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Backpacker Magazine – Online Exclusive

Texas' Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

Hike or climb this pristine pink-granite wonderland just outside Austin.

by: Karla Wall

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Little-Known Fact: The granite in Enchanted Rock is among the oldest exposed rock in America -- over a billion years old.

Native Americans called this place "enchanted." The white men who came along later apparently shared those feelings and dubbed it Enchanted Rock State Natural Area. Hiking through the primitive lands that comprise this 1,643-acre park near Austin, Texas offers a glimpse into the past.

Enchanted Rock's well-maintained system of hiking trails winds around huge domes of pink granite formed almost a billion years ago. The area is one of the oldest exposed geological sites in America. A 4-mile loop trail encircles the major rock formations and leads along creek beds that stay dry at least 10 months a year. There are fantastic scenic overlooks that offer views of some of the most beautiful areas in the park.

There are several secondary trails off the main loop trail that lead to primitive camping areas. The park has been maintained in its natural state, and the campsites show practically no sign of human activity, which is Enchanted Rock's main attraction.

From the campsites it's an easy jaunt to the major rock formations, and boulder-hopping is a must. The tops of the ancient hills provide views of the entire park and surrounding countryside. Enchanted Rock is a favorite haunt of local climbers. Rappelling is also popular, and there are four designated areas.

Because of its unusual geological features and archaeological significance, Enchanted Rock was designated as a National Natural Landmark in 1971 and was included in the National register of Historic Places in 1984.

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