Getting there: Head west into Fredericksburg on Highway 290. In the middle of town turn right onto RR 965 and head north. After traveling approximately 18 miles look for the entrance to Enchanted Rock State Natural Area on the left. Upon entering the park drive to the northernmost point of the parking area to get to one of the trailheads.
Enchanted Rock, as seen from the observation platform near the Summit Trail trailhead.
The path to the summit of Enchanted Rock is the most popular trail in Enchanted Rock State Natural Area and one of the more well known hikes in the state. The trail starts at the waypoint "Trailhead" on the topo map, near the turnaround at the northernmost parking area, and heads north. A restroom and water fountains are available nearby. Concrete steps make crossing Sandy Creek easy as the path leads up to the base of Enchanted Rock. On the large topo map Summit Trail is marked in red and other trails
at Enchanted Rock are shown in blue.
Enchanted Rock is a known as a
batholith - a large rounded dome of granite that formed as a pocket of magma under the surface of the Earth. Estimates place the occurrence of this formation at up to 1 billion years ago and the rock here is some of the oldest to be found in North America. Over time the surrounding limestone, a type of rock that more quickly erodes, began to weather away until the granite formation has finally begun to appear above the surface. Enchanted Rock is the second largest granite batholith in the United States, behind only Stone Mountain in Georgia.
As the path begins to ascend the rock it picks its way around a boulder field. The rocks here started life farther up the mountain. In a process of exfoliation these layers of rock that used to form the surface of the dome broke apart and slid down the new smooth underlying layer of rock and ended up here. Keep an eye open for trail markers uphill as sometimes it is difficult to differentiate the official path from other routes.
Hikers work their way toward the summit.
Near the waypoint "007" on the larger topo map, which is the intersection of the Echo Canyon Trail with the Summit Trail the boulder fields begin to thin out and the smooth surface of the dome begins to predominate. Large boulders that have "calved" off of the dome are still to be found on the slopes, seemingly still but actually moving in geological time downhill.
Looking down the trail from near the top. The rock looks barren here, but that's not the case elsewhere.
The trail on the dome is occasionally steep and can be slippery when wet. It also makes for a great stairmaster workout replacement. Once you've reached the smooth dome surface trail signs become moot. Just head uphill in whichever direction you prefer. A short ridge of rock provides the only obstacle. Just pick which way you'd rather go around it.
Near the summit you'll see more and more shallow depressions in the granite. These formations are called vernal pools. The larger ones may still contain standing water well after a rain. More interesting are the pools that over time accumulate plant debris and soil. Eventually a small plant community will take hold on a permanent basis, providing a small oasis of life on the the face of solid rock. One of the larger communities near the summit even supports a small tree.
Depressions in the rock eventually host vernal pools (foreground), that eventually turn into small pockets of vegetation (background).
The summit is not a peak, but merely the highest point of the dome of rock. From the top the mountain slopes off gently in all directions, offering 360 degree views of the surrounding terrain. The winds can be gusty at the top and it certainly was when I visited. Even with a chin strap I ended up stowing my hat in my backpack to keep it from flapping about and being ripped from my head.
If the weather's nice people will tend to congregate at the top. Because there's no single peak to serve as a choke point, it's possible to work your way around the perimeter of the top of the dome to find a spot far enough away from everyone else to find some peace, have lunch
or take a nap.
The trail backtracks to the trailhead to complete the journey. Though solitude is not a feature of the Summit Trail it does provide a nice climbing workout and great views from the top of the mountain. No wonder it's one of the best known hikes in Texas.