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Hike Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park near Johnson City offers stunning panoramic views of the Texas Hill Country. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Pedernales Falls State Park is 8 square miles of glorious scenery east of Johnson City featuring panoramic views of the Hill Country.

Pedernales Falls State Park is named for the Pedernales River that flows through it and offers over 20 miles of hiking trails.

Before hitting the trails, however, I recommend visiting the falls.

Take a minute to relax and appreciate the wonders at Pedernales Falls State Park. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

The falls are created by cascading water across layers of limestone that stretch for a mile. You can view the falls from a scenic overlook, but I strongly suggest hiking down. The trail is moderate. You’ll be climbing over rocks and navigating narrow paths, but it’s worth it it when you get to the smooth, white limestone. The falls are tranquil, and the sound of the flowing water is relaxing.

I sat on the rocks and took in the view — which is quite surreal. Swimming is not allowed in the falls, but there are plenty of other things to do without getting wet. I saw many people reading, journaling, drawing in sketchbooks and picnicking. There is no shade on the falls, so be sure to bring plenty of sunscreen and water.

Sit by the cascading waterfalls or peer into the stunningly clear pools at Pedernales Falls State Park. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

When you’re ready to take a hike, look at the trail map and decide where to go next. The trail map details the length and difficulty of each trail, so read the descriptions so you know what you’re getting yourself into.

The Twin Falls Trail is short, and from the scenic overlook, you’ll see an earthy waterfall. For panoramic Hill Country views, I recommend the 5.5-Mile Loop Trail or the Wolf Mountain Trail. These trails are long and challenging at points, but the scenery is worth it. The park is abundant with wildlife, so don’t be surprised if you come across a herd of deer, a jackrabbit, an armadillo or even a wild hog. There is only one spot where swimming is allowed in the park. The trail — cleverly named Swimming Area Trail — is short and ends at a sandy beach.

Grace Mills traveled from San Marcos to hike the Wolf Mountain Trail at Pedernales State Park. Courtesy photo

Besides the hiking trails, there are special trails for equestrians and mountain bikers and plenty of campsites for those wanting to stay the night. There is a campground with water and electricity, an equestrian campground and a primitive backcountry campground for the serious nature enthusiasts.

The most important thing: If the weather looks like rain, plan your visit for another time. The river is extremely volatile during flash floods and can become deadly. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department website warns: “The water in the river can rise from a placid stream to a raging torrent in a few minutes.” Don’t play around; take warning signs seriously.

Pedernales Falls State Park is located at 2585 Park Road 6026 near Johnson City. Call (830) 868-7304 or go to tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls. Follow the Pedernales Falls Facebook page for important weather and event updates.

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