranch as a tribute to what made it famous!
We were all a little sad as we pulled out of the ranch, and turned to say So Long! We’re already anxious to come back!
But there was still plenty to do and see all around the Ranch! We decided to spend Sunday afternoon in Kerrville, where we could see more of the Schreiner legacy! Located in Downtown Kerrville, this beautiful home, known as the Schreiner Mansion, is now a museum. Click HERE to visit their website for information on tours!
Schreiner also owned a bank and a store, named Schreiner’s, which was at one time the largest in the Southwest! The building is still standing, although it is now home to several smaller stores.
At the end of the street is the Guadalupe River, and we enjoyed a short walk through the park and a chance to speak with the many paddlers getting ready to go out on the river!
Know Before You Go
We pulled into the ranch with a just a quarter tank of gas, and running out of gas just sat in the back of my mind all weekend. Do yourself a favor and top it off in Kerrville, the last gas station for almost 30 miles!
Meals are served 3 times a day, and enough to fill you up, but pack something for a late night snack, or granola bars or fruit for a hike.
Skip the ice chest! The Lodge is well stocked in drinks and cold water!
Don’t depend on internet except at the Lodge! It takes about a day to unplug, but it sure is nice to see the kids out playing, away from any electronics!
Things to do near the Y. O. Ranch and in Kerrville
Spend a day exploring the South Llano River State Park, which offers kayak rentals on the Llano River and miles of Mountain Bike Trails! Click HERE to read more!
Explore the Guadalupe River by kayak, or try fly fishing in the river’s cool waters, with Paddle Kerrville! Click HERE to visit their website.
Take a tour of the FREE Riverside Nature Center on the Guadalupe River in Kerrville. Click HERE for more information.
We had our heart set on lunch at either the Hill Country Cafe or Rails A Cafe at the Depot, actually in the old train depot, but both were closed on Sunday. We narrowed it down to Billy Gene’s or The Boat, both of which are waterfront and had great recommendations. We flipped a coin and had lunch at Billy Gene’s, which served a yummy chicken fried steak and house-battered onion rings!
Y. O. Ranch Headquarters
1736 Y O Ranch Rd NW, Mountain Home
Click HERE to visit their website.
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