Enchanted Rock celebrates 45 years as state park

Enchanted Rock
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area celebrates 45 years as a state park in 2023, billions of years in the making. Photo courtesy of 101HighlandLakes.com

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is one attraction that lives up to its name and then some. As you approach from RR 965, this giant outcropping of granite dominates the landscape, exuding mystery, wonder, and enchantment. Stay awhile and watch the rock’s colors change as the day progresses. Remain after dark to admire the silhouette of Enchanted Rock against a star-filled sky. Give yourself plenty of time to explore its distinctive geology and rich history. 

This year, Enchanted Rock celebrates its 45th anniversary as part of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department state park system. In 1978, the Nature Conservancy bought 1,640.5 acres in Gillespie and Llano counties that included Enchanted Rock. It then sold the land to the TPWD, which added 3 acres and developed it as a state natural area. 

Enchanted Rock attracted people long before it became part of the state’s park system. Prehistoric dwellers pounded food on the granite rocks to make flour or meal, leaving depressions known as “bedrock mortars,” which visitors can still see today. 

In later times, Spanish explorers, Native Americans of different tribes, and German settlers inhabited or passed through this area. 

Enchanted Rock’s creaking and groaning sounds, caused by the rock’s reaction to temperature changes, frightened some who came here, believing the sounds to be messages from spirits. 

Researchers have uncovered more than 400 archeological sites within the park, which is listed in the National Register of Historic Places as an Archaeological District.

Nowadays, some 250,000 people visit Enchanted Rock each year, making it one of Texas’ most popular state parks. Guests can hike 11 miles of trails, backpack, camp overnight, picnic, stargaze, geocache, and observe native wildlife. 

To fully appreciate Enchanted Rock, however, one should make the climb to the top — a 425-foot ascent that richly rewards with breathtaking vistas of the surrounding Hill Country and closeup views of the unique geology.

The granite batholith that Enchanted Rock is apart of began as an underground pool of magma (molten rock) that pushed its way to the Earth’s surface and then cooled and hardened. A billion years after that event, this multi-layer granite dome remains an active formation, still evolving — and still captivating those who visit. 

The park requires advance reservations for day passes and overnight stays on weekends, holidays, and spring breaks. It suggests reservations for weekdays as well.

The entrance fee is $8 for guests 13 years and older and free for children 12 and younger. Day-use hours are 6:30 a.m.-10 p.m.

The park’s camp store sells souvenirs, firewood, ice, and other supplies. 

Due to ongoing drought conditions, the park suggests bringing your own water. Bottled water is available at Park Headquarters. 

Rock climbers must check in at Park Headquarters before starting their hike. There, they can pick up a trail map and review climbing rules.

Enchanted Rock State Natural Area is located at 16710 Ranch Road 965, Fredericksburg, TX 78624. For more information call 830-685-3636.