Less than two hours away from Austin is Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, a magical outdoor wonderland, indeed. Here, a massive pink granite dome stands 425 feet above the rocky soil below, a spectacular sight amidst the rolling Hill Country landscape. At the park, campsites, hiking trails, and climbing walls beckon outdoor enthusiasts of all stripes to explore and play. But even if all you want to do is summit the magma-formed batholith, a day trip to Enchanted Rock is more than worth the drive. Here’s what to get up to during your visit.
Grab your hiking shoes (or at least a sturdy pair of sneakers—flip-flops won’t cut it on these steep granite slopes) and hit the trail early for the least crowded viewpoints.
Summit Trail: True to its name, the Summit Trail will lead you to the rounded top of Enchanted Rock, 1,825 feet above sea level. The meandering 0.8-mile trail (one-way) is all up (and then down) and covers just a portion of the dome that spans 640 acres. But from the top, you can see for miles in every direction. Once you’re up there, explore the rocks and outcroppings, but stay out of the vernal pools that teem with life.
Loop Trail: Avoid the crowds and enjoy a different view of Enchanted Rock—from below—on the 4.6-mile loop trail. The trail is flatter, but longer, and can be hot, so bring more water than you think you need and plenty of sunscreen. You’ll score stunning views of the whole park as you loop around the perimeter.
If rock climbing is more your style, there are plenty of bolted sport routes plus a few opportunities for trad climbing for experienced climbers. Multi-pitch routes abound and there are even dedicated rappel stations. Dozens of climbs for every skill level can be found around the park, many of which are concentrated along Echo Canyon Trail and Base Trail.
If you’re new to climbing and want to learn, there are plenty of outfitters that will literally show you the ropes, including Austin Ascents, Rock-About Climbing Adventures, Outpost Wilderness Adventure and Texas Climbing Adventures.
Designated an International Dark Sky Park, Enchanted Rock offers just as many spectacular views at night as during the day; you just have to look up. From anywhere in the park you are far enough from city lights to spot the Milky Way and, if you’re lucky, a shooting star or two. There are even star parties scheduled throughout the year for those who want to learn a bit more about astronomy and experience the magic of the park at night with others. Check the official Enchanted Rock State Natural Area website for schedules.
Make a Pit Stop in Fredericksburg
After your visit to Enchanted Rock, swing through the nearby town of Fredericksburg on your way back to Austin for a bite to eat and a cold drink. Known for its wineries and German heritage, you’re certain to find something to satisfy, from a glass of wine to a locally brewed beer, bratwurst to fine dining, and everything in between.
Park Admission & Accessibility
Park Hours: Gates are open daily from 6:30 a.m. to 8 p.m. All trails are open from half an hour before sunrise until half an hour after sunset. The Loop Trail is open for hiking until 10 p.m.
Daily entrance fees: Adults 13 and older: $8; Children 12 and younger: Free; Texas State Parks Pass: $70 and covers entrance fees to 80 parks for everyone in your car for a year.
Capacity restrictions: Take note that the park reaches capacity most weekends and holidays, at which time new visitors won’t be able to enter the park. So if you’re planning a day trip to Enchanted Rock at a busy time, we recommend making a reservation online via the park website up to 30 days in advance.
Pets: Pets are allowed in the park, but only in designated day-use picnic areas, campgrounds, and on the Loop Trail (not on any other trail) and they must be kept on a leash 6 feet long or shorter.
Accessibility: Many areas of the park are not wheelchair accessible with rough, uneven ground and or stairs. Please visit the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area website, or contact them directly for more information.
Contributed by Alisha McDarris.
Alisha McDarris is an Austin-based writer who specializes in writing about the outdoors, vegan food, and sustainable travel. She is the co-founder of sustainable travel and adventure blog Terradrift.com and accompanying YouTube channel (youtube.com/terradrift) and her outdoorsy tips and tricks, plus vibrant photos of wild spaces and places, can be found on Instagram (instagram.com/terradrift).