Pedernales Falls State Park is no secret among locals of the Texas Hill Country. The beautiful scenery of a river, rocks, and some falls make for the perfect spot. It is a 5,212-acre State Park located right in the middle of Texas, about 1 hour west of Austin. The park offers everything under the sun for nature freaks: hiking, fishing, swimming, and more. Pedernales Falls’ rich history paired with its uniqueness and versatility in what it offers continues to draw visitors from all over the country every year. There’s something for everyone at Pedernales Falls, whether you’re looking to relax or get your heart rate up. Pay a visit soon before summer vacation is over!
Brief HistoryDue to mineral deposits and fossils, researchers have concluded that settlers have been moving through Pedernales, Texas ever since the prehistoric era. Massive deposits of limestone rock are scattered everywhere throughout the park and along the rapids, and this rock is believed to be prehistoric as well. Many believe that the name “Pedernales” was penned in the 16th century when the Spanish first arrived in Texas. Pedernales means flint rock in Spanish, and it refers to the flint rock that lies on top of the riverbed.
In the 19th century, American Indians often had quarrels over this part of Texas and went through a pattern of pushing each other out for most of the century. Towards the end of the 19th century, German immigrants settled down in the area and established farms and ranches. The actual land that is the State Park, however, was known as the Circle Bar Ranch for most of the 1900s. The state of Texas bought the land off of the ranch owner, Harriet Wheatley. Harriet and her husband bought the ranch after they made a fortune in the Western oil fields. The ranch was their investment of sorts. In 1970, the purchase of the land was finalized, and Pedernales Falls was officially a state park.
The ParkPedernales Falls State Park is essentially a natural playground. There are swimming holes, rocks to climb on, rapids, and even a beach. When you first arrive at the park, the entrance and parking lot is pretty straightforward, but then you’re going to be faced with a problem. But don't worry, this is a really good problem to have - there are so many options that you won’t know what to do first! You can swim in the river or bring a tube to hitch a ride on the rapids. Just be sure to check on the water safety levels on the State Park website beforehand. You can lounge on the beach, bring a picnic, read, or hammock. There is also a horse-riding trail. Unfortunately, the state park does not provide horses, so you’ll have to bring your own. Bird-watching is also a popular activity at this park since it boasts numerous species. Of course, what is a State Park without camping? Bring all your gear and enjoy camping in one of the most beautiful sites in Texas.
If you’re looking to do something a little more action-packed, you should definitely check out the rapids. Plenty of nearby trails make for great hikes, too. These trails range from beginner to advanced. The ½ mile Twin Falls Trail is more of an easy, scenic hike while the 6-mile Wolf Mountain trail is not for the faint of heart. This trail goes through the canyons of the hill country and leads to another creek where you can cool off. If you are a mountain biker, you will also have plenty to do at Pedernales Falls! You can either bike along the previously mentioned trails or try the 10-mile Juniper Ridge Trail. This trail is definitely for advanced bikers. Bring your canoes and kayaks for the river. Or, try your hand at the rapids, depending on how rough they are.
Safety at the FallsBefore you plan your trip, it is important that you know a few things about safety at the Falls. The rapids have been known to go from completely calm to turbulent in a matter of minutes. Check the Pedernales Falls State Park website or Twitter to double-check the conditions for the day. You can also call the ranger’s office in advance. If the waters are too rough, the park will close down for the day. Make sure you keep an eye on kids and weaker swimmers. Only let the strong swimmers in your family swim near the falls.
Safety is also relevant for the trails. Some of the hiking and biking trails feature some dangerous spots. Make sure you have a small, travel size first aid kit and be aware of what wild animals inhabit the area. Do your research and be prepared for the unexpected. This is especially important because you may not have a cell phone signal out where you’re adventuring.
Getting TherePedernales Falls is located in the middle of a three-highway triangle. You can use either Highway 281 in Johnson City, or highway 290 if you’re coming from Austin. The only way to get to the Park entrance, however, is to find your way to road 2766 or Robinson Rd. This road eventually turns into Pedernales Falls Rd. and signs will direct you to where you want to go from there.
The entrance fee or anyone 13 years and older is $6 and for children 12 years and under, it is free. If you plan on visiting the Texas State Parks often, you might want to consider purchasing an annual pass. This pass is $70 a year and can be purchased either at the ranger station or by phone.
Pedernales Falls definitely isn’t a secret among the locals. When the parking lot is full, the park rangers close the park. Save yourself the trouble and call ahead before you leave to make sure the park hasn’t reached maximum capacity. This is especially common on holidays and weekends.
Pedernales Falls is one of the most versatile state parks in Texas and the U.S. With so many things to do in one area, there is something for everyone in your family to do. Whether it is low-key and laid-back or action-packed, it is impossible to be bored at Pedernales Falls. Make sure you check the website or call ahead before you go to make sure that the conditions are safe. Other than that, enjoy this beautiful and historically rich state park.