Many parts of Central Texas have seen tremendous growth since the 1980s, and that growth has permanently changed the landscape. But this stretch of the Pedernales River is immune to this change, as the Legislature wisely bought this sliver of land in 1970. Before that, the water-over limestone Pedernales River was part of a sprawling ranch. So, this part of Central Texas has always been immune from development. Because of all this, visitors flock to Pedernales Falls State Park to experience a slice of Central Texas life as it was back in the halcyon Willie Nelson days.
The calm, flowing water would be more than enough reason to park your rig here for a day or a weekend or even longer. But there are many other things to do at Pedernales Falls State Park--we've highlighted a few favorite activities below. That’s just a sample though, as there are many other ways to unplug and get back to nature here.
A quick word of caution here. The National Weather Service has a flash flood motto: “Turn around; don’t drown.” The poetry is not exactly Shakespearean, but it is very accurate. Most of the time, the Pedernales is not much more than a meandering stream. But any heavy rain anywhere nearby can literally turn the river into a raging torrent in just a matter of minutes. If the water rises or becomes muddy, leave the area immediately. We are not fooling around. Drowning fatalities along the Pedernales River are rare, but they do happen.
RV Rentals in Pedernales Falls State Park
Transportation in Pedernales Falls State Park
From Austin, take Ben White Road (Highway 290) west to Cedar Valley. Then, take Fitzhugh Road (Highway 101) west until it becomes Pedernales Falls Road (Highway 201). Consider making a pit stop at the Jester King Brewery in Long Branch Valley. Be sure and designate a driver. When you’re back on the road and you arrive at the Trading Post, take Park Road 6026 north into the Park.
There’s a back way as well. From Johnson City, take Robinson Road (Highway 2766) east until you reach the Trading Post. That’s right at the Highway 3232 cutoff.
For a GPS address, use 2585 Park Road 6026, Johnson City, TX 78636. Don’t ask us why the address is Johnson City when that town is about ten miles away. If you need GPS coordinates, use 30°18'00.0"N 98°14'30.0"W.
This part of Central Texas alternates between rather hilly and rather flat. As one might expect, there is considerable RV parking in the flatter areas. One parking area is near the equestrian group camp on the east side of the Park. There’s another parking area near park headquarters and the main hiking/biking trails. Large vehicle parking is also available near Pedernales Falls, the Pedernales River beach area, and the primitive camping area.
Campgrounds and parking in Pedernales Falls State Park
Campsites in Pedernales Falls State Park
RV Camping Area
The Park’s RV camping area has 69 water and electric sites, two restroom/shower areas, a dump station, and several parking areas. There’s a scenic overlook between Sites 19 and 21.
Equestrian Group Camp
The Park’s main horseback facility is located between Lone Mountain and Butler Mountain just off Pedernales Falls Road. Major equestrian trails include the 10.6-mile South Equestrian Loop Trail and 8.9-mile Juniper Ridge Trail.
To reach he primitive camping area, take the .3-mile Ranch Road trail from the Twin Falls Overlook. The camping area is along the River between Mescal Creek and Tobacco Creek. Camping is permitted in the bluffs overlooking the River, but not next to the River itself. Pets are allowed, but cannot be kept there overnight. Camp facilities include a pit toilet. No fires are permitted, but you probably will not need one anyway.
Youth Camp Area
This group camp site is in an isolated part of the Park. It is also quite large, so it’s ideal for large or medium-sized groups. A short hiking trail goes to the River and back.
Seasonal activities in Pedernales Falls State Park
The shallow Pedernales River is ideal for swimming, wading, tubing, fishing, rafting, and other low-key aquatic activities. Swimming is allowed in the beach area, which is between Trammell Crossing and the youth camping area. This part of the Pedernales is a little wider and deeper than other parts. The wider part of the River is to the east; the narrow part is to the west. Since it runs over rock, the water gets pretty warm in the summer and pretty cool in the spring and autumn.
It’s a long hike over a trail that will get your feet wet, as the trail crosses the river. But the 5.5-mile trek is normally worth the effort, because this overlook is a great place for both nature watching and people watching. As mentioned, the river meanders through solid rock. This part of the Park is also where tubing and other water activities are allowed.
A 2.6-mile equestrian loop trail takes visitors from a parking area to the Duck Pond and back. You might not see any ducks there, but you probably will see some deer and other wildlife. They often come to this remote area of the Park to drink. The horseback trail is generally wide and well-marked.
After you ooh and awe at the Falls, take the short hike to one of the highest points in the Park. From the Headquarters Overlook, visitors get a good view of both the river and the hiking trails. So, this overlook is a good place to plan your stay.
This one is a no-brainer. If you go to Pedernales Falls State Park and do not see the falls, you risk deportation to Oklahoma. A one-mile loop trail runs from the parking area, where there are also restroom facilities, to the scenic overlook. Those who are in a hurry can take a trail cutoff. From the overlook, it’s easy to see how the river cut through limestone over time and carved a canyon. The falls are not exactly Victoria Falls, but they are pretty nice. The Texas Parks and Wildlife department ranks the trails as “moderate.” You need some experience and some hiking boots for this trail.
The .75-mile Wheatley Trail loops to Jones Spring and back. The first prehistoric inhabitants found this clear water spring, and people ever since then have come to this place and relied on its refreshing water. You can still see part of Nannie and D.J. Jones’ rock house, which they purchased from the Trammells in 1885.
Bird Blind & Butterfly Garden
If the weather is a little uncooperative, spend some time at this spot. It highlights local species of flora, fauna, and wildlife. There’s also an equestrian area nearby.
Warfle’s Trail & Geocaching
We grouped these two activities because this .37-mile easy trail is great for kids. Texas Parks & Wildlife (TPW) "easy" trails are basically unpaved sidewalks. Warfle’s Trail follows a creek bed, so it’s a great place to look for animal footprints. Geocaching is lots of fun as well. Use your GPS-enabled device to find buried treasure. The treasure is usually a small box with a little geocache swag, like a pencil eraser. Uncover the treasure, replace the item with a new one, sign the logbook, give yourself a smart device smiley face, then go to the next location.
Twin Falls Overlook
To see something other than rock, take the short yet rugged Twin Falls Nature Trail to the Twin Falls Overlook. Many people say this green, spring-fed area is one of the most beautiful spots in Central Texas, and that is high praise indeed. The scenic overlook is pretty nice too, as it is right next to a U-shaped curve in the Pedernales River. This area is environmentally sensitive, so please stay on the trail and stay out of the closed-off areas.
This low-water crossing is the primary gateway from the developed south side of the Park to the largely-undeveloped north side. T.J. Trammell was once of the first white settlers in this area. He arrived with his family in the early 1870s.