Saturday, May 6, 2017

Pedernales Falls State Park - Johnson City, Texas

Pedernales Falls State Park is a great location for many types of recreation.  You can view the waterfall, hike on the many trails, swim or tube in the river, and camp at one of the many campsites.

Location: 2585 Park Road 6026 Johnson City, Texas.  The park is 40 miles west of Austin.

Cost: $6 for anyone over 12.  Free for anyone younger than 12.  Camping is $20 for the regular sites with water and electric hookups.  Or $10 for the primitive sites that you can reach via a two mile hike.

Operating Seasons and Hours: Open every day from dawn to dusk.  Be aware, the park will close if it fills up with too many visitors.

Official Website:

Date of Visit: Monday, October 14, 2013

This is part of my list of Texas Hill County Day Trip Ideas.

One reason my family likes to go on so many day trips and road trips is because we aren't very good at just hanging around the house. After too many weekends home we start to get a little stir crazy. Everyone gets cranky and annoyed with each other. We've found that sometimes it's almost more work to stay home than it is to prep for a long day away from home.

That's why, even though I'd had my fourth baby just a few weeks earlier, I knew that my family had to go somewhere for Columbus Day in 2013.  

Somewhere ended up being the Sweet Berry Farm in Marble Falls which is about any hour southwest of Fort Hood.  We went there to pick out a Halloween Pumpkin.  

We still had plenty of time and energy after we finished up at the farm so we decided to keep exploring the area.  I knew we were close to a state park that had one of the waterfalls that I'd wanted to visit. I did a quick check of the map and found that we were in fact about 30 miles from Pedernales Falls State Park. So we drove south to Johnson City and then east to the falls.  

After paying the entrance fee we drove to the parking lot near the wide trail that led to the falls.  Our children we excited to go for a hike. I remember my son walking most of the way, but here's photographic proof that I did carry him at some point.  And yes that is my newborn strapped to my chest.
The hike to the first overlook was barely a .10 of a mile. The view of the falls was pretty, but I was kind of expecting the falls to have a steeper drop off. They were more like cascades.

Then we decided to get daring and take the kids closer to the water. That sounds kind of silly in retrospect, but you have to remember this was one of our first family outings with four children.  And the twins hadn't even turned three years old yet.  Taking two 2 year olds, one 18 month old, and a newborn anywhere was a huge accomplishment.  We had to take them down lots of steps so this was extra precarious. The twins did well on their own, but my son held my hand the whole way down.
We never made it to the water. We ended up on another cliff. I wasn't comfortable taking the kids farther. The area was closed to swimming because the current was so swift. And despite my husband's reassurances that we'd watch the kids really closely, I knew that they would want to touch the water if we got close. So we didn't go any farther.
Here's the view of down the river.
We set our camera up on a ledge and used the timer to take an awesome family photo. Ever since the new baby was born I'd been trying to take a family picture.  Most of our attempts just highlighted how tired I was.  But this one finally worked out.  I knew if we tried enough we'd finally get a picture where I was happy with how I looked.  This ended up being the picture for our Christmas Card.
In addition to the scenic overlook and the hiking trails there was a swimming area farther down river.  And tubing was allowed down there as well.  Since we hadn't planned on coming here we didn't have any of our swimming stuff.  

We'd talked about taking the kids to the swimming area of the river and just go wading. But it looked like we'd have to go down (and then back up) more stairs. My energy levels were starting to wear down, and the idea didn't sound very fun. Plus we had less than an hour of daylight left. 

Instead we found a picnic area and had a picnic dinner.  It had been a wonderful fall day, and was much better than hanging around at home for another day.  

Recommendation: Pedernales Falls State Park is a great place to really see the Texas Hill Country.  I would have loved to come back here in the summer time to swim in the river on a hot day.  Camping in the park would also have been fun.

Directions: The park is pretty easy to find. If you are travelling from Johnson City just drive east on FM 2766 for 9 miles. If you are travelling from Austin travel west on Highway 290 for 32 miles and then north on FM 3232 for 6 miles.

Places Nearby: The Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park is located west of Johnson City and is only 26 miles from Pedernales Fall State Park.  The city and the national historic park contain many landmarks that were important in the life of the 36th President of the United States.

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I would love to hear what you think. Did I get it right, or was I dead wrong? What was your experience like?


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