Hamilton Pool is a gorgeous swimming hole located just a short 45 minute drive from Austin to Dripping Springs, but its breathtaking natural beauty makes you feel like you’re so far from home. This gem of a pool is actually a collapsed grotto with beautiful blue-green water, surrounded by awesome rock formations and also boasts a 50-foot waterfall that is the ideal spot to stand under and feel refreshed by cool water washing over you. Hamilton Pool Preserve also has numerous hiking trails where you can spy rare plant species or birds such as Golden Cheek Warblers and Cliff Swallows. It’s really an amazing place to check out with the family.

Despite the fact that this is such an iconic, popular Central Texas swimming hole, it was recently our Marketing Manager’s first time taking her kids. Read all about her experience, and take note of her tips for taking your family…

The good news is that Hamilton Pool Preserve was everything and MORE than I expected. But I feel the need to start this write-up with the bad news: Unless you already have a reservation, you won’t likely be getting in this summer. To manage the crowds at this popular destination, reservations are required to visit Hamilton Pool from May through September, and all weekends are booked this year. (Last I checked, there are some weekdays still open in September for those with more flexible schedules.) However, if you don’t currently have a reservation, you could plan a visit in early October when temperatures are still pretty warm, and you’ll be good to go.

When we arrived, a friendly gate attendant checked our reservation, took the $15 per car entrance fee and went over all the rules for visiting this nature preserve. We parked, stopped in the rustic restrooms and then made our way down a quarter-mile hike to Hamilton Pool.

The trail is not far, but it’s pretty rocky and steep in sections as it descends into the canyon. (Take note that there’s no way you could get a stroller down the trail.) You’ll really want to wear some sturdy shoes on the trail and then change into water shoes when you get down to the pool. Flip flops would be hard for little feet to manage on the rocky terrain. We really enjoyed the little hike down in the morning but have to admit that it wasn’t as fun uphill in the hot summer sun on the way back up. (Just take one last jump in the cold water before making the trek back to your car to help stay cool.)

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve which is a 30,428-acre system of endangered species habitat. It’s a really pretty area! Besides the hike down to the pool, there is another trail that will take you to the Perdenales River, offering plenty of nature to enjoy along your walk.

When we arrived at the pool, we were just amazed by how gorgeous it is. We put our towels and bags down in the pebbly “beach” (no sand), and we walked around the perimeter of the pool, exploring the canyon and checking out the 50-foot waterfall. The waterfall is made from Hamilton Creek, which spills out over limestone into the canyon, and it never completely dries up, although it can sometimes slow down to a trickle. We loved getting soaked under the waterfall!

The pool itself has such clear water that you can actually see all of the fish and turtles swimming around you. Water levels at this pool stay pretty constant, even during periods of drought. The middle gets very deep, and there are life jackets available onsite to borrow free of charge, which we highly recommend. Plenty of people brought big floats or pool noodles to splash around with, too. 

We had such a fun time swimming around in the pool and exploring the grounds. I will say that it did feel pretty crowded on the summer Sunday that we were there, and we totally understood why the reservation system is needed. But despite the fact that there were lots of people around us, it still felt like such a peaceful getaway — a perfect day trip from Austin.

A few notes before you go:

  • Make sure you have a reservation if you’re going anytime between May – September.
  • Hamilton Pool Preserve does not usually allow swimming after heavy rains and the threat of high bacteria, so you should always call their info line at 512-264-2740 to check first.
  • Bring water shoes as well as shoes you can hike comfortably in.
  • Bring drinking water. There’s no water or concessions available.
  • Leave pets at home.
  • Glass bottles and alcohol are prohibited.
  • There is no lifeguard; put the kiddos in life jackets if they are not strong swimmers.
  • All wildlife is protected at the preserve and only observation is allowed. So no fishing allowed.
  • They only accept cash or checks at the entrance;  no credit cards.

Reservation Info: You can make your reservations online from the following time periods: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., or 2 – 6 p.m.  You’ll pay online for your reservation fee ($10), and pay for your entrance fee ($15) with cash or check when you arrive at the preserve.

For more info, you can visit the Travis County Parks website or call (512) 264-2740.