This has been a bucket list park for me for some time. Google it, click images and you’ll see why. Or just scroll down and look at these images. It’s sheer magic. The river is fed by an underwater spring, which we saw. You guys, we saw water bubbling out of the ground. I’ve never seen this in my life and something about it felt so mystical.
We did quite a bit of hiking in our three days here, but it still didn’t feel like enough. Truly it would take a week to do all the trails. I’ve broken this post up into park details, just good things to know, and hikes where we sort of break down the hikes and give some reminders on what to bring along.
There is only one main area with electric sites (primitive sites also available). Spurs are a good length, but definitely only wide enough for one vehicle. The sites we were at were really large and had quite a bit of rural area down to the river (note: you cannot see the river from the sites). They have recently added really nice covers over the picnic areas.
Remember you must book campsites ahead of time and this is a popular park so they book up quickly. I’m pretty sure I booked these about 4 months in advance. You can book online through Texas State Parks System, just click here.
Flora and Fauna
We saw loads of interesting birds. You can hear coyotes nightly. We even spotted a juvenile during the day, two days in a row near our site. We also saw deer and turkey vultures. The leaf cutter ants are also very fun to watch.
BRING TWEEZERS! There are a lot of cacti in the camp sites and on the trails. Both Issa and I got stuck twice and we were being really careful. Trees are mostly low growing oak and juniper. Cypress trees grow near the river.
Floating, wading and fishing only here. The river is too low for paddle boarding, canoeing or kayaking. Do note weather changes quickly. If you see the water rising or turning muddy seek higher ground IMMEDIATELY. That said, go wade, go float! The river water is beautiful (more on this in the hikes section below).
Headquarters / Park Store
They are one in the same at Pedernales. The headquarters has odd hours and you’ll need a gate code to get in if you arrive during off hours (there are instructions on how to obtain a gate code at the gate). Items for sale are limited to simple souvenirs. The park host does sell wood and ice, which is a helpful bonus, but they also have very specific hours.
Absolutely no service at the campsites or in most of the park (we had both AT&T and Verizon Services, no luck with either). You’re in Texas hill country so count on service being spotty. We did have decent service at the top of the 5.5 Mile Loop Overlook.
We visited in early March. It was great weather during the day (mid 70s) and got cool at night (40s-50s). In my opinion this is perfect camping weather. I think it’s important to note again, if you start to see the water rising at the river, or it turning muddy, seek higher ground immediately. Weather can change quickly.
This is a stargazing paradise with a Bortle Scale rating of 4.5. The Bortle Scale rates a location by how well you can see celestial objects. It takes into account light pollution and sky glow. If you’re into stargazing, plan to do so here.
Trammell’s Crossing through part of the 5.5 Mile Loop to the Scenic Overlook Trail
(Total was about 4 miles in and out)
You will cross the river at Trammell’s Crossing, a low water crossing across rock. I highly recommend some kind of water shoes here, the water moves quickly in some areas and the rock is slippery. One of our group tried to go it with waterproof hiking boots and while it is certainly low water, it was too high for the hiking boots. We all have keens and use carabiners to connect them to our day packs before and after crossing. Remember to bring a small towel to dry off feet.
Historically Trammell’s Crossing (named for TJ Trammell, an early farmer and settler in the 1870s), was a major thoroughfare for horse drawn buggies.
The hike up to the Scenic Overlook is uphill, the first bit off the river is steep, but it levels out as you go. The trail is mostly shaded. We saw birds and load of different kinds of scat.
The overlook is worth the hike. According to my apple watch we did a 374 ft total elevation gain. It was incredibly peaceful at the top and the views are lovely.
On the way back we ended up hanging out at the crossing for quite a while. The kids had a great time checking out the low water areas, playing and seeing what small sticks would float down the river faster.
We did this hike with two 8 year olds. A break at the top for lunch and promises of play time in the water at the crossing on the way back aiding in curtailing any “how far” or “I’m tired” complaints.
Hiking poles, water shoes, drinking water, towel, sunscreen and snacks. As always, leave no trace.
Pedernales Falls Trail System
This is a short trail that leads you right to the falls. There’s a great overlook at the top of the trail which also has information plaques about the falls. The trail down to the falls is mostly rock stairs which empties onto a beach.
Once at the level of the falls, give yourself plenty of time to explore. The upper falls area is incredible with deep pools and powerful falls to see. The lower falls is smattered with boulders and caves and ledges carved out by the river over time. Pools among the rocks housed algae, tiny fish and huge tadpoles.
The kids LOVED this area. It was an easy hike down and lots of fun to explore. Several of the rock formations have great smooth areas which act like natural slides. Do note there is NO swimming or wading in this area for safety reasons. We climbed up the rock formations and boulders but there are plenty of fall risks here so caution with young kids. However, you can totally enjoy this area without doing all the additional exploration we chose to do.
Hiking poles, drinking water, sunscreen and snacks. Always remember, leave no trace.
The Swimming Area Trail
The Swimming Area Trail is a short 0.18 mile trail. There’s parking and bathrooms at the top, with outdoor showers for a rinse off when you are done at the river. I would like to note the entire trail is stone stairs down and stone stairs back up. Again, worth it.
We had the swimming area totally to ourselves for most of our time. There’s rapids and boulders and rocks and pools. It was WONDERFUL. We all found our own rocks to lay out on and each of us waded in the water now and again. I’d say the deepest it got was about 2.5 feet. The kids found a pool of freshwater clams and loads of cool stones. I highly recommend water shoes. The rocks are slippery and the areas with rapids are harder to traverse.
100% kid friendly and a must when visiting Pedernales Falls. Again, highly recommend water shoes and hiking poles are handy too. Please keep an eye on your kiddos, remember drowning can happen in the tiniest amount of water.
Bathing suit, hiking poles, water shoes, drinking water, towel, sunscreen and snacks. Remember, leave no trace.
Twin Falls Nature Trail
My mom took the kids on this hike. It’s a short 0.5 mile loop trail has a 95-foot elevation gain. It’s labeled as a nature trail “one of the most beautiful spots in the hill country” the trails map claimed. The train was narrow and somewhat rocky at times. With more water the overlook to the twin falls would have probably been more majestic. A late (and harsh) winter in Texas also meant most of proclaimed greenery was still in a winterized state. Still, this trail was an excellent one for eight-year-olds with energy.
100% kid friendly short and pretty trail.
Hiking poles, drinking water, and snacks. Remember, leave no trace.
Final Thoughts About Pedernales State Park
Pedernales Falls has easily made it into my top 10 of the state parks we’ve visited. I’m a sucker for a good body of water and giant boulders though. We will definitely revisit.
For more information about Pedernales State Park visit the official website at https://tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls