24300 Hamilton Road
Dripping Springs, TX 78620
A mere twenty-three miles from Austin, TX is quite literally one of the most beautiful spots on planet earth. I know that’s a big statement and being a Texan you may brush it off as “things Texans say” but, I’m telling you if you visit Hamilton Pool, you will not be disappointed.
The “pool” is actually a naturally protected habitat that is owned by the Travis County Parks. It formed a thousand years ago when the “dome of an underground river collapsed”, or so says Wikipedia. I don’t know how it was formed but I do know it’s beautiful.
The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department purchased the property in 1985 and enacted heavy regulations to protect the pool in addition to the surrounding 232 acres, which is actually a part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve. Since they own it, it shares the same restrictions as many of the other Texas Parks properties.
You can’t just show up anymore. You have to make a reservation through Texas state’s website. You can find information and a link to make reservations for Hamilton Pool Preserve here. The reservations will give you two choices. You’ll have the option of a morning time slot which is 9:00 am – 12:30 pm and an afternoon time slot from 2:00 pm – 5:30 pm.
Also, as of March 1, 2020, they have changed their fees completely. You make your reservation online by paying a $12 per vehicle fee (Credit card only). Then you will also pay additional per person entrance fees when you arrive at the preserve (Cash only). The fees are now…
$8 per adult (13 to 61 years of age)
$3 per senior (62 years of age and older)
$0 per child (12 years of age and younger)
You are also only allowed to have one vehicle with a maximum of eight people inside. At least one person named on the reservation must be present to use the reservation and they will check your driver’s license. AND there are a lot more rules. Including:
- No Camping
- No Cooking
- No Drones
- No Fireworks
- No Glass containers
- No Ground fires
- No Pets
- No public display of consumption of alcohol
- No Tobacco products
I know I sound like a Debbie Downer with all of the “no’s” but I’m still telling you it’s worth it especially since you can be sneaky with your alcohol.
One thing to note is that swimming is not guaranteed. Since it’s a natural pool with a waterfall trickling in from an above creek, there are times that the bacteria is too high for swimming. They will still allow you to hike around the pool but prohibit any swimming. (Can I again remind you, you are allowed to bring in sneaky alcohol?)
Also, be warned that the pool is a little bit of a hike to get to from the parking area. It’s approximately a quarter mile down to the pool on rocky steep terrain. It’s not as bad going down as it is coming back up. You may want to keep this into consideration when bringing small children or people who may have difficulty accessing the pool. You will need to hike a quarter-mile in and then a quarter-mile up and out!
But with all the rules and regulations, can we just concentrate on the magic of this place for a moment? The photos absolutely do not do this place justice. It is much larger than it looks but the beach area where everyone congregates is not. You will be up close and snuggly with a lot of people. If you are lucky enough to have made your reservation in a time when the pool is available for swimming, then consider yourself having won the lottery because it is truly an amazing experience.
Any visit to Austin warrants a visit to Hamilton Pool Preserve. The summer months book up incredibly far in advance so make your reservations now! I promise you, it’s worth it!