Exertion, calculation, courage achievement — rock climbing packs an exhilarating cocktail of mental and emotional states. Texas, known for its diverse landscape,serves that cocktail like few other places can.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department offers these suggestions. Each park or natural area has more information including possible restrictions.
ENCHANTED ROCK STATE NATURAL AREA
The massive pink granite dome rising above Central Texas has drawn people for thousands of years. But there’s more at
Enchanted Rock State Natural Area (16710 Ranch Road 965 Fredericksburg) than just the dome. The scenery, rock formations and legends are magical, too!
Rock climbing and bouldering are two of the many popular activities at Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in the Texas Hill Country. Enchanted Rock is the only extensive granite formation in the state, and offers steep granite slabs for face climbing, 30 foot cracks and numerous bouldering routes.
For strong boulderers, the best way to tour Enchanted Rock is without a rope. Most of the best routes are moderate highballs in the V1-V3 range, while many harder routes are also available.
Enchanted rock is the second largest monolithic dome in the country, and
is actually home to two domes surrounded by a few smaller outcrops. The park has a large variety of high quality granite routes, with the largest concentration of long bolted routes on the backside of the main dome.
At the end of Echo Canyon, the Motorboat Rock and Lunch Rock area is ideal for beginners, and is often busy with guided rock climbs and beginning climbers. Turkey Peak is also home to a small collection of routes, which are different than other routes in the park due to the incut nature of the granite.
Be sure to read Enchanted Rock’s climbing guidelines before venturing out on a climb, as there are restrictions for the type of gear and bolts climbers may use in the park. Visitors can camp at Enchanted Rock’s campgrounds, which has facilities including tent pads, showers, a pavilion, fire rings, picnic tables and grills.
FRANLKIN MOUNTAINS STATE PARK
Located in El Paso, Franklin Mountains State Park is an ideal West Texas rock climbing destination, and offers everything from sport climbs to bouldering.
Visitors must bring all their own climbing equipment, and can climb at the designated area in McKelligon Canyon or at Sneed’s Cory in the Tom Mays Unit. The park headquarters are also located in McKelligon Canyon, while five camping areas with picnic facilities are in the Tom Mays Unit of the park.
Peak climbing season at Franklin Mountains State Park is in the winter months of December and January, while late spring and early fall are also popular times.
While at the park, visitors can experience the Wyler Aerial Tramway, an aerial tramway operated by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department that covers 196 acres on the east side of the Franklin Mountains. The gondolas offer incredible views and travel up to Ranger Peak, 5,632 feet above sea level.
HUECO TANKS STATE PARK & HISTORIC SITE
About 32 miles east of El Paso lies an invitation and a challenge, Hueco Tanks State Park & Historic Site. An 860-acre massof rock and basins, Hueco Tanks dominates the desert skyline. Bouldering, a style of low-altitude climbing that goes without ropes and harnesses, is incredibly popular at Hueco Tanks.
The park is considered one of the sport’s main climbing hubs, attracting hundreds of visitors during peak season from October to March. Hikes range from VO, the least challenging, to V16, the most difficult. In fact, the ‘V’ scale of grading was born at Hueco by WWclimbing expert John Sherman.
Hueco Tanks allows 70 daily visitors to its North Mountain, and the remaining areas are available exclusively via tour guide. Visitors to Hueco Tanks can camp in the great outdoors or stay at Hueco Rock Ranch, a gorgeous house owned by the American Alpine Club that rents space to climbers.
REIMER’S RANCH PARK
Located west of Austin in Dripping Spring, Reimer’s Ranch Park is home to rock climbing, mountain biking, hiking, fishing, horseback riding and swimming. The best times to climb are spring and fall, but it is possible to climb all year round, and even in the heat of summer there is plenty of shade along the cliffs. Most of the climbing area runs parallel to the beautiful Pedernales River, and visitors can cool off in the river during the hottest part of the day.
The majority of climbs at Reimer’s Ranch are bolted sport climbs, typically under 50 feet high, and range in difficulty from 5.5 to 5.14. The solid limestone cliffs are good for climbing, and there are also a few bouldering routes along the river.
LAKE MINERAL WELL STATE PARK & TRAILWAY
Lake Mineral Wells State Park & Trailway sits in the heart of cattle country, near what wasonce a popular health resort. Rock Climbing: Penitentiary Hollow is one of the few natural rock climbing venues in North Texas. Climbers and rappellers must check in at headquarters. No climbing is allowed when the rock formations are wet.
Sources: TravelTexas.gov, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Photo Courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife