Despite doing my usual pre-trip research, I didn’t quite realize what Enchanted Rock was until we reached it for our last hike during this trip to Texas. It’s certainly impressive when you see it up close. But just how impressive relative to what seems to vary depending on who’s doing the comparisons.
Enchanted Rock is a massive dome of pink granite ensconced in the center of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area about a 1 hour drive north of San Antonio. This dome rises around 425 feet (130 m) above the surrounding terrain to an elevation of 1,825 feet (556 m) and it’s completely bald.
It’s name derives from the folklore of local Tonkawa, Apache, and Comanche tribes which ascribes magical and spiritual powers to the rock.
The visible part of the rock is technically a monadnock – an isolated rock hill that rises abruptly from a virtually level surrounding plain. Here it’s the above-ground part of a large igneous batholith – a mass of rock with an area larger than 40 mi2 (100 km2). These terms take me back to a field geology class I took mainly because we always packed the beer first and our other gear second (if there was still room). 🍺🙄
Anyway, depending on which brochure or sign we read, Enchanted Rock is one of the largest batholiths in the U.S. or the largest pink granite monadnock in the U.S. One sign claimed it was among the highest or biggest monadnocks in the world. This however, even allowing for some Texas-sized exaggeration, is seemingly not true. 🤔
Regardless of who’s keeping score, this rock is pink and large and impressive and we set out to hike up it. Which is probably all that many visitors to the park do – tag the summit and leave. But we added a loop through Echo Canyon, around Moss Lake, and back past a scenic viewpoint to round out our enchanted experience.
A major front moved through south Texas last night, dropping the temperature and humidity and cleaning out the gloom that had bedeviled our last two hikes. So today came on clear, sunny, and breezy – just the weather we wanted for the promised 360° views from the summit. 😎
It wasn’t the weekend yet, but this was the busiest state park we visited on this trip. We joined several dozen other hikers going to the summit and the rangers said there would be many, many more come the weekend. Fortunately, the crowds didn’t follow us as we returned via Echo Canyon and Moss Lake and for the last mile we even had the trail to ourselves.
The vernal pools on top of the dome are home to tiny, translucent freshwater shrimp. They survive through the dry season as eggs, which hatch when the pools refill with rainwater. We’d had thunderstorms recently, so the pools were full. The pools are also home to the Rock Quillwort – a very short, thin-leaved, pale green grass that reproduces from spores. It only grows in vernal pools in Central Texas. Seeing these brought back memories of the vernal pools atop the Table Rocks in Southern Oregon.
Rather than descend the way we came up, we walked down the dome to the southwest, in the direction of Little Rock, and connected with the Echo Canyon Trail at the head of Echo Canyon.
From Moss Lack, we had the option of going either right or left on the Loop Trail. The distances were similar, so we went left because there was a scenic viewpoint out that way.
Our loop came to a modest 4.2 miles (6.8 km) with 425 feet (130 m) of gain. While we enjoyed all of the hikes we did on this trip to Texas, Enchanted Rock will be the most memorable.
The granite and the climb and the vernal pools all brought back fond memories and the views from the summit were spectacular. We can easily see why this place is such a popular destination. This is a must do if you go hiking in Texas! 😉
Enchanted Rock is about 17 miles (27 km) north of Fredericksburg, a small Hill Country town that relishes its German heritage (it was named in 1846 after Prince Frederick of Prussia). That being the case, and us already having met our Texas BBQ quota, we went into town post-hike in search of appropriate German cuisine.
Which brought us to the Altdorf Biergarten for a delicious 😋 lunch of brats, schnitzel, and bier. 🌭🥩🍺 It was all so good… Enchanted Rock and a fulfilling lunch were perfect ways to bring our time in Texas to an end. 😁 Tomorrow we’d be heading back to Minnesota where yet more winter awaits… 🥶
Love the branches and their shadows in the “On the loop trail” photo
We’ll add these petroglyphs to our list to visit when we go to the state parks in SW Minnesota this summer.
Yes, I prefer some green also. These rocks remind me of the Jeffers Petroglyphs in southwestern Minnesota (outside the small town of Jeffers). I haven’t visited this site to see the art scratched into the rock by Native Americans. I’d encourage you to visit and I need to revisit.
Yes, today all this pink granite is the big attraction here. But the Texas Hill Country – barren and scratchy as it looks – has been home to farmers and ranchers (mostly ranchers) for over 150 years. Frankly, I have a weakness for areas with more taller, greener trees.
What a barren landscape with some decidedly interesting rock formations.