One of Texas’ most popular state parks, Enchanted Rock, is 18 miles north of Fredericksburg. It reminded me a lot of Uluru, that monolith in the center of Australia that used to be called Ayers Rock. It’s not a meteorite. It’s not exactly an extinct volcano either even though it began as magma being pushed upward. This rock extends 60 miles down into the earth. It is pretty unique, a pink granite exfoliation dome or batholith that people love to climb. In other words, it’s a rather unusual exposed underground rock visible for miles, like Uluru, rising 425 feet above the Llano Uplift in what is now a 640 acre park. At its top the altitude is 1,825 feet above sea level, making Enchanted Rock the highest elevation in the Texas Hill Country.
As I paid my $7 to get a climbing permit, I asked about the best time of year to ascend Enchanted Rock. “February,” replied the ticket seller. It was February. “When’s the worst?” I asked. “Well, the campgrounds fill up a lot year round and the rock gets covered with geologists and rock climbers even when it’s hot. We tell everyone to sign up for a campsite months in advance. We’re often filled to capacity.” This made it sound a lot like Yosemite, Glacier, and other National Parks.
I went from the visitor center to the parking area for the trail to the top and had a hard time finding a space. About a hundred people were on the trail with me. It took about an hour to reach the top, admire the view, and climb back down, a moderate challenge. On a 10 point difficulty scale, I’d say it was about a 4. A 4 mile loop trail completely circles the Enchanted Rock; and there are other trails for hikers, like Echo Canyon, which is popular because it offers shade.
Native Americans both respected and feared this rock. The Tonkawa tribe named it. It was a spiritual destination for them. They believed that ghost fires flickered on the top, a legend that probably got started when lightning struck. However, some say it glows at night. Native Americans also believed that the first Spanish conquistadors in the area cast a spell on it. Later, the area was not settled due to native/settler conflict. It was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984, and would probably be a National Monument if it wasn’t a superior state park.