The river drops about 50 feet over a distance of 3,000 feet. When the flow is slower, it reveals a field of limestone stair steps strewn with boulders, small caves and etched rock, ripe for climbing and exploration. The underlying rock is about 300 million years old.
Pools of water stranded in the rocks and refreshed by rainfall can become their own small ecosystems, with plants, algae, insects, small fish and crustaceans.
A web of short trails begins near the falls and follows the river to its rocky upstream landscape and its more meandering downstream mix of sand-and-pebble beaches and lush cypress trees. At the top of the trail are several overlooks that enable you to take in the entire landscape.
But the falls are just a small part of the 5,200 acres of Pedernales State Park, which are home to more than 20 miles of trails that climb into the oak and juniper woodlands and denser forest of the surrounding hill country.
- Twin Falls Nature Trail (0.25 mile) is a short, mildly steep hike down to a small spring that creates a lush green oasis in the middle of the forest as it drips over moss and ferns.
- Equestrian Trail (16 miles) follows the west side of the park its entire length from north to south and breaks down into a series of loops, enabling riders and hikers to customize the length of their trip.
- Wolf Mountain Trail (7.5 miles) crosses a variety of terrain, from rocky scrub and dense woodlands to steep canyon walls overlooking the valleys along the river. The trail crosses Bee, Mescal and Tobacco Creeks and grazes some of the quiet springs that drip into them. The trail is a “lollipop” loop with another short loop within it that encircles Wolf Mountain. Much, but not all of the trail is a rough jeep road.
- 5.5-Mile Loop Trail explores the less crowded east side of the Pedernales and requires fording the river if it isn’t too high. The trail offers solitude, but much less shade than the trails on the other side of the river.
Pedernales Falls – only 14 miles from downtown Austin – is home to more than 150 species of birds, including Roadrunners, Wild Turkey, Bald Eagles and the endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler, a spring migrant to the park.