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Pedernales Falls State Park Guide — Hiking, Paddling, and More 

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Amar Hussain

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Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications incl...
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Pedernales Falls State Park is known for its stunning natural beauty, with the Pedernales River cascading over massive slabs of limestone, creating picturesque waterfalls and pools. Visitors can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, such as hiking along the scenic trails, swimming in the river, camping under the night sky, and picnicking while viewing the beautiful surroundings.

How To Get to Pedernales Falls State Park

Where Is Pedernales Falls State Park?

Pedernales Falls State Park is in Johnson City, Texas, about an hour from Austin, Texas. It covers 5,200 acres of mountain landscapes, rivers, creeks, and canyons. 

Pedernales Falls State Park Opening Hours and Seasons

Pedernales Falls State Park is open every day of the year from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. You can visit the park office between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. daily. Due to its popularity, it’s recommended to make reservations in advance to ensure you can enjoy your time without any hassle.

Nearest Airport to Pedernales Falls State Park

The nearest major airport to the park is the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport (AUS), approximately 45 miles away. AUS offers nonstop flights to numerous destinations worldwide and is served by many well-known airlines, such as American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United.

Driving to Pedernales Falls State Park        

Driving to the park is a wonderful way to experience the beauty of Texas. The park can be reached by traveling 9 miles east of Johnson City on FM 2766. Alternatively, you can reach the park by traveling west of Austin for 32 miles on U.S. Highway 290 and then take FM 3232 north for 6 miles.

Taking the Train to Pedernales Falls State Park

Taking the train can be a great way to enjoy the journey to Pedernales Falls State Park. Although there is no direct service to the park, you can take an Amtrak train to Austin. From the Austin station, it’s about an hour’s drive to the park. You can easily arrange a rental car or ride-share service to complete your journey.

Taking the Bus to Pedernales Falls State Park

There is no bus service directly to Pedernales Falls State Park, but you can get pretty close. Greyhound offers service to Austin, which is about 43 miles from the park. Once you get to the bus station in Austin, you can arrange for a ride-share service or rental car to get you the rest of the way to the park.

Getting Around Pedernales Falls State Park

The best way to get around Pedernales Falls State Park is to use a combination of driving and walking. The park has several parking areas that allow visitors to park their vehicles and explore the various trails and sites on foot. The park also provides a detailed map to help visitors plan their itinerary and get a better sense of the park’s layout.

What To See and Do in Pedernales Falls State Park

Pedernales Falls State Park offers a wide range of activities for visitors to enjoy. Whether you like hiking, biking, paddling down the river, horseback riding, or participating in informative programs, there is something for everyone to enjoy at this Texas park.

Hiking and Biking

Hiking trail at Pedernales Falls State Park, Texas
Image Credit: BrigitteT via Adobe Stock

Pedernales Falls State Park has over 40 miles of trails that are perfect for hikers, bikers, and horseback riders. With varying levels of difficulty and distance, there is a trail for everyone, regardless of skill level. You can explore trails like the Hackenburg Loop, Twin Falls Nature Trail, Pedernales Falls Trail System, and Wolf Mountain Loop.

These trails showcase many points of interest, such as Pedernales Falls, Jones Spring, and the Star Theater. You’ll also get the chance to see the unique wildlife and plant species that call this park home.

Hot Tip:

To help plan your adventure, the park provides a printable and interactive trail map.

Horseback Riding

Exploring the park on horseback is a magnificent way to interact with and explore the park. The park features a 10-mile, rugged trail that winds through it. This trail is rocky with steep slopes, which is ideal for experienced riders. It is important to note that the park does not provide horses, so you must bring your own and present a current Coggins riding-test certificate at the park office.

Paddling

Pedernales Falls State Park Paddling
Image Credit: Trac Vu via Unsplash

The river provides an ideal location for canoeing, kayaking, or tubing. You can access the river either at the swimming area or at Trammell’s Crossing Trail. It’s advisable to stay updated with the current conditions, as the water level can be too low or flooded at times. You can contact the park office before your visit or check its Facebook page to ensure that you can enjoy this activity. The park’s scenery is breathtaking, and it’s a fantastic experience to take in while paddling down the river.

