Pedernales Falls

Johnson City / Austin, Texas, USA

About Pedernales Falls


Hiking Distance: 1 mile round trip
Suggested Time: 1 hour

Date first visited: 2016-03-10
Date last visited: 2016-03-10

Waterfall Latitude: 30.33806
Waterfall Longitude: -98.2519

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Pedernales Falls seemed to us to be a series of smaller cascades and waterslides that stretched the definition of what a waterfall was.

After all, its uppermost tier came the closest to having a somewhat steep drop, but the rest were really nothing more than waterslides and streams over slanted limestone sheets and chutes.

Pedernales_Falls_025_03102016 - Pedernales Falls
Pedernales Falls

While it was very tempting to get into the Pedernales River for a swim around the falls, the permitted area for swimming, wading, tubing, etc. was actually well downstream and out-of-sight.

Actually, we had to continue further downstream towards the Sponsored Youth Camping Area for a swim.

Anyways, we felt the cliff and rock formations around the Pedernales Falls added to its scenic allure.

Indeed, the presence of smooth slanted slabs of bedrock and cliffs suggested to us that there was a history of geologic upheaval here.

And while we’re on the topic of rocks, the word pedernales was said to be the Spanish word for flint as hard chunks of rock could be found around the river.

Experiencing the Pedernales Falls

Pedernales_Falls_008_03102016 - Julie and Tahia walking on the trail leading us closer to the Pedernales Falls
Julie and Tahia walking on the trail leading us closer to the Pedernales Falls

Accessing Pedernales Falls was pretty straightforward.

From the dedicated parking lot, which was past the park headquarters (see directions below), we walked down a wide and obvious trail towards a fork.

We kept left at the fork, which led us straight to an overlook of all the upper tiers of the waterfall (shown at the top of this page).

Going right at this fork led to a different overlook with more of a downstream view towards the lowermost drops of the Pedernales Falls.

Pedernales_Falls_014_03102016 - Julie and Tahia approaching the overlooks for the Pedernales Falls
Julie and Tahia approaching the overlooks for the Pedernales Falls

Both overlooks were about a quarter-mile from the parking lot.

On the left side of the viewpoint at the left trail fork, there was a combination of steps and a trail that descended to the banks of the Pedernales River.

That gave us a closer look at the slides comprising the falls, the geology, and the plunge pools.

Our visit happened to have taken place during a week of persistent rains that rejuvenated the otherwise lackluster Pedernales River, which suffered from a lack of precipitation and abundance of abnormally warm temperatures for most of the Winter of 2016.

Pedernales_Falls_031_03102016 - Julie and Tahia scrambling to get closer to the Pedernales Falls
Julie and Tahia scrambling to get closer to the Pedernales Falls

That rainfall made the waterfalling experience more photo worthy, but it also made the rocks very slippery.

Under less slick conditions, it definitely would have been worthwhile to scramble around and explore all the different tiers of the Pedernales Falls.

We especially would have enjoyed the uppermost tier, which seemed to have the most vertical drop although it was probably no more than 15ft or so.

However, while exploring around the near side of the Pedernales River, we did chance upon an interesting spring that produced a small 5ft cascade.

Pedernales_Falls_018_03102016 - Focused on the uppermost tier of Pedernales Falls, which was probably the part that best fit within the definition of a waterfall
Focused on the uppermost tier of Pedernales Falls, which was probably the part that best fit within the definition of a waterfall

We weren’t sure if this spring was a permanent feature or merely a consequence of the abundant rainfall throughout the week.

In any case, most of our time spent at the falls was pretty much around this intriguing spring.

Back at the first overlook, there was also some stairs and a less formal trail leading further downstream to the banks of the Pedernales River.

This one seemed to reach the lower waterfall’s tiers as well as a somewhat sandy area that seemed like a little bit of a beach.

Pedernales_Falls_065_03102016 - Tahia playing by what appeared to be some kind of a spring that was emerging from the ground higher than the banks of the Pedernales River before feeding it
Tahia playing by what appeared to be some kind of a spring that was emerging from the ground higher than the banks of the Pedernales River before feeding it

Overall, we spent a little over an hour away from the car.

In addition to passing on scrambling on the rocks to get closer to the remaining waterfalls making up the Pedernales Falls, we also passed on visiting the nearby Twin Falls.

That waterfall was on a temporary creek next to the camping area (accessed between campsites 19 and 21).

Authorities

Pedernales Falls resides in the Pedernales Falls State Park in Johnson City in Blanco County, Texas. It is administered by the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. For information or inquiries about the area as well as current conditions, visit their website.

