Hiking The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area

You only turn 45 once, or something like that.

It had been a long-time desire of mine to hike Enchanted Rock, a big ole’ pink granite mound out in central Texas. Many friends and acquaintances of mine have hiked this Texas landmark and raved about it on the social media circuit, so as my milestone lustrum birthday approached (lustrum is apparently Latin for 5, which is the closest thing I could come up with for a name of the year between two decades) we made plans to head about 1.5 hours west of Austin.

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The Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is situated between Fredericksburg and Llano. Being dead in the middle of spring and bluebonnet season, booking a hotel in Fredericksburg was nearly impossible, so we settled for a hotel in Llano, which was just fine, if not even better; we honestly just needed a place to sleep.

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There were many of these purple flowers.

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We stopped by the park on Saturday (we were going to hike on Sunday) and spoke with a park ranger who informed us that the park is so popular it fills to capacity each day, at least during the heavy traffic season. Once capacity is reached, people are turned away or given a voucher to enter the park at 1:00 PM. We were advised to arrive no later than 7:30 AM if we wanted to get in for a morning hike, which was fine because I wanted a sunrise hike.

 

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Cedar trunks and roots can be very interesting. This one reminded me of a cooled lava flow.

 

The thing with nature is, you get what she gives you. There was no beautiful central Texas sunrise to view that Sunday morning; it was heavily overcast, but that was okay too; it kept the temperature down which was already in the low 70s by 8:00 AM.  

The Enchanted Rock park has a number of elevated peaks, but the central peak (Enchanted Rock) is, of course, the main attraction. It was this massive dome we struck out to climb right off. I was a bit surprised at how little it was. It only rises 425 feet above the surrounding terrain and maybe took us 35-45 minutes to reach the top as the hike was only a little more than half a mile.

 

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Ye Olde Enchanted Rock

 

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Park map. Enchanted Rock is in the middle

 

 

One of the interesting aspects of the Enchanted Rock park is the many rock formations. The dome is what’s called an exfoliation dome, meaning it loses layers like an onion. Along the dome, especially nearer the bottom, you can see the massive rocks that have “peeled” off from the main dome due to erosion. Aside from the dome, the entire park is covered with all kinds of interestingly formed rocks, many covered with colorful lichen and mosses.  

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Example of the peeling rocks

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Once to the top, it was picture time. The top is a massive rounding mound which affords the hiker a panoramic view high above the surrounding terrain. Unfortunately, the countryside was a bit obscured with the haze of a cloudy morning, but it was beautiful nonetheless. We located the official geological survey marker, took a few pictures, then went to the north side of the peak and sat for a short while.

Sometimes we don’t realize the special moments until that moment is broken. The time I enjoyed the most was sitting there facing north with the quiet of the morning all around. A light breeze was cool, birds were singing somewhere far off, and the earth opened below us for miles. There was no reason to get up and go, no reason to worry about what to hike next; it was enough to simply be in this wonderful piece of nature sitting next to the most special person in my life. The moment was eventually interrupted by mosquitoes. I did not want to leave. The moment was too good, but we were getting bitten and there was more park to explore.

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We took the short hike down and the headed to the east, planning to hike the circumference around Enchanted Rock. The trail would take us between Turkey Peak and Freshman Mountain on the east side, and Little Rock on the West. It was when near Freshman Mountain the sun broke the clouds and shone through for about 10 minutes. When it did, the rocks all around came to life; the pink granite more vibrant and brilliantly lit, the lichens and mosses suddenly awoke. Soon the sun was behind the clouds and the park was once again cast in grey.

 

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Sunlit rocks

 

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Some beautiful lichen up close

 

 

We had to do a little minor bouldering through Echo Canyon between Enchanted Rock and Little Rock, which was fun, the rock formations once again fascinating. It’s here we sighted some rock squirrels scampering and resting on the top of stones.

 

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Rock Squirrel

 

Soon we were back at the beginning and it was time to head home. After a quick meal of leftover barbecue from Llano, we bought a magnet from the gift shop and hit the road around 1:00. All in all, we hiked about five miles.

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It was good to get out of town, good to get into nature, and good to finally hike Enchanted Rock. It would have been nice to hit some of the other trails, but I feel like the area we covered was representative of most the rest of the park. I’m not sure I’d ever make the trip again specifically to hike the park, living nearly four hours away, but if I ever find myself in the area again, I’d be happy to give it another go, especially to see the view in either the rising or setting sun.

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