Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, Fredericksburg
It’s such a common phrase, Time goes so fast. But the reason it’s repeated over and over is because it’s so true. It’s hard to believe that my oldest child is now 17, even as I stop to watch he and his friends as they leave to hike to the summit of Enchanted Rock, how he wanted to spend his birthday. It seems like only a few months ago we were carrying him in a backpack up this same rock.
Enchanted Rock is no stranger to us, and I wasn’t concerned as I watched them ascend up the heavily populated trail to the top of Texas’ largest batholith, and only second in the United States to the Sierra Nevada Batholith in California. A batholith is a very large, and old granite rock, formed by magma beneath the earth’s crust. Enchanted Rock is believed to be 1.1 billion years old, and encompasses some 62 square miles, with much of the base still underground.
On most weekends, the park reaches capacity by 10am, and closes until the afternoon. Today, as in the past, people are drawn to the giant dome. Humans have inhabited Enchanted Rock and the surrounding area for 11,000 years. The rock’s name comes from the legends of these native Americans. Stories are told of a young maiden, who after watching an attack on her village, threw herself from the top. The groans on summer evenings are supposedly hers. Scientist say the groans is actually the sounds of the rock cooling after a hot day. Try as we have, we are yet to hear the groans, or the “Ghost Lights”, lights that can sometimes be seen coming from the top at night. Experts believe these to be moonlight reflecting off the small pools of water.
I feel that some of the real magic of Enchanted Rock is these amazing pools, which hold incredible ecosystems! Remember Sea Monkeys? These little Fairy Shrimp lie in small, dry depressions in the rock, awaiting rainfall to bring them to life! These huecos are an important food and water source for the animals living on the rock during times of drought, and the park ask that you not walk through them, and doesn’t allow dogs on the Summit Trail to protect them. In West Texas’ Chihuahuan Desert, where water is rare and precious, these huecos often mean the difference in life and death. El Paso’s Hueco Tanks State Park requires all visitors to the park to watch an informative video on the importance of huecos, and how to protect them.
The area surrounding Enchanted Rock was quarried away for use on buildings such as the Texas State Capital and the Gulf Coast jetties. Enchanted Rock was saved in 1978, when Ladybird Johnson asked the Nature Conservancy to purchase the land that was going to be sold for a quarry. The next year the land was deeded to Texas Parks and Wildlife. Thank You again, Ladybird!
While the boys headed up the Summit Trail, my husband and I decided to hike through Echo Canyon and circle the base of the rock, cutting between ER and Freshman Mountain on Turkey Pass, about a 4 mile trail if you include the little detours through the big rocks in the canyon. On other visits we have taken the perimeter Loop Trail, at about 4.5 miles. Every Saturday and Sunday the park offers guided Summit Trail hikes, where you can hear stories of the legends of the rock as you climb.
On the back side of ER, you’ll see a lot of rock climbers. To climb here, you must check in at the office, and agree to the park rules. There are several guides out of Austin you can book, and ER offers some incredible places to climb, repel and boulder. My son’s Boy Scout Troop used a guide to teach them to repel during a campout.
The best way to be assured of getting in to ER is to spend the night! With it rated an International Dark Sky Park, the campgrounds are usually filled on weekends, so you’ll need to make plans to visit ahead of time. All camping at the park is primitive, with no electricity, RV or car camping. The park also offers primitive backpack camping at two sites. The park is often host to Star Parties, check their events page for upcoming dates.
The morning of my son’s birthday, we arrived a little too late, and although it was a cold and foggy Saturday, the park was already filled to capacity at 10am, so we had to kill a little time in Fredericksburg before it reopened at 2:30pm. Worst things have happened to us, and we enjoyed sight-seeing along Main St., then hiking up Cross Mountain after a picnic. Click HERE to read more.
Know Before You Go
Enchanted Rock stays busy all year, but I enjoy Fall through Spring, especially January and February as the best times to visit. The rock gets HOT!
The park closes when it reaches the daily maximum, and usually reopens about 2:30 pm. Arrive EARLY!!!!
Wear closed toed shoes with a good grip, and long pants are suggested.
Take plenty of water!
As of 2016, dogs are not allowed on the Summit Trail.
A hiking pole can be very helpful, if you have one.
It’s easy to let time get away from you while exploring all the little rock caves, pack a flashlight just in case.
Things To Do in Fredericksburg
Fort Martin Scott is a fun and informational walking tour of the remains of the old fort, and learn about the 1850 Indian treaty. Click HERE to read more.
Visit the National Museum of the Pacific War. Even if you’re not a war buff, there is something here for everyone. Click HERE to read more.
The Pioneer Museum is a nice walking tour. Click HERE to visit their website.
Located in Downtown Fredericksburg, the West End Pizza Joint has great pizza and a big, outdoor patio in an old building. Win Win Win in our family. Click HERE to visit their website.
Fischer and Wiesers Das Peach Haus is just one mile from Downtown Fredericksburg, and has a terrific renovated farm house on 8 acres, and they welcome small children. Click HERE to read more.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
16710 Ranch Rd. 965, Fredericksburg
Click HERE to visit their website.
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