If you are visiting the Texas Hill Country and you happen to be driving along Highway 965 north from Fredericksburg, and something huge materializes from nowhere, relax! You are approaching one of the unique natural landmarks of the country -- Enchanted Rock. This is one of the most visited parks of the Texas Hill Country and for good reason.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area of Texas is about eighteen miles north of the city of Fredericksburg. The annual visitation to this park has exceeded 300,000 each year for the last five years. There must be something worthwhile for visitors with those numbers.
The Texas Hill Country is best known for its springtime wildflowers, particularly the bluebonnets. But Enchanted Rock is popular year round. The huge granite formation is the second largest in size only to Georgia’s Stone Mountain. The park covers 1643 acres and has many features attractive to visitors. The dome covers about 70 acres and rises three hundred twenty-five feet above the bed of Sandy Creek, which flows past the mountain.
There is much history associated with this large granite dome. Archaeological remains are common in the park and indicate that Enchanted Rock was attractive to a variety of prehistoric groups of people over a long period of time. The first documented explorations of the area did not occur until the early 1700s when the Spanish were attempting to settle Texas. During the mid-1700s Spaniards made several trips north to what is now the Hill Country to establish a mission and to mine for silver and gold. Discovery of Enchanted Rock is attributed to Captain Henry S. Brown, who was leading a group of new Texans pursuing a party of fleeing Indians.
Indian legends contribute largely to the tales about the Rock. The Apache displaced the Tonkawa in the early 1700s and the Comanche followed the Apache in the late 1700’s. All Native American tribes felt the same way about Enchanted Rock. It was sacred and revered as a place favored by the Great Spirit. Indian lore tells of groans emanating from the Rock on cool nights and of seeing flames on the surface following a rain. These mysteries have been explained by geologists as natural events. The flames probably were caused by reflections from the wet mica on the Rock’s surface. The changing temperature of the rock could cause the groans.
German immigrants helped found communities like Fredericksburg in the Texas Hill Country. Groups of Germans left their homeland because of political unrest and overcrowding. They were looking for opportunities and a new start. The first settlements were begun in the 1840’s. There are many evidences of that heritage in towns of the Hill Country. The German settlers named Fredericksburg for Prince Frederick of Prussia. When the Germans arrived in Texas, they encountered many unexpected hardships. The Texas war with Mexico broke out as the Germans were attempting to get to their new settlements. Trouble with the Indians caused obvious problems until a treaty was made.
Rock climbing and rappelling, hiking, primitive camping, and picnicking are the major activities for visitors to Enchanted Rock. The activities on the rock are obviously the main attractions for visitors. Rock climbers must check in at park headquarters. There are route maps and climbing rules available. Pitons are prohibited on the Rock. Leather-soled shoes are recommended for climbing and hiking due to the slippery nature of the rock surfaces.
There are several trails in the park. A four-mile Loop Trail circles the Rock and winds around granite formations. Enchanted Rock Summit Trail climbs 425 feet in six tenths of a mile to the top of the dome. There are no water and electricity hookups for RVers and trailer campers. Only primitive and tent camping is allowed at the park. It is “walk-in” tent camping. Tenters must carry their equipment a short distance from the parking area. The forty-six campsites have tent pads, picnic tables, a fire ring and a nearby water faucet. Restrooms with showers are nearby. Backpackers have three twenty-acre areas with sixty sites for primitive camping. They must also carry their water in and their trash out. Most of the primitive sites are located behind Enchanted Rock and can only be reached by trail and no vehicular traffic is permitted.
Fees are $7.00 per person per day for entry into the park. Children twelve and under are admitted free of charge. Tent camping sites are $18.00 per night and primitive camping sites are $14.00. Only four people are allowed in each primitive camping site and up to eight people can camp in the tent area. The camping fees are in addition to the entrance fees.
Enchanted Rock is a very popular destination on weekends. Visitors from Austin (about seventy miles to the east) come to enjoy the distinctiveness of the State Natural Area. The park gets so crowded during the summer months that rangers must close the parking area temporarily. The park limits the number of people in the park to protect its fragile resources. When parking lots are full, the park will close for up to two hours. This can happen September through May, sometimes as early as 11 a.m. Arrive before ten in the morning to avoid the crowds.
The Texas Hill Country is a beautiful part of the country to visit. The scenery is distinctive and its attractions are unique. Enchanted Rock is a definite stop while in the area.
Keywords: bluebonnets, camping, enchanted rock, granite, hiking, hill country, rock, stone, tents, texas
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