Enchanted Rock: A Budget-Friendly Day Trip in the Hill Country

My family has been talking about going to Enchanted Rock in the Texas Hill Country for years. We’ve heard how impressive it is and my husband’s been especially anxious to get out there and explore. But I was always apprehensive when I heard that the park often closes early on weekends due to crowds. And I wasn’t sure that all of our kids were up for the hike (and there’s no way I was about to carry anyone around). Plus, the hour and 45 minute drive always sounded like such a distance to me.

But, we ventured out on a Saturday morning, and the kids were amazed. The boys loved it! They were thrilled with the adventure. My husband was wowed by the beauty of the surroundings. The kids had never seen such rock formations, and they were very excited to get to the top as fast as they could.

Enchanted Rock is an enormous pink granite rock formation located about 15 miles north of Fredericksburg, Texas. The rock covers 640 acres and rises approximately 425 feet to elevation of 1,825 feet above sea level. It is one of the largest batholiths in the United States. And it was designated a Texas Historic Landmark in 1936.

–> Here is where I will take a moment to interrupt and note that if you so choose, you can easily scan through my photos and skip to the end of this post to find the details of what you need to know if you go. However, if you’d like the long version of this adventure, I offer that to you below. No offense taken if you wish to skip ahead, I promise. <–

The day started with a fair amount of chaos within the family. We left the house at 7am determined to get into the park before it could possibly fill up. The three kids argued side-by-side the entire car ride out there. We took the pretty scenic route of Farm Rd. 1323 (so lovely), but I was riddled with anxiety every time we passed a “cow crossing” sign since we were the only car on this road at this hour, and I was so afraid of running into any darling animals. We did pass roaming cows, including the most adorable trio of tiny calves prancing across the road. We passed SO MANY goats, sheep, deer, rabbits, an armadillo, and we even saw the biggest tarantula imaginable crossing the street. All the way, the skies grew darker and stormier, and kept me slightly on edge.

When we arrived at the park around 8:30am, the parking lot was already about one-third full. The entrance fee is $7 per adult and kids are free, but the front office was not yet open and we were on the honor system to promise to return and pay on our way out. The minute we stepped out of our car, it started raining a misty drizzle.

If you can please reserve your judgement for just a moment, I would like to get real with you. The truth is, I am not really an outdoorsy gal. I mean I do love nature and I can certainly appreciate its beauty. But arriving to see folks look so prepared with walking sticks and hiking boots and those hydration packs made me nervous. “What am I getting myself into here?” I thought. When I asked my husband which trail we would be taking, he pointed straight up (mmmkay). With the rain falling, the rock surface got incredibly slippery. College students who looked to be in far better physical shape than I, were on their hands, bottoms in the air, crab-walking up the rock in order to get through the slick spots. I heard the cry of “wipeout” nearby up ahead. I spied a little boy with his knees covered in blood, and I was silently freaking out. Of course, my family had no fear and was not slowing down a bit. “Wait for Mommy!” I cried from behind, huffing and puffing.

By the time we got up (hooray for me, I did make it!), the rain was coming down harder, and the only thing I could think was how on earth were we going to get down this slippery thing? But before I could wonder too long, my husband and sons were heading towards the cave to the north side of the summit. However, getting to the the cave required a walk downhill on a very slick area. So I quickly offered to wait behind while my husband went to check it out. At that point, a woman crept up next to me in this “waiting zone” and remarked that “this is not her kinda thing.” We exchanged smiles and knew we were soul sisters sitting atop this enormous rock trying to be troopers for the good of the family.

After my husband returned looking downhearted because he was told the wait to get through the cave would be about 30 minutes, he decided to save that for a future return trip to Enchanted Rock. We took a little time walking around the summit wishing the skies were not so overcast but squinting through to find something of a view to give us a sense of how high up we were. And once we ventured down hill, the rain stopped. (Yay!)
When the skies cleared, so did my nervousness. I felt a renewed sense of adventure after a quick snack break (we had packed our own food). So we then decided to take the Loop Trail towards Frog Pond, which sounded like a good destination for the boys.

Pretty wildflowers lined this flat trail, and with the clouds passing, I was able to really appreciate the beauty of this area. Our youngest son started wearing out around noon, and we decided to wrap up our adventure and call it a day. We stopped in at the office to pay and noticed that inside the building walking sticks were sold for $10 (which would have been great help on the slippery spots). As we left, there were lots of cars lined up waiting to get into the park.
I would really love to get back sometime within this year. But I can guarantee that I will be checking the forecast before we go again!

Important info:

Address: 16710 Ranch Rd 965 Fredricksburg, TX 78624
Hours: Open 7 days a week, year round
Admission: $7 per day, per person 13 and older; Children 12 and under free; additional camping & facility fees
Good to Know: The park reaches parking capacity and frequently closes on weekends.  Get there early. The park reopens when parking becomes available.  Great place to backpack, picnic, camp.
Website: http://www.tpwd.state.tx.us/spdest/findadest/parks/enchanted_rock/

Know before you go:

  • Get to the park as early as you can (opens at 8am). It would be so disappointing to arrive only to find that they had closed due to occupancy.
  • Pack water and snacks to stay hydrated and energized.
  • Check the weather. Of course, I complained about the rain, but I can’t imagine climbing up in the hottest part of the summer.
  • If you’re feeling semi-whimpy about hiking, consider buying a walking stick at the front office for $10.
  • Encourage the kiddos to take a potty break before the hike. (Of course, one of my boys told me he had to use the bathroom the minute we got to the top and was forced to hold it for awhile.)
  • If you get into the cave (northeast side of Enchanted Rock), be sure to have a flashlight or headlamp.
  • Enchanted Rock Park is open 7 days a week year-round, from 8am – 10pm for day use activities.
  • Entrance fee for the day is $7 per person, ages 13 and older. Children 12 and under are free.
  • [Updated to add: Starting March 1, 2016, pets are no longer allowed. Read the press release for more information.]

For more information, visit the Texas Parks & Wildlife website.

Enchanted Rock
16710 Ranch Rd. 965
Fredericksburg, TX 78624

Freelance web producer, Heidi Okla is mom to three boys (ages 4, 6, and 8), and can’t pass up any opportunity for fun family adventures. 

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