Ranger Programs

Pedernales Falls State Park offers a variety of programs for visitors of all ages. Some of the most popular events include prehistoric hunting demonstrations, wildlife discussions, fishing and birding with rangers, and night sky viewing events. Junior Ranger programs are available for the youngest park visitors. Kids can borrow packs that come with nature exploration tools.

Hot Tip:

By completing a certain number of activities from the park’s activity journal, kids can earn a Junior Ranger badge.

Swimming

There is a designated swimming area at the park, which is the perfect way to beat the heat in Texas. To get to the swimming area, you need to hike a quarter of a mile, which can be challenging, as it includes steep, rocky stairs without handrails. If you are up for the hike, you will be rewarded with refreshing, cool river water. The river is surrounded by beautiful cypress trees.

Best Times To Visit Pedernales Falls State Park

This park is open year-round and provides incredible experiences no matter when you visit. Certain times of the year are better than others, especially if you hope to participate in particular events or activities.

Best Time To Visit Pedernales Falls State Park for Ideal Weather

Pedernales Falls State Park for Ideal Weather
Image Credit: Kyle Vena via Unsplash

Weather can make or break a vacation. The ideal time to visit this park is in April, as the weather is usually perfect during this month. The temperature ranges from the low 50s to the upper 70s, and it is one of the driest months of the year, with an average of only 4 days of rain.

Best Time To Visit Pedernales Falls State Park To Avoid the Crowds

Many visitors desire to visit the park when it is least crowded. The best time to visit this park to avoid crowds is in November. This is when the park and city are least busy, allowing you to explore the park at your own pace without the stress of long lines, heavy traffic, and congested areas.

Best Time To Visit Pedernales Falls State Park for Fall Foliage

The fall foliage at Pedernales Falls State Park is a breathtaking sight. During this season, the leaves transform into vibrant hues of crimson, gold, and orange. November is one of the best months to visit the park because it is relatively less crowded and the fall colors are truly mesmerizing.

Cheapest Time To Visit Pedernales Falls State Park

Saving money while traveling may seem difficult, but it is possible with a little research and planning. The best time to do so is from mid- to late September. During this time, flights and accommodations are cheaper than any other time of the year, which could potentially save you hundreds of dollars in travel expenses.

Annual Events in Pedernales Falls State Park

This park hosts a variety of programs and events regularly, such as scavenger hunts, wildlife talks, and hunting demonstrations. There are no annual events at this time.

Where To Stay in Pedernales Falls State Park

There are plenty of accommodation options available for visitors to Pedernales Falls State Park, both within the park itself and in the nearby towns. Whatever your preferences may be, you can find the perfect lodging to suit your travel needs.

Inside the Park

Pedernales Falls State Park Camping
Image Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

Pedernales Falls State Park offers visitors a chance to camp in the great outdoors, as this is the only lodging within the park. With nearly 70 campsites available for both tent campers and RVs, visitors have plenty to choose from. Each campsite comes with electricity, water hookups, and nearby bathhouses with showers, as well as picnic tables and fire rings with grills.

For those who enjoy a more primitive camping experience, there are also backcountry campsites available. Camping at the park provides an excellent opportunity to fully immerse yourself in the natural beauty of the park.

Towns Near Pedernales Falls State Park

When planning a trip, one of the first decisions to make is choosing the right accommodation. Numerous options are available for a comfortable stay near Pedernales Falls State Park.

Dripping Springs, Texas

Dripping Springs is only 18 miles from Pedernales Falls State Park. It is a great place to stay for visitors who are seeking traditional lodging near the park. This town is known as the Gateway to the Hill Country and offers numerous options for lodging, restaurants, and recreation.

Visitors can choose from several hotels, motels, bed and breakfasts, cabins, and RV parks. The dining scene in Dripping Springs is a paradise for foodies, with a variety of family-friendly and farm-to-table restaurants.

Bottom Line:

The town’s location is perfect for tourists who want to explore natural wonders, visit historic landmarks, and go shopping in unique boutiques.

Johnson City, Texas

Johnson City is the nearest town to Pedernales Falls State Park, making it the perfect location for your visit. The town boasts a range of resorts, inns, and hotels, and the dining scene is a treat for food enthusiasts, with several locally owned restaurants offering delicious fare.

Whether you prefer outdoor adventures like hiking, biking, and wildlife viewing or indoor activities such as exploring historical museums and landmarks, Johnson City is ideally located for both.

Where To Eat in Pedernales Falls State Park

There are no dining facilities within the park’s boundaries, but several choices are just a short drive down the road. Regardless of what you crave, the towns surrounding the park offer plenty of restaurants to keep you energized.

Pedernales Falls Trading Post

One of the best and closest places to eat near the park is Pedernales Falls Trading Post. It takes about 6 minutes to get there by car. This restaurant offers a menu featuring grilled and smoked meats, gourmet burgers, homestyle chili, and barbecue pulled pork.

It has craft beer on tap and serves a variety of local brews, domestic and imported, as well as a nice selection of wine. There’s live music by local artists, outdoor seating, and incredible hospitality.

Proof and Cooper at the Lumberyard

Proof and Cooper at the Lumberyard is one of the top-rated restaurants in Johnson City. It is 12 miles from the park and is the perfect place to grab a bite after a day of exploring. This restaurant serves elevated picnic fare, including crispy fried chicken, juicy homemade burgers, smoked meats, and delicious side items.

Its impressive drink menu features Texas beers and craft cocktails. This restaurant also regularly hosts live music, making it the perfect place to unwind and refuel during your visit to this area of Texas.

Pedernales Falls State Park Facts

Pedernales Falls State Park
Image Credit: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department

1. A New State Park Established

Texas acquired the land that makes up this park from private owners in 1970. In 1971, the park was opened to the public.

2. Early Times at the Park

From 1870 to the early 1880s, the land was used for ranching and farming, and a small community grew throughout it. There were roads, a church, a cemetery, and a school in the small town. However, this community was uprooted by death, economic hardships, and drought by the mid-1890s.

3. Previous Owners of the Park’s Land

In the early 1900s, a wealthy rancher named John B. Wenmohs bought most of the land that now belongs to the park. He used the land to raise livestock. In 1937, the land was purchased by Charles and Harriet Wheatley, who devoted their lives to preserving its natural state while also continuing ranching. They eventually established a ranch here and named it the Circle Bar.

4. Safe Haven

A variety of animals call this park home, providing a safe haven for the endangered golden-cheeked warblers that arrive in mid-March to nest.

5. Ancient Limestone

The limestone along the Pedernales River in Pedernales Falls State Park is 300 million years old and is part of the southwestern flank of the Llano uplift, as well as the Marble Falls formation.

Final Thoughts

There’s so much to see and do at Pedernales Falls State Park. This beautiful state park attracts over 200,000 visitors each year who come to discover the natural beauty and wonder of this part of Texas. From hiking to birdwatching and interpretive programs to paddling the river, there’s something for everyone to enjoy.

Frequently Asked Questions

How much does it cost to visit Pedernales Falls State Park?

The fee for visiting Pedernales Falls State Park is $6 per day for anyone 13 and older. Children 12 and under may enter the park at no cost.

How much time should I spend at Pedernales Falls State Park?

It is recommended that you spend half a day to a full day exploring this beautiful park. This will give you plenty of time to hike and see the highlights of the park.

What are some attractions I should check out near Pedernales Falls State Park?

There are several popular tourist attractions near Pedernales Falls State Park. Some major points of interest include the Science Mill, Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park, and the Exotic Resort Zoo.

Can I bring my dog to Pedernales Falls State Park?

Dogs are welcome at the park as long as they are leashed and cleaned up after at all times. The falls are very slippery, and pet owners are advised to use caution when bringing their pets to the area.

Amar Hussain's image

About Amar Hussain

Amar is an avid traveler and tester of products. He has spent the last 13 years traveling all 7 continents and has put the products to the test on each of them. He has contributed to publications including Forbes, the Huffington Post, and more.

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