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Thursday, February 24, 2011

An Enchanted Hike

244 miles southwest of Dallas, Texas sits one of the biggest rocks in the USA, Enchanted Rock.  Enchanted Rock is a batholith, a large protrusion of cooled volcanic magma.  This huge rock rises 425 feet above the surrounding area to a height of 1825 feet above sea level.  It is also the largest pink granite monadnock in the USA.
Enchanted Rock from park parking lot
The rock is part of the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area.  The park is located 15 miles south of Llano, TX and 15 miles north of Fredericksburg, TX just west of TX 16 on FM 965.

Hiking is popular in the park.  There are two main trails, Summit Trail and Loop Trail.  Loop Trail is 4 miles and goes completely around Enchanted Rock and crosses Sandy Creek a few times.  Summit Trail is only 6/10 of a mile, but it rises 425 feet.
On Summit Trail look up Enchanted Rock
The Summit Trail starts on the northeast side of the Interpretive Center (map of the trail) and quickly crosses Sandy Creek.  The creek is easy to cross unless there has been a heavy rain recently.  The last restrooms on the trail are east of the trail after crossing the creek.  A little pass the restrooms is a stationary telescope that visitors can use to look up the rock.  A little after  1/10 of a mile the trail turns north and begins to ascend through some boulders and plants. 
My son looking a little worn from the climb
After the 3/10 mark the trail splits with the Echo Canyon Trail continuing northwest to meet the Loop Trail and Summit Trail veering northeast and becoming very steep as the trail is solidly on the barren rock.  The trail continues to the summit of Enchanted Rock where the 360 view of the Hill Country is amazing.  The average incline on the trail is 30%.  

There is a lot of room on the summit for the hikers.  There are numerous fissures and hallows that can be explored.  Some are very steep and narrow so caution should be exercised.  There are some cave-like features and areas that are fun to explore.  My son and I spent time exploring the features.
We explored the fissures and canyons while at the summit
We hiked to the summit during March and took water with us.  If one was hiking in the summer months they would need a good amount of water because the heat on the rock can get intense.  There is not much shade to be found on the rock.
A great view of the countryside
Wildlife is common around the park, especially deer since Gillespie County has the highest concentration of White-tail deer in the US.  The wildlife is more likely to be seen in the early morning or at dusk.  Wild Turkey, wild boar, bats, squirrels, and fox are seen often in the park.  My son and I saw deer early that morning on the way to the rock, but only birds and lizards once at the park.

The park has 46 camping sites near the visitor center with shower facilities and three primitive camping areas. This is a great park for camping and hiking.  The Hill Country is a great place for lovers of the outdoors.  Enchanted Rock is a unique geological feature and well worth visiting.