This Beautiful Texas Waterfall Lies Just a Short Drive from Austin

Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, Texas
Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, Texas | Photo Credit: Adobe Stock - Susan Vineyard

Nestled in the heart of Texas’ beautiful Hill Country lies Pedernales Falls State Park. Known for its interesting history and its rugged waterfall, this state park is worth the 30 mile drive from downtown Austin. Visitors to the park can explore the 5,200 acre park along with hiking trails and plenty of opportunities for adventure. From a working ranch to a recreational paradise, bring your friends or family and get lost in the Lone Star state’s natural landscape.

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Dating back over 300 million years to the Cretaceous Period, the limestone formations within the park create a series of rapids and a large waterfall that create a stunning sight. Native American tribes once roamed this region such as the Comanches and the Apache. These early inhabitants relied on the ecosystem of the Pedernales River for water and fishing. They used the limestone rocks to create arrowheads that were used in hunting and spearing fish.

When German settlers moved into the region in the 1800s, they began establishing ranches and farms along the banks of the Pedernales River. This abundant resource made it perfect for sustaining life in the dry hills of Central Texas.

In the late 1930s, the land that now composes Pedernales State Park was purchased by oil tycoon C.A. Wheatley. Mr. Wheatley founded the Circle Bar Ranch which raised cattle and sheep. The livestock grazed on the banks of the river for decades until Mr. Wheatley passed away. His widow sold the land to the state of Texas in the early 1970s.

The state of Texas founded Pedernales Falls State Park in 1971 which quickly became a popular destination for travelers and locals. Early visitors included Texas natives President Lyndon B. Johnson and outlaw country singer, Willie Nelson. Willie once owned a small camp within the park called “Camp Perdernales”, that is until the IRS seized his ownership over back taxes.

Today, the state park boasts plenty of things to do aside from uncovering its extensive history.

Things to Do

Pedernales Falls

Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, TX
Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, Texas | Photo Credit: Wikimedia – Liveon001

The centerpiece of the state park and the attraction that draws the most visitors is of course, Pedernales Falls. This waterfall is made of a series of rapids that were named by 18th-Century Spanish explorers.

Visitors are able to view the falls and snap pictures from scenic overlooks but swimming is not allowed in the waterfall due to dangerous currents.

Hiking & Biking

There are 20 miles of biking and hiking trails that are scattered throughout the park. Those who love to explore the great outdoors can enjoy easy hikes that are only ½ mile to longer hikes that can be upwards of 5 miles. Hikers can meander past various historic sites like Tammell’s Crossing and Jones Spring. There are also adventures through wildflower meadows and be prepared to take in some stunning Hill Country vistas.

Equestrian Trails

While these trails are recommended for experienced equestrians, there are 10 miles of horse-friendly trails within the park.  From rocky and rugged pathways to the steep inclines, horses are recommended to be well-trained and shod. There are also some water troughs along the trail that allows your horse to get hydrated on hot Texas days. There are no horses at the park available, you must bring your own and have current Coggins papers.

Swimming & Tubing

Even though you cannot swim in the falls, there is a swimming area that is designated within the state park. The trail to the swimming area is a strenuous ¼ mile trail that goes up steep stairs and across rocky terrain. You can tube parts of the river but the park does warn that water conditions can change rapidly. The park has stated that heavy rains, even up river, can lead to the flow to change to dangerous levels in a matter of minutes. If you see the weather changing or the water grow muddy, exit immediately.

Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, Texas
Pedernales Falls State Park, Johnson City, Texas | Photo Credit: Flickr – Corey Leopold


One of Hill Country’s best campgrounds lies right within Pedernales Falls State Park. There are RV sites that offer electrical and water hookups. For those who would prefer to tent camp, there are walk-in sites or group sites. If you do bring your horses, there is also an equestrian camping area.

Other Activities

Aside from hiking the stunning landscapes of Texas Hill Country, Pedernales Falls State Park also offers a variety of outdoor activities. Fisherman can try to land a monster carp or even bass and sunfish. Geocaching adventures can also upgrade your adventure while birding can also be a pastime.


Pedernales Falls State Park is located at 2585 Park Road 6026 in Johnson City, Texas. There are daily entrance fees. The park can fill up quickly so it may be good to reserve your entrance online for both day visits and camping in advance.

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