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Backpacker Magazine – BACKPACKER.com 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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Contact Information:

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Route 4, Box 170 Fredericksburg, TX 78624 915/247-3903

Location: Located in central Texas, about 90 minutes northwest of Austin, Enchanted Rock is in the heart of the Texas Hill Country on the line between Gillespie and Llano counties. Fredericksburg (210/997-6523) is the nearest town, offering a host of bed-and breakfast options.

Getting There: Take Texas State Highway 71 north from Austin to Llano, then State Highway 16 south to Ranch Road 965. Drive west on 965 to the park entrance.

Seasonal Information: Enchanted Rock can be enjoyed year-round, but summer temperatures regularly climb into the upper 90s. Spring and fall are the best, most colorful times to visit. Due to the number of visitors, Enchanted Rock may close on weekends, holidays, and spring break, so check with the office before coming during these times.

Wildlife: White-tailed deer are plentiful, as are raccoons, rock and fox squirrels, armadillos, lizards, snakes, skunks, black-tailed jackrabbits, cottontail rabbits, and numerous species of birds, including wild turkey. A bird checklist for the park is available upon request.

Insects: Contact park office for information.

Plant Life: Large areas of apparently are rock belie the variety and abundance of plant life at Enchanted Rock. Over 500 species grow here, from colorful lichens on the rock surface to tall elms, pecans, and hickories along Sandy Creek.

You will pass through stands of blackjack oak, live oak, and mesquite. Vegetation also includes Texas persimmon, Mexican buckeye, agarita, prickly pear, cat's-claw mimosa, beargrass, and soap-tree yucca.

A tropical fern, Blechnum occidentale, is found only at Enchanted Rock and isolated areas in tropical Florida in the United States. Two other plants make their home only in the granite region of Central Texas. the basin bellflower grows along the lower slopes in spring and early summer, and during wet periods rock quillwort fills vernal pools with a carpet of green shoots. In spring, bluebonnets, Indian paintbrush, yellow coreopsis, and bladderpod also bloom.

Facilities: Enchanted Rock has walk-in camping only. Reservations are required; 512/389-8900.

  • Tent camping sites accommodate a maximum of eight people. Sites include tent pads, picnic tables, fire rings, water, flush toilets, and showers.
  • Primitive backpacking sites accommodate a maximum of four people. There are three separate areas for backpackers along the trail with pit toilets available.

Parking: Contact park office for information.

Permits: A permit is needed for overnight camping. There is an entrance fee of $3 per person per night. Children under 12 are free. Rock climbers must check in at headquarters, where route maps and climbing rules are available.

Tent camping is $9 per night, and primitive backpacking sites are $7 per night.

Policies:

  • Campfires are not permitted in the primitive area due to the possibility of wildfires. Cook only on containerized fuel stoves.
  • No motor vehicle camping. Camp only in the designated areas.
  • Bicycles are not allowed on the trails.

Hazards:

  • Watch out for snakes.
  • Leather-soled shoes are not recommended for climbing and hiking on the rock due to the slippery nature of the rock surface.
  • Use caution when exploring Enchanted Rock Fissure. This 1,000-foot-long talus fissure contains over 20 entrances with tight passages; wet, slippery surfaces; numerous steep inclines; and hazardous vertical drops. It requires some skill and climbing ability to experience safely. To insure safety, carry at least one light source and wear loose, protective clothing and proper foot gear such as climbing boots or rubber-soled shoes.
  • The river and low-lying areas are subject to flash flooding.

Leave No Trace:

  • Refrain from entering fragile "islands" of vegetation, known as soil islands, weather pits, gnammas, or vernal pools.
  • The use of pitons is prohibited. Climb "clean" and preserve the resource for others to enjoy.
All LNT guidelines apply.

Maps: For information on Texas State Parks, call 800/792-1112.

Other Trip Options:

  • Fredericksburg is only a few minutes' drive from the park and features the Admiral Nimitz Museum State Historical Park.
  • Lyndon B. Johnson State Historical Park and the adjacent National Historical Park are located near Stonewall, 16 miles east of Fredericksburg. Sites include the LBJ Ranch, the Sauer-Beckmann living history farmstead, the Johnson Birthplace, and the family cemetery where the former president is buried.
  • Inks Lake State Park (512/793-2223) is 60 miles northeast.
  • Perdernales Falls State Park (210/868-7304) is 42 miles east of Fredericksburg.


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