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A Couch Potato's Guide to Climbing Enchanted Rock

By Michael Barr
Michael Barr

When I first came to Fredericksburg many years ago a friend told me he was going out to climb Enchanted Rock and invited me to go along. Well, climbing rocks is not my thing (climbing into a lawn chair on the river bank with a 6-pack and a fishing rod is more my speed), but it being a Saturday, and having already ironed my underwear and rearranged my sock drawer, I tagged along.

I've made other trips to Enchanted Rock since then, and each time I saw something wonderful and learned something new.

I learned an important lesson that very first day. The cowboy boots were a bad idea.

TX - Enchanted Rock
"Enchanted Rock as viewed from the trail leading to the summit. People climbing on the summit (visible as dots) give an idea of the scale of the granite rock."
30 30' 20" N, 98 49' 05" W

Claygate, April 14, 2006
Wikimedia Commons

Enchanted Rock has been the object of curiosity and wonder for centuries. Experts who know about such things say the granite dome first formed somewhere between 4.5 million and 540 million years ago, give or take a few millennia.

It formed as molten magma from deep in the earth pushed its way upward but for some reason stopped rising somewhere below the surface. After the magma cooled and hardened, centuries of exfoliation and erosion exposed the dome.

Enchanted Rock rises about 500 ft. above Sandy Creek, and its dome covers about a square mile. It is the second largest granite mountain in the United States next to Stone Mountain in Georgia.

Some history books say Capt. Henry S. Brown discovered Enchanted Rock in 1829, but the truth is Native Americans beat Capt. Brown there by a few centuries.

Enchanted Rock was a special place for Native Americans. The enormous granite dome made groaning sounds as it expanded in the heat of the day and contracted when the temperature cooled in the evening. Native Americans believed spirits lived there. To them it was a holy place.

In the 1840s Samuel Maverick, a signer of the Texas Declaration of Independence, hired surveyor James P. Hudson and 2 chainmen to survey 8 labors of land that included Enchanted Rock. The State of Texas issued Maverick a patent for the land in September 1851.

Maverick didn't give a hoot about spirits. He was after gold and silver but didn't find much. Those precious metals do exist in that part of the Hill Country but not in paying quantities.

For years Enchanted Rock stood there as it always had, moaning and groaning and keeping watch over the rough country in northeast Gillespie County.

In the late 19th century Rev. Dan Moore held an annual church service on top of Enchanted Rock. Worshippers rode their horses or walked to the summit to hear the sermon based on Matthew 16:18 "Upon this rock I will build my church." What a glorious occasion that must have been.

The Moss family bought the property in 1886. Then sometime in the early 20th century the public discovered Enchanted Rock.

Beginning in 1927 Tate Moss opened Enchanted Rock to campers. The Moss family operated the place as a private park until the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department bought it 1978.

The park closed for 18 months in the early 80s while workers built campsites and marked trails, but the hikers and climbers kept coming. Authorities wrote 300 citations for trespassing while the park was closed.

I remember a rumor going around that Enchanted Rock would become a second Mount Rushmore with the faces of 3 prominent Texans carved into it. I'm glad that didn't happen, but if it had I would have voted for Farrah Fawcett, Willie Nelson and Nolan Ryan.

Climbing Enchanted Rock is not all that difficult for a climber with healthy legs and the proper footwear. The climb starts out easy but gets a little harder as you go up. The domed shape of the mountain is deceiving. At several points along the climb you think you are near the summit only to get there and find you have a lot farther to go.

But once you reach the top, you are rewarded with a spectacular view of the Hill Country. At that moment the climb is worth the effort, even for a guy like me whose favorite climb is into a Laz-Z-Boy.

Michael Barr
"Hindsights" October 1, 2021 Column

"Grand Granite: Climbers flock to Texas' Enchanted Rock park," Colorado Springs Gazette, October 6, 1984.
"Enchanted Rock: A Landmark on the Trail," Fredericksburg Standard, August 1, 1962.
The Handbook of Texas, Texas State Historical Association.

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