It's big, it's beautiful, and it's probably haunted.

It's big, it's beautiful, and it's probably haunted.
Jared Davidson/

Is it a hallowed place or a haunted one? Blessed or cursed? What you believe about Enchanted Rock depends on which of its many legends you adhere to. This much everyone agrees on: That rock makes weird noises.

The giant granite dome is part of the Enchanted Rock Natural Area, which also encompasses Little Mountain, Turkey Peak, Freshman Mountain, Buzzard's Roost, and Flagpole Mountain. Located in two Texas counties, Gillespie and Llano, the park is a little over 16 miles north of Fredericksburg—one cool Hill Country town, BTW. Rising some 425 feet above the ground, Enchanted Rock covers an area of more than 2.5 square miles—and that's just the part you can see. Nobody really knows how far the rest of it goes into the earth. Think of it as an iceberg's terra firma cousin.

According to The Handbook of Texas Online, "The Indian legends of the haunting of Enchanted Rock were probably bolstered by the way the rock glitters on clear nights after rain, and by the creaking noises reported on cool nights after warm days."

The glitter, reports the website, could come from water trapped in this igneous rock or from the moon's reflections. As for the creaking noises? They're most likely caused by the contraction of the outer surface as the granite cools.

Then again, if you prefer the legends . . .

What you hear coming from Enchanted Rock at night are the moans of spirits haunting it: the Native American chief still being punished for sacrificing his daughter at the site; the princess who hurled herself off the rock when she saw her tribe being killed . . . There are almost as many legends surrounding Enchanted Rock as tourists lining up to visit.

Many adventurers come to see the dome's intriguing, shallow "vernal pools," which fill only during the rainy season. They are home to the elusive fairy shrimp, whose eggs can survive the dry season and then spring to life when the rains hit them. Fairy shrimp swim upside down in the pools of Enchanted Rock (until they become brunch for birds, but try not to think about that).

Keep in mind that only a limited number of visitors can be in the park at one time, and when it's full, it closes. That can happen early on weekends and anytime the kids are out of school. Fortunately, you can reserve your spot up to 30 days in advance to make sure your Hill Country adventure comes together as planned. Find out all you need to know about climbing the dome and hiking the trails here. And check out Fredericksburg here.

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