Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Serving as a mythical natural beacon for millennia is the enormous pink granite dome at the heart of Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (18 miles north of Fredericksburg on Ranch Road 965, 325/247-3903, www.tpwd.state.tx.us, $6 per person day-use fee). Although visitors have only been visiting the state park since 1984, people have been drawn by its surreal magnitude for more than 11,000 years. The rock itself is a massive granite exfoliation dome rising 1,825 feet above sea level, and is one of the largest batholiths (an underground rock formation uncovered by erosion) in the country.
Tonkawa Indians believed the rock wove enchanted spells, and Spanish explorers in the mid-1700s were equally intrigued by the natural structure. Legend has it Comanche Indians held human sacrifices at the base of the rock, but this has been disputed. However, most anthropologists agree that the Native Americans were fearful of the rock because they believed it to be haunted. These days, there are occasional New Age–types who seek spiritual power from the iridescent reflections emanating from the sparkling granite on full-moon nights.
The rock’s intrigue continues to draw hundreds of visitors on weekends for hiking, rock climbing, backpacking, camping, and stargazing. In fact, the park itself often reaches parking capacity on weekends and closes its entrance early, sometimes by 11 a.m. Call ahead to gauge accessibility.
The park contains a four-mile hiking trail that snakes through the granite formations, and a short yet steep trail leading to the top of the rock (those not on a regular workout regimen will likely have to take several breaks along the way). Park amenities include an interpretive center, hike-in primitive sites, restrooms with showers, tent pads, picnic sites for day use with tables and grills, and a group picnic area with a pavilion and restrooms. Vehicular camping is not permitted.
Contact the park regarding camping fees and restrictions, which vary depending on the number of people and type of use.
© Andy Rhodes from Moon Texas, 6th Edition