I lived in Texas for almost 20 years before I moved to Colorado. In all that time, I never hiked. I was too busy riding horses and dancing the two-step in Texas dance halls (more about that in an upcoming blog). Hiking didn’t become my thing until I moved to Colorado. In fall 2017, I chose Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (SNA) as my first Texas hike. This is a jaw-dropping, knock-your-socks off hike in the heart of the Texas Hill Country. It’s now on my list of favorite parks!
Why I Love This Hike
There’s no doubt that the 1,823 foot pink granite dome is the star feature of Enchanted Rock SNA. You simply must climb to the top of the dome and take in the breathtaking 360°view of the Texas Hill Country. And yet there are tons of other features to love about this park. You can experience the rugged Texas Hill Country landscape here—mesquite grasslands; oak, pecan, and elm trees; giant boulders (a rock climbers paradise); creek and pond; and a variety of trail profiles from sandy, rolling trails through trees and shrubs to rock scrambling through canyons. I love this park and its trails for the variety, views, diverse landscape, and the joy of dipping my feet in a creek. It’s hard to be bored in this park.
Enchanted Rock Hike Details
There are 11 miles of trails in Enchanted Rock. I hiked 5.1 miles. It took me almost 2 hours and I was gawking at the scenery the entire time. I definitely want to go back and hike the rest of the park. Enchanted Rock is part of the Texas Parks & Wildlife system. Signage and mile markers are excellent and frequent along the way for most of the trails. Signage for some trails, like coming back down the summit and hiking through the canyons, is confusing and intermittent. I relied on the Hiking Project app to navigate the park. There’s a visitor’s center at the entrance where you can pick up a park map and get more information about recommended routes. The visitor’s center also has a small gift shop.
Bring water! The visitor’s center did not have water when I went, and while there were large Igloo water containers throughout the park, they were all empty. There were a couple of water spigots but they were turned off.
Don’t go in the summer! Temperatures in the Texas Hill Country reach 100+°F in the summer with up to 90% humidity. Unless you love feeling like an egg frying on a hot tin roof, plan your visit to Enchanted Rock for fall or winter. I went in early October and the conditions made for groovy hiking weather at 80°F and around 80% humidity.
- Hiking Distance: 5.1 miles
- Duration: 1.5-2 hours
- Difficulty: Moderate
- Low-High Elevation: 1,360′-1,805′
- Dogs Allowed? Only in designated day-use picnic areas, the campgrounds, and on the Loop Trail. Pets are not allowed on any other trail.
- Bikers or Horses Allowed? No
- Entrance Fee: $7 (for one day)
- Driving Direction to Enchanted Rock: Google Maps
- Closest Town: Fredericksburg
- Parking and Forecast: Enchanted Rock SNA is very popular and parking fills up quickly. You can follow the park on Twitter for updates on whether parking is at capacity. The park also posts updates on the forecast, and advises visitors to not hike the granite dome when it’s raining.
- Trail Map: Texas Parks & Wildlife
- Hiking Project Map: Enchanted Rock SNA
- More Information: Texas Parks & Wildlife
My Enchanted Rock Hike Route
Getting To Enchanted Rock SNA
Even the drive to Enchanted Rock SNA is awesome with stunning views. The roads on the way to the park are nicely maintained and fun to drive, with ups and down that reminded me of a roller coaster.
Summit Trail is moderately steep but short at .67 miles. About midway, I felt as though I was on a strange alien landscape, with nothing but pink granite rising high in front of me.
Once you summit, take your time to explore and marvel at the views. Check out (but don’t disturb) the vernal pools, pits in the granite that collect water and develop into microhabitats over time.
Echo Canyon Trail
Echo Canyon Trail runs between Enchanted Rock and Little Rock. Coming down from the Enchanted Rock summit, there are no signposts directing you to Echo Canyon Trail. Head southwest down Enchanted Rock toward Little Rock and you’ll see the Echo Canyon trailhead.
While there’s no doubt climbing Enchanted Rock was fantastic, my favorite part of this hike was Echo Canyon Trail. Here’s where I got my first taste of hiking through Texas terrain, with a mix of trees, cactus, grasslands, wildflowers, and more spectacular views.
This is also where I relied on the Hiking Project app to navigate through the canyon. There are trail markers with yellow arrows, but it’s like being on a treasure hunt to find them in the rocks and brush. On the other hand, the park isn’t that big. Even if you lose the trail, you’ll eventually run into Loop Trail which runs the perimeter of the park.
Echo Canyon Trail is not really a trail, it’s a fun scramble over rocks and running water. At 0.6 miles, it’s a short trek. Take your time and make sure to look up at Enchanted Rock as you hike the canyon.
Near the end of Echo Canyon Trail on the west side, there are signposts with pink arrows pointing to the rock climbing area. This area isn’t on the park map.
Continue on Echo Canyon Trail to Moss Lake, where you have another great view of Enchanted Rock.
Loop Trail is 4.49 miles around the rim of the park. The park map categorizes this trail as Moderate-Difficult, but I found it to be pretty easy. The trail is wide and sometimes sandy, sometimes granite. Trail runners will love this trail. I did not hike the entire Loop Trail. From Moss Lake, I turned east on Loop Trail and hiked to the parking lot. Loop Trail takes you through the natural area of the park, still within view of Enchanted Rock.
On the east side of the park, Loop Trail intersects several times with Sandy Creek. Yes, time to dip your feet in the water! I loved kicking off my hiking boots and cooling my feet off. But keep your bare feet on the rocks and out of the sand! The sand along the creek is filled with tiny ants, so small I didn’t notice them at first.
What’s your favorite hike in your home state? Drop me a comment and let me know!