Enchanted Rock - a Magical Texas Hill Country Destination
I’ve lived in the Texas Hill Country for two years and I’ve often heard Enchanted Rock mentioned as an interesting place to see. This past week we had visitors in from Illinois and decided to take advantage of our beautifully cool, yet sunny, December weather to go explore Enchanted Rock.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is located about 15 minutes north of Fredericksburg, and is a popular destination for hikers, campers and climbers of all ages. As you come over the top of the hills north of Fredericksburg you see the pink granite dome rising in stark contrast out of the green of the landscape as though it had simply been dropped there.
The geology that creates an outcropping like this is fascinating. Enchanted Rock was formed during the Precambrian era around 6 million years ago. The portion that is visible is only a small part of the entire dome. The formation (known as a batholith) began as a bubble of liquid magma which then solidified a considerable distance below the surface. This batholith covers 640 acres. Later with the earth’s movement and erosion from nature, parts of the surface began to emerge, one of these exposed surfaces (known as an exfoliation dome) is what we know as Enchanted Rock.
Enchanted Rock is considered the second largest batholith in the country, second only to Stone Mountain in Georgia. It rises 425 feet above the ground, and the sheer size of the rock cannot be appreciated until you actually climb it.
A number of hiking trails are available to visitors from the 4-mile “Loop trail” which circles the base of the dome to “Echo Canyon Trail” which cuts through the rocky terrain between Enchanted Rock and the slightly smaller Little Rock. Wanting to see the view from the top, we chose the “Summit Trail” which is a steep .6 mile hike up the front face to the summit.
The park has done a wonderful job adding crushed granite paths and granite block steps to create a nice path to the base of the dome. After that the slab is fairly solid with occasional cracks, and outcroppings of rock that have split off.
We took our time getting to the summit, exploring the large boulders that perched on the surface of the dome, and wondered at the amazing amount of vegetation that has managed to find a way to survive on the surface of the rock. There were many Prickly Pear cactus, yucca, Texas persimmon and a variety of small flowers and grasses.
As we ascended we would come over a rise in the rock only to find another expanse of granite followed by another rise. The rock seemed to go on forever and to get larger the further we climbed. As we approached the summit we began to see weathering pits (gnamma), some held plant life others did not. The surface looked more like a moonscape than somewhere one would hike in Texas. This impression was only strengthened as we came over the last rise and got a good look at the top of the dome. The rock seemed to go on forever; people were tiny ants at the end of the granite horizon. This is where a true appreciation for the sheer size of the formation can be found.
At the top some of the gnamma were so large that they held small oasis of plants, and when filled with water they would become vernal pools, a feature critical to the plants and the small flora at the top of this stark environment.
We found the U.S. Geologic Survey marker designating the highest point of the summit. The view was breathtaking and went on forever in every direction.
Crossing to the northwest side of the rock we came to a slanting “landslide” of gigantic boulders. Marked on the side of one of the rocks was the word “cave” with an arrow pointing to a dim gap between the rocks. We descended in the direction of the arrow, squeezing into an opening between two of the boulders then navigating down a narrow canyon to the very small (and dark) mouth of the cave. Our guests decided to continue on and so by the light of their trusty iPhone they slowly made their way through the cave which eventually came out more than halfway down the dome. Upon doing later research I found that this cave is known as Enchanted Rock fissure, 1000 feet long and one of the largest known granite caves (for a review and video of the cave click here).
While our guests enjoyed their adventure in the cave we sat on the granite dome, enjoying the sun and taking in the gorgeous Hill Country vistas. Our day on the rock was almost over. I can’t wait to return again to explore more of this amazing and yes, enchanting, monument to Earth’s ever-changing topography.
Enchanted Rock is truly a magical place that everyone can enjoy.
Some features/amenities of the park include:
- Walk-in camping
- Primitive camping
- Rock Climbing (“clean” – no pitons)
- Picnic facilities
- Bird Watching (Enchanted Rock is designated a key bird watching sight)
Other nearby attractions include:
There are a number of interesting videos to be found on YouTube if you search “Enchanted Rock”.
Check Texas Parks and Wildlife site here for park hours and tips to help enjoy your visit.
For more hiking and biking trails in the Canyon Lake area download our Hiking and Biking Guide here: