Pedernales Falls State Park: The Complete Guide

View of the Texas Pedernales River from a High Bluff, with Fall Foliage.
Richard McMillin / Getty Images
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Pedernales Falls State Park

Address
2585 Park Rd 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636, USA
Phone +1 830-868-7304

Just an hour outside of Austin, Pedernales Falls State Park offers a fantastic look at the best of the Texas Hill Country scenery: a crystal-clear river, limestone rock formations, a series of beautiful waterfalls and pools, lush greenery, and old-growth cypress trees that tower over all. There are also multiple trails for hikers, mountain bikers, and horseback riders to explore, and visitors can opt to camp or just hang out for the day. Read on to find out more about how to visit, as well as the best things to do and see at Pedernales Falls. 

Things to Do

What you do at Pedernales largely depends on what time of year you plan to visit, although considering how temperate the Central Texas climate is, swimming, canoeing, and kayaking are possible for much of the year. The unusual rock formations and waterfalls are the most distinctive features of the park, and most visitors opt to simply walk around the natural pools and picnic by the main falls (which are just a short walk from the parking lot). 

Hikers and bikers will love exploring the variety of trails here, too (covered below). And, both the North Loop Equestrian Train and South Loop Equestrian Trail are designed for horseback riders. The former is an easy 3-mile walk to the seasonal Duck Pond, while the latter is a steep 11.40-mile trail over rugged landscape.

Water Sports

Swimming and fishing are two of the main activities at Pedernales. While the park prohibits swimming and wading in the Pedernales Falls area (the main falls area), consult the trail map to see the designated swimming area (marked Swimming Area Trail). You can also tube, canoe, or kayak the river, although there are no put-ins or take-outs allowed in the Pedernales Falls area. Instead, you can put in at the swimming area or Trammell’s Crossing trail. 

Best Hikes and Trails

There are plenty of opportunities for hiking, biking, and horseback riding in the park, with hiking trails that range from a half-mile to nearly 10 miles (while other routes are specifically for mountain bikers and horses). The best trails to check out are:

  • Twin Falls Nature Trail: This easy, 5-mile trail has a scenic overlook over the Twin Falls. 
  • Madrone Trail: A moderate hike, this trail is named for the many madrone trees found along the trail. 
  • 5.5-Mile Loop Trail: Take Trammell’s Crossing across the river (prepare to get your feet wet) to access a part of the park that most visitors never see.
  • Wolf Mountain Trail: A challenging, 5.8-mile trail that wraps around Tobacco and Wolf mountains, Wolf Mountain offers stunning views of the Pedernales River valley. 
  • Juniper Ridge Trail: If you’re up for a longer, semi-strenuous hike, the 9.7-mile Juniper Ridge Trail is frequented by both mountain bikers and long-distance hikers.   

Where to Camp

Camping at Pedernales is simple and straightforward: There are 69 sites with water and electricity, and a smattering of primitive campsites—note that it’s a two-mile hike, minimum, to the primitive sites. You can check campsite availability and make reservations online (which you should do as far ahead in advance as possible, to ensure that you get a site).     

Where to Stay Nearby

The closest town is Johnson City, where you’ll find one modest lodging option—a Best Western—and one more upscale option, Carter Creek Winery Resort & Spa

Aside from that, the surrounding Hill Country is replete with adorable cottages, elegant glamping, and other unique lodging options. A few of our favorites include Lucky Arrow Retreat (you can opt for a luxury cabin or yurt), Havenwald (a “storybook”-style tiny house), and Cypress Valley, where guests can stay in a beautifully appointed treehouse in a forest of towering cypresses.    

How to Get There

Pedernales Falls State Park is located at 2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636. From Austin, get on TX-1 Loop S (locals call this highway Mopac) and follow it to US-290 W. Drive along 290-W for just over 30 miles, until you reach Ranch Rd 3232 N. From there, it’s a short drive to Park Road 6026 and the park entrance.  

Accessibility 

The restrooms at the Headquarters, the scenic overlook trailhead parking area, picnic area, and the showers in the campground are all wheelchair-accessible. Trails to the river are rough and not accessible. While the drive-up campsites aren’t technically accessible, there are some sites that have a layout that’s easier for wheelchairs to navigate. It’s recommended that you contact the park directly to check on the most wheelchair-friendly site; call the Reservation Center at 512-389-8900 to reserve an accessible site.

Tips for Visiting 

  • Reservations for Pedernales Falls are highly recommended for both camping and day use, as the (very popular) park often reaches capacity. Reserve your passes online in advance to guarantee entrance.  
  • If you plan to visit multiple Texas state parks in one year, you may want to consider getting a Texas State Parks Pass, which is good for one year and includes unlimited free entry to 89 state parks for you and your guests.
  • Check out a trail map to orient yourself and plan your hikes before you go.  
  • Pay strict attention to any posted “no swimming” signs and only swim in areas of the park where it’s permitted. 
  • After a day of exploring Pedernales, plan to spend (at least) a couple of hours at Jester King Brewery, enjoying delicious pizza and farmhouse ales in a picturesque setting. The one-two punch of Pedernales and Jester King makes for one of the best Hill Country day trip itineraries. 
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Pedernales Falls State Park: The Complete Guide