Texas is not really known for mountains (or hiking)… so with a spare day after my conference in Austin, I set-off in search for a hill to climb. About 95 miles from Austin is Enchanted Rock, a prominent granite dome (technically, an “enormous pink granite pluton batholith” and “the largest such pink granite monadnock in the United States” according to Wikipedia). I figure it’s as as close to a mountain peak as I’ll get in Texas. (A year later my misconception that Texas is pretty flat is proven very wrong, when visiting the incredible Big Bend National Park. I apologise to any Texan readers for my ignorance of Texan geography.)
I arrive early – just before the park office opens at 8am – and pay my entry fee after a short wait. There are already a few people out and about, and it’s obviously a popular place for camping. A few sites suggest arriving early on weekends and especially on public holidays, as entry is closed once the carpark is full. With limited time, I plan to do the Summit Trail and part of the Loop Trail. It’s a chilly morning as I set-off up the hill.
It quickly warms up as the sun rises – but it’s a short and quick climb of just over 100m to the top of the dome. There’s not much of a track or signage once you’re on the side of the dome – but you really can’t go wrong. There’s already a few people on the top, including a small group that seems to have completed a session of Sunrise Yoga. I’ve no interest in yoga, but if I was going to do it this wouldn’t be a bad spot.
After wandering around the top of the dome for a while – it’s a big area – it appears possible to descend the back of the dome , rather than re-tracing my steps down the Summit Trail. I head down a natural gully between Enchanted Rock and the neighbouring Little Rock; it’s steep but with no exposure or danger. I soon reach the Echo Canyon Trail, and follow this north up to Moss Lake. Moss Lake is a very beautiful, reflective place – would have been a nice spot for a snack, except that I haven’t brought any food…
I was about half-way now, having walked just over two miles (3.7km), and from here I join the Loop Trail, heading west (I could also have returned via the Loop Trail in an eastward direction – there seemed to be more more to see going west.) I detour slightly to check out the Scenic View Trail. There’s really nothing to see from here. It’s easy walking for the two miles (3.4km) back to the carpark, but a pretty monotonous landscape.
The top of Enchanted Rock was worth a visit, and Moss Lake was nice (would have been ideal in the late afternoon with the sun setting on the granite dome), but the rest of the walk was fairly ordinary.
Staying near Enchanted Rock
The closest towns are Fredericksburg and Llano, both of which have a few motels and other accommodation options. I visited Enchanted Rock as a day-trip from Austin, returning via Hamilton Pool. Total driving time was just over two hours, allowing plenty of time for some hiking at both places. There are hundreds of accommodation options in Austin… I won’t share or recommend where I stayed, as I left my booking very late for a large conference and ended up in a very ordinary apartment some distance out of town!
More information on Enchanted Rock
- Texas Parks and Wildlife – Enchanted Rock State Natural Area