Get Outside: Pedernales Falls State Park

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By Kaitlyn Benacquisto
Assistant Web Content Manager

Pedernales Falls State Park, ten miles east of Johnson City, Texas, is one of the state parks closer to Texas State. The river access, as well as hiking opportunities, make it great to visit year-round.

Directions and time from San Marcos to Pedernales Falls State Park
Directions to Pedernales Falls State Park Screenshot via Google Maps

Pedernales Falls has a $6 entrance fee per person, which is a price well worth it for the abundance of sights within the park’s limits. There are almost 70 campsites with electricity for $20 a night and primitive sites for $10 a night. The primitive sites are a two-mile hike from the area where you can park. The Pedernales Falls are the parks namesake and main attraction; you can’t swim in them, but you are able to swim and tube in the Pedernales River downstream from the falls. There are over 15 miles of hiking and biking trails with diverse wildlife, including over 150 species of birds.

I camped at one of the primitive sites at Pedernales during winter break. I went with my brothers and a friend at the spur of a moment, so we didn’t plan too well. Firstly, we knew there’d be a little hike to our campsite, but not a two-mile hike. It was freezing cold, and we lost the bag to our big tent, so it’s just in a big cardboard box; the trek to our site was a long one, to say the least. Someone carried the big, heavy box with the tent atop their head, and we all were draped in fleece blankets and holding items at random. At least we stayed warm.

A screenshot of the map of TX showing the location of Pedernales Falls State Park.
Location of Pedernales Falls State Park Screenshot via Google Maps

The primitive camping area is really neat, and, I am happy to say, worth the two-mile hike carrying all your gear. There was a small river (perhaps closer to a stream) a few yards behind where we set up at, which was fun to explore. There were also a lot of trees to set up hammocks, which would possibly be a better sleeping idea if you don’t have the proper backpack or equipment to haul a tent two miles. All the trails also connect to the one you have to take to get to the primitive camping area, so once we got all set up, we spent the rest of the day hiking and exploring.

The next day, we drove to the part of the park with Pedernales Falls. It was pretty miserable weather– rather cold and the clouds hinting at rain– which allowed us to have the place nearly to ourselves. It is a beautiful landscape. After hopping around from rock to rock for a while, we enjoyed just sitting there and taking everything in: the falls, the giant limestone slabs, the goats meandering on the cliffs to the side. It was a serene experience.

Park Map

Before leaving, we also drove to Twin Falls and did the short hike to the scenic overlook to view them. You can’t swim here, but the falls are still a sight to see. The waterfall itself is small and not overly impressive, but the water and landscape itself are what makes the Twin Falls worth seeing. The trail is accessible between campsites 19 and 21.

Pedernales Falls State Park has a lot to offer, especially considering its proximity and affordability. It gets really busy during the weekends as it gets warmer outside, so plan ahead. You can make reservations for day-use here so you are guaranteed entry in case the park fills up.

Featured Illustration by Gabrielle Hardy

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