Before 1970, the area that is now Pedernales Falls State Park was a working ranch, known as the Circle Bar Ranch. The state of Texas purchased the land for the park in 1970, and the park opened in 1973.
Many of the activities in Pedernales Falls State Park center around the Pedernales River: swimming, tubing, wading and fishing. The park also has a number of picnic areas and campsites, including some primitive campsites that require a hike of two miles or more to reach. There are also 19.8 miles (31.9 km) of hiking and mountain biking trails, 10 miles of equestrian trails, and 14 miles of backpacking trails.
Like many rivers in central Texas, the Pedernales is prone to variable water levels. A sign at the park shows a relatively tranquil river in one picture and a raging wall of muddy water in the next picture, said to be taken only five minutes after the first. The speed at which flash floods can arise along this river has resulted in several deaths at the park, and warning sirens have been installed in the park and elsewhere along the river.