Where it is: 24 miles south of Llano
What you’ll do: Climb a 425-foot batholith in the middle of the Hill Country
Where you’ll sleep: Three primitive camping areas for those who like to get away from it all
What you’ll learn: The name is thought to come from the Tonkawa, who heard spirits “groaning” when the rock cooled at night
Geological time moves pretty slowly, so not much has changed at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area since the last time you visited (or your parents did, for that matter). But that’s good news, since it means that climbing this stunning pink-granite batholith is still on the top-ten list of things to do in Texas. And, thankfully, the view is as striking now as when I first scrambled up to the summit, nearly twenty years ago.
The slope is steep—on average it’s greater than 30 degrees—but don’t be put off. Granite has a high coefficient of friction, and even the most inexperienced of hikers can make it to the top with a little friendly encouragement. From 1,825 feet above sea level the dusty browns, greens, and grays of the Llano Uplift disappear into a blur on the western horizon. Look around for weathered pits in the rock, called gnammas, where ferns and grasses grow on blown-in soil. Close by, on the north face, is Enchanted Rock Cave, another rite of passage that takes about 45 minutes to crawl through. (There’s often a line to get through the cave, so more-adventurous types can scout out other fissures on the back side of the rock that are great for spelunking and bouldering; beginners should try the routes called Sanders Traverse and Lunch Rock.)
After you’ve soaked up the scenery, eaten your picnic, or exchanged vows—yes, weddings have been performed here—make your way down the south slope to Echo Canyon and follow the path back to Moss Lake. From here you can pick up the Loop Trail and circumnavigate the entire formation. Enchanted Rock is also a great place to experiment with backcountry camping, as the park’s three primitive camping areas are fairly close; Moss Lake is less than a mile. Going to bed under a blanket of stars and waking up to a hot cup of coffee and a view of this entrancing dome is one of the best experiences Texas has to offer. May it always be so.
TRIP TO TOWN: Don’t second-guess yourself when you spy the inevitable line that approaches the outdoor pit at Cooper’s Old Time Pit Bar-B-Que, in Llano (604 W. Young, coopersbbqllano.com). The brisket is worth the wait, though you should also try a Big Chop at least once.