Pedernales_Falls_114_03102016 - This was the scenic lookout a short walk from the state park headquarters, but there was still more to drive from here to get to the actual parking lot for Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_007_03102016 - Tahia starting the hike on the wide and well-defined trail leading down to the overlooks of the Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_012_03102016 - Julie and Tahia keeping left at this fork, which led us to the main lookout of Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_013_03102016 - There were lots of these kinds of brown signs warning us that the other side of the Pedernales River was on private property
Pedernales_Falls_019_03102016 - Our first look at Pedernales Falls from the main lookout
Pedernales_Falls_020_03102016 - Looking downstream at the lowermost rock section of the Pedernales Falls where the river squeezed into another chute
Pedernales_Falls_021_03102016 - Tahia and Julie descending beneath the overlook in pursuit of the banks of the Pedernales River to see if there were other ways to experience the Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_026_03102016 - Focused look at one of the waterslides of the Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_028_03102016 - Context of Tahia and Julie descending below the main lookout towards the banks of the Pedernales River
Pedernales_Falls_032_03102016 - Julie and Tahia getting closer to the banks of the Pedernales River as we tried to get a closer look at a couple of the plunge pools as well as the slabs of rock
Pedernales_Falls_037_03102016 - Taking a closer look at some of the impressive rock formations flanking the Pedernales River, which hinted at the geologic processes that gave rise to the Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_043_03102016 - Another look across the Pedernales River towards one of the waterslides on the Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_046_03102016 - Another family checking out the Pedernales Falls at the same time that we were
Pedernales_Falls_048_03102016 - This family decided to walk onto the slippery rocks and get closer to the brink of one of the tiers of Pedernales Falls
Pedernales_Falls_055_03102016 - Looking down at some of the rock formations protruding from the sandy banks of the Pedernales River
Pedernales_Falls_056_03102016 - While investigating this rock, we looked down and noticed a surprise spring feeding the Pedernales River
Pedernales_Falls_071_03102016 - Julie and Tahia headed back up to the main overlook after having had their fill of the Pedernales Falls and the Pedernales River
Pedernales_Falls_075_03102016 - Looking back towards the Pedernales Falls now that there seemed to be a little more color as the sun tried to break through the rain clouds
Pedernales_Falls_077_03102016 - Looking back towards the uppermost tier of Pedernales Falls where some folks managed to make the scramble for a closer look
Pedernales_Falls_082_03102016 - Last look back at what appeared to be the main waterslide of Pedernales Falls before we headed out
Pedernales_Falls_102_03102016 - This wide view came from the other lookout for Pedernales Falls (near the end of the trail that forked right at the junction)
Pedernales_Falls_109_03102016 - Returning to the trailhead parking for Pedernales Falls

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Since we based ourselves in Austin, we’ll describe the driving directions from there.

We began by heading west on the Hwy 290, which stopped becoming a freeway towards the western outskirts of the city (west of the 1-Loop junction and east of the Route 71 intersection).

We then continued west on the route 290 for another 23 miles beyond the Route 71 intersection.

At that point, we turned right onto Hwy 3232 (there was a brown sign pointing the way for Pedernales Falls State Park).

Pedernales_Falls_112_03102016 - Looking back at the Pedernales Falls State Park headquarters, which was where we were to pay for the day use fees (unless we had already paid for them earlier in the day at another Texas state park)
Looking back at the Pedernales Falls State Park headquarters, which was where we were to pay for the day use fees (unless we had already paid for them earlier in the day at another Texas state park)

We then continued north on the Hwy 3232 for roughly 6.5 miles before it reached a three-way intersection with Hwy 2766.

Next, we turned right onto Hwy 2766, then we turned immediately left onto Park Road (again, there were brown signs pointing the way).

Continuing north on Park Road for the next 2.5 miles or so, we found ourselves at the Park Headquarters, where we were supposed to pay the day use fee for Texas State Parks (about $6 per adult during our visit in March 2016).

However, we had already paid for the day use fee earlier in the morning at McKinney Falls State Park so we didn’t need to pay the fee again.

Pedernales_Falls_002_03102016 - The parking lot nearest to the Pedernales Falls
The parking lot nearest to the Pedernales Falls

Beyond the Park Headquarters, the Park Road continued for another 2 miles.

There were other spur roads along the way (including a spur road leading to the campground at 0.7 miles from the Park Headquarters), but we didn’t take them during our visit.

The parking lot and trailhead for Pedernales Falls was at the end of Park Road.

Overall, this drive took us about 75 minutes from McKinney Falls (roughly an hour from downtown Austin).

Just to give you a sense of geographical context, Austin was about 195 miles (3 hours drive) south of Dallas and 169 miles (2.5 hours drive) west of Houston.

Back and forth sweep showing a zoomed-in Pedernales Falls and all its tiers before zooming out to show the full context of all the cascades sweeping back towards the top of the falls


Right to left sweep from the plunge pool of the main waterslide of Pedernales Falls


Walking around the surprise spring that we saw a short distance downstream from the main waterslide and plunge pool of Pedernales Falls

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Tagged with: johnson city, austin, blanco county, texas, hill country, waterfall, pedernales river, state park



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Johnny Cheng is the founder of the World of Waterfalls and author of the award-winning A Guide to New Zealand Waterfalls. Over the last 2 decades, he has visited thousands of waterfalls in over 40 countries around the world and nearly 40 states in the USA.
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