Jarrett and I started out the year strong. On January 1st, we went on a First Day Hike at Enchanted Rock State Park. The park is located almost two hours from Austin and has plenty of options for different types and levels of adventures: hiking, backpacking, rock climbing, camping, pick-nicking, and geocaching. Even though its official address is located in Fredericksburg, it’s actually not in the town, so it’s also a great place for stargazing….
Now that we’ve listed all the awesome adventures you can embark on at this place, let us tell you a little about what we observed and learned on our hike.
Natural Landscape History
The first thing that stood out to me as we were driving up is the reason why this place is called Enchanted Rock. As you drive up to it, you can see these small mountains standing out in the middle of flat Texas ground. It is pretty obvious that they don’t fit in with the rest of the landscape. They look like someone just picked up two giant balls of dry stone from somewhere else and dropped them off in the middle of a low-brush area.
View from my car as we were driving up to Enchanted Rock.
Our great guide, a Texas State Park Ranger, told us that the reason Enchanted Rock sticks out is because it formed millions if not billions of years ago when the lava from deep within the earth managed to make its way out through cracks on the outer surface as the earth was forming. This lava mixed with the elements and dried up to create this singular landscape.
If you’re feeling inclined, you can take a black light with you on your hike to see the lichen that continue to shape the rocks at this state park. They glow in the dark when you shine the black light on them at night.
Human Settlement History
We also learned that humans have visited Enchanted Rock for at least 12,000 years. Plenty of artifacts of native peoples have been found and continue to be found. The native people and the European settlers considered this area to be magical, perhaps inhabited by special spirits of some kind. Although there is no record of natives calling this place Enchanted Rock, it is easy to see how the European settlers would start referring to it as such, based on the tales from the native populations.
Hiking Challenge Level
Our hike was limited to the low-lying areas because we had Angela and BeeGee with us (more details on dog restrictions are below). The hike was not challenging. It was mostly dry dirt, with little to no gravel. That means that people with poor balance, such as myself, can enjoy a nice hike through the low-lying trails at this park.
Along our low-lying hike.
Whatever you do, we recommend you purchase and reserve your spots ahead of time because people were being turned away when we visited on January 1st. Yes, it was a holiday, but if you can prevent driving all the way over there only to have your entrance denied, why wouldn’t you? So make sure to purchase your tickets and spots in advance.
Entrance fees are only for children 12 and older, and they’re only $7. Entrance fees are required for any activity to be performed within the park, so if you do any other activity, such as camping or group gatherings, expect to add on the entrance fee for each person to it.
Campsites are $14 for primitive and $18 with water. There’s also group options for camping. Personally, based on past experience, if you’re looking just to relax, I recommend just paying the extra $6 because the land in this park is very dry. If you do decide to do primitive camping, take plenty of water you will need it.
For group gatherings, there’s free picnic tables, but also pavilions available for $40 a day or a group camp site for fifty people for $100 a night.
There does not seem to be extra fees attached to rock climbing or hiking, but rock-climbing does have recommendations and restrictions to follow. I have never rock climbed so I will not attempt to interpret what all of the guidance on the Enchanted Rock website means. But they have all the pictures, guidance, and maps for you to follow.
Pets – our favorite part! There are no additional fees for pets. The website states that pets “are only allowed in the designated day-use picnic areas, the campgrounds, and on the Loop Trail.” However, this information may be outdated because when we arrived, we were informed there were two trails the dogs could join us in, specifically the low-lying trails. We were also able to take our dogs with us on the First Day Hike, though probably because it was limited to low-lying areas. There are doggy stations there to help you clean up after your pups too.
This place is a must for groups or families with different types of adventurers. There are plenty of outdoor activities to do with almost no physical effort. But if you want great physical exertion, this park offers that too! There’s something for everyone. Definitely recommend it.