Enchanted Rock State Natural Area, near Llano, is one of the best places for stargazing in the Hill Country – you’re even likely to see the Milky Way! The park offers a variety of stargazing events lead by its naturalists. It’s less than a half hour drive from Mustard Seed Bed and Breakfast on the Llano.
Enchanted Rock is an International Dark Sky Park, where levels of light pollution are low, and the park’s nighttime lighting has been minimized. The Enchanted Rock website posts the readings of its Sky quality meter, indicating the darkness of the sky above the park, every 15 minutes during the night. The website also includes star maps sun and moon data, a Clear Sky Chart forecasting sky conditions, and a light pollution map for central Texas.
Enchanted Rock regularly offers stargazing events. Note that all of them are weather dependent. Visit the park’s events list on their website for specific dates and times, and the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area Trails Map for trail information and points of interest. EarthSky’s Top 10 Tips for Super Stargazers by Deborah Bond offer great suggestions for stargazing.The park’s stargazing events include:
A park ranger provides guidance for bare eye stargazing (cameras and telescopes are welcome). Participants identify constellations and specific stars and learn about both scientific facts and the many myths and legends associated with the stars. The 1.5 hour program does not require any hiking. It begins at 8:30 pm and is held at the Lower Parking Lot. Participants are requested to bring appropriate clothing and a flashlight (preferable with a red lens). Bringing a lawn chair is optional.
Stories in the Stars
Join a park ranger to learn some of the stories linked to well-known constellations while bare eye stargazing. The location, duration, and requirements are the same as those for Stargazing 101. There is no hiking and cameras and telescopes are welcome.
Sun & Stars Hike
This ranger led hike follows the Summit Trail to the top of Enchanted Rock to watch the sunset followed by opportunities for bare eye stargazing. The Summit Trail is the most challenging hike in the park, with an elevation gain of 425 feet and a round trip of 1.5 miles. The Sun & Stars Hike departs from the gazebo at 7:00 pm and lasts 2.5 hours. Participants should wear walking shoes/hiking boots, bring sufficient water and a flashlight (preferably with a red light option).
Full Moon Hike
Participants hike up the Summit Trail to the top of Enchanted Rock under the light of the full moon. A Park Ranger leads this difficult 1.5 mile hike that requires climbing 425 feet in elevation. The Full Moon Hike departs at the gazebo at 8:30 pm and lasts for 2 hours. The requirements for clothing and supplies are the same as for the Sun and Stars Hike.
“The stars at night are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas”, so plan to come to Llano and visit Enchanted Rock State Natural Area soon. Our B&B is located just one block from downtown Llano, with its historic Lantex Theatre, restaurants, a wine bar, coffee bar, art galleries, and shopping. Each of our three unique guest rooms includes a private bath, Wi-Fi, flat-screen TV and cable, a patio, and a kitchenette, perfect for an “Enchanting” Hill Country vacation under the stars.
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area
Enchanted Rock offers many other ranger lead programs including nature walks and birding programs.
Location: 16710 Ranch Rd. 965, Fredericksburg, TX Phone: (830) 685-3636
Park Hours: 8:00 am – 10:00 pm daily. Gate is closed from 10 pm – 6:30 am.
Admission: $7.00 per person; children 12 and under free. Entry is free with a Texas State Parks Pass.
NOTE: The park closes when it reaches capacity; there are high volumes of visitors on weekends, holidays and school vacations.
“Save the Day” passes may be purchased up to 30 days before a visit with the new state parks reservation system. Passes may only be available online during busy times.
Photo of Milky Way by Denis Degioanni on UnSplash