Texas Travel: JL Bar & Ranch

A luxurious slice of serenity in Sonora, Texas

Quick Facts

  • 4.5 Hours from Houston
  • Population: 3,000
  • Property Size: 13,000 Acres


  • Trail & Bike Riding
  • ATV Adventures
  • UTV Rides & Ranch Tours
  • Horseback Riding
  • Putting Green
  • Skeet & Trap Shooting
  • 3D Archery
  • Hunting
  • Shooting Lessons
  • Salon & Spa
  • Game Room
  • Health & Wellness Center
  • Paint & Sip Classes
  • Cooking Classes
  • Wine Cellar & Tasting Room
  • And More!

Book Your Stay!


written by Kimberly Davis Guerra
location photos provided by Murphy O’Brien

Unless you are a frequent traveller on I-10 W heading towards El Paso or Big Bend, you probably have never heard of Sonora, TX. Located just past Kerrville, about 4.5 hours west of Houston is a beautiful little town called Sonora, TX. With a population of just over 3,000, you can imagine why you might not have heard about it. Touted as a great weekend getaway or stop over on your way to Big Bend, this little Texas town offers quite the bang for your weekend buck.

Well that is, if you plan on staying at the JL Bar & Ranch. It truly is the oasis in the heart of the desert in terms of resorts in this part of Texas. With a quick exit off I-10, you pull up to the manned gates of the ranch within minutes. With eager anticipation, you roll up the very long drive to the main house to find a smiling face to greet you.

Built as a family retreat, this 13,000 acre property has all the bells and whistles of a Texas billionaire’s playground. Test your target skills at their world class sporting clay course, enjoy a horseback riding adventure, off-road biking, hiking, or for the wine and culinary enthusiast, enjoy a cooking class & wine pairing. For a relaxing experience, enjoy the wildlife, nature education, and top-notch spa offering a variety of ways to reconnect with your zen. There truly is something for everyone.

The day we arrived, it was a crisp and beautiful spring day. With a beautiful blue Texas sky overhead, we rolled along I-10 at a quick clip and arrived raring to go. Luckily for me, our first day was extremely quiet and started off with a trip to the Spa! So, with a quick jaunt across the property from our amazing cabin, I was ready to relax. 

From the moment I entered, the aromas washed over me and immediately gave me a peaceful feeling of serenity. The helpful and attentive staff signaled that I was in the right place and it was time to decompress. I must admit, I am a bit of a snob when it comes to my spa treatments, especially a massage. It is about more than the treatment. It’s the table, the aromatherapy, the oils or lotions, the lighting. All of these factors into the experience and I must say I was not disappointed at JL Bar & Ranch. Tip – be aware that this is a small spa with limited personnel, so plan accordingly if you want to get in!

As I made my way back to the cabin, the temp had dropped considerably, as it tends to do out in West Texas. However, as the sunset on the horizon, my heart was warmed as I looked over to see my son enjoying a solo game of mini golf before dinner. Running around on the course, he looked truly relaxed and it was a relief to see him without a screen in his hand! Only there for an hour and it was already a ‘win’ in my parenting book!

Now over to the dining hall, which was even closer than the spa! With a Friday night Fajita night, guests of the resort, along with the locals, find their way to the ranch to enjoy the mouth-watering cuisine and lively entertainment. Serenaded by a very talented local artist, we enjoyed plate after plate of family style Tex-Mex offerings.  Dinner was equally impressive. 

While there were evening festivities afoot that included karaoke, billiards and various sports on TV, I opted for an early night knowing what kind of day we had coming. Yoga in the morning, followed by ATVs, skeet shooting and horseback riding all before dinner! A content head hit the pillow with dreams of the day to come.

An early morning alarm and I was off to my private yoga class. While kids are welcome, my son opted to sleep in and join me for ATVs afterwards. For those of you who partake in the practice, you cannot go wrong with the optics here. No matter if you are practicing on the lawn or in a great hall in front of the fire, all vantage points offer a sweet sense of peace and calm only nature can provide. This is definitely something you do not want to miss participating in.

From here, I grabbed a quick bite and it was off to the ATVs. My son had never been offroading, so we opted for a 4 seater Raptor. A group of 2 Raptors and our guide hit the trails for our excursion just before lunch. As we headed off into the backside of the ranch my son started giggling and shouting with pure joy as we hit the dirt roads. It was a beautiful, cool day so visibility was perfect. He got to witness several herds of deer running through the trees, several birds of prey, herds of cows and a few ranch dogs keeping everyone in line. He loved it when we went fast, but I think just the experience of trying something new was the best part.

After a hearty, delicious lunch, we headed out to shoot skeet. It is open to kids, as well as adults, so I brought my son along to check it out. Our guide was wonderful & patient, but my son was not a fan of the gun. The kick back in his shoulder wasn’t working for him. So, after a few rounds of mom shooting away, our guide suggested we hit up the pistol range after horseback riding.

As we were whisked away to the stables, I noticed what a great day we had been having as a family. This truly offers just the right amount of activities and space for all ages and interests!

Once at the stables, we were greeted by our guide and given a quick intro to the horses and the ranch dogs that would be accompanying us on our ride. I don’t know what my son enjoyed more, the actual ride or the stories behind the animals! To make it even better, we encountered a black tailed deer nicknamed Bucky, who hangs out with the horses and dogs on the backside of the property. This is one smart buck considering the hunters cannot hunt back there, and therefore he is safe to wander, sleep and eat without worry!

After our ride, we had a short window of time before dinner to hit up the pistol range. Off we went for a few quick rounds of target practice with our 9mm. Once we had our safety lesson, time flew. AS expected, my son really enjoyed shooting the pistol much more than the rifle. Without the recoil, he could get over his fear and focus on the targets. It was a great first time experience.

Now it was time to clean up & enjoy some delicious dining! No more family style. Tonight everything was cooked to order and did not disappoint. While the menu was not immense, it offered ample choice for both adults & kids, carnivores and pescatarians! From Chilean Sea Bass to Wagyu beef, each dish was cooked to perfection. We filled our bellies and dragged our tired soles off to sleep under the clear Texas sky.

The late morning check out was much appreciated the next day, as I truly could have slept for 24 hours! Not only was I happily exhausted, the beds are so exquisitely comfortable! I secretly wanted to steal my luxurious robe, but thought that might not set the best example for my son. So, I reluctantly packed up our bags and checked out of my newest fave destination in West Texas. I selfishly almost didn’t want to share this find with you in hopes to keep it all to myself! However, it is just too wonderful not to share! 

If you are looking for a couples retreat, family reunion, hunters weekend, girls getaway or just a place to put up on your way to Marfa or Big Bend, you have to make a point to stop in to the JL Bar & Ranch. You will be happy that you did.

To learn more or book your stay visit www.jlbar.com