Hamilton Pool Preserve: A Breathtaking Hike

Hamilton Pool Preserve Austin Texas Hiking Swimming Hole
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Panoramic view of grotto, waterfall, pool
Hamilton Pool Grotto -- Panoramic View

Hamilton Pool Preserve: A Breathtaking Hike


Due to falling rocks, swimming and walking around the pool under the cliff are currently prohibited. It’s still worth a visit though!

Hamilton Pool Preserve makes for a great adventure near Austin, Texas.

You can easily get to the preserve, located in Dripping Springs, in about 30 minutes from Austin. So, if you’re in the area, this is a MUST-DO. Pictures just don’t do it justice. You really need to see it for yourself.

Ancient History of Hamilton Pool Preserve

During the Cretaceous Period (145-165 million years ago; we’re talking dinosaurs here), the area was under the sea, so it’s really interesting to see the fossil impressions in the walls as you make your way around the grotto just past the waterfall.

Fossils from the Cretaceous Period
Fossils from the Cretaceous Period

Collapsed Grotto

Originally, the water of the pool was underground. It was created by groundwater that had seeped down the porous layers of sand and limestone.

Because the water couldn’t seep into the earth any deeper through the hard shale layer below, it moved sideways cutting channels between the layers.

This created sinkholes, underground streams, and caverns. At some point, this underground grotto collapsed leaving us the Hamilton Pool.

Interesting, eh?

Anatomy of a Collapsed Grotto
From the Information Kiosk at the preserve

The Hike to Hamilton Pool

From the parking lot, it’s about a 1/4 mile to the pool. The park ranger made it seem like a treacherous hike; I was a little scared, but in reality, it’s quite easy.

You just have to keep an eye on the ground because the path is uneven, rocky, and steep at times. But, seriously, not bad at all!

When we went, it had rained the night before, so it was muddy in places also. So, keep that in mind.

There’s a little stand with walking sticks of varying sizes to borrow. I grabbed one at the start of the trail–it’s helpful to have a third “touch point” as you wind your way down and then back up.

Side note: Don’t forget to take a water bottle to stay hydrated. I use a collapsible water bottle which is great for travel. I avoid having to buy bottled water whenever possible–doing my best to decrease the demand for plastic.

Hiking Trail
Along the trail

Walk Along Hamilton Creek

The hike itself is truly breathtaking. I’ve never seen anything quite like it.

Along Hamilton Creek, which flows from the pool to the nearby Perdanales River, you can see lush vegetation. I’m sure in summer it has an almost tropical feel.

There are even Bald Cypress trees that live in the creek. I was totally fascinated by that!

The water is crystal clear in a stunning mix of shades of green. We were there on a gray, cloud-covered day, but I bet if the sky were blue, there’d be hues of azure as well.

In some places, like in the picture below, I just had to stop and ask myself, “Where am I?” It’s really quite magical.

Bald Cypress Trees in path of Hamilton Creek
Bald Cypress Trees, Hamilton Creek

Swimming at Hamilton Pool Preserve

Hamilton Pool is an idyllic swimming hole, so don’t forget your swim suits. Also, they have life vests you can borrow at the pool for added safety.

Keep in mind that swimming is not guaranteed. We were there at the end of December, so it was chilly. Therefore, we had zero interest in taking a dip! Even in spring the water temp can be below 50 degrees. Brrrr!

But if you’re there in the summer, I can’t think of a better way to cool off on a hot Texas day.

Besides the cold water, another issue to consider is bacteria count. When you check in, they will let you know if the levels are too high to swim. You can also check the website at any time for current swimming conditions.

When we were there, we were told to not even touch the water. I was slightly weirded out by that, but then I’m kind of a germaphobe.

Make sure you check out the preserve’s webpage for up-to-date information.

The swimming hole, green water and waterfall
The Swimming Hole

Reservations Required to Enter Hamilton Pool Preserve

If you decide to visit, and I hope you do, know that entering the preserve requires a reservation. You can do this online at Travis County Parks.

The only way to make a reservation is to do it online, and you will pay $12 per vehicle with a credit card. When you enter the park, you’ll pay an additional $15 entrance fee; it’s important to note that they only accept cash onsite.

Additionally, each reservation is limited to one car (max: 8 people).

There are two time slots available when you make your reservation: morning (9:00 am to 1:00 pm) and afternoon (2:00 pm to 6:00 pm).

This reservation system is really important to regulate the traffic through this preserve.

The area is home to some endangered species, like the Golden-Cheeked Warbler, and rare species of plants, such as the Chatterbox Orchid and Canyon Mock Orange. –> So, stay on the trail.

I hope that this area will be sustained for generations to come. It’s well worth seeing!

Collapsed Grotto
Collapsed Grotto

Dripping Springs, Texas

Because visiting the preserve doesn’t take long, you’ll have plenty of time to explore this cool area. Check out some of the best things to do in Dripping Springs!

Austin, Texas

If you’re interested in great restaurants that offer vegan food in ATX, take a look at my post about vegan eats in Austin. Additionally, you can read about our quick trip to Magnolia Market in Waco.

Need accommodations? I love Booking.com. I can easily compare prices, check the location on a map, and find just the right place to stay.


Don’t forget to pin for later!

Hamilton Pool Preserve Austin Texas Hiking Swimming Hole
Pin 2 for Hamilton Pool Preserve

Do take a trip out to the Hamilton Pool Preserve if you have the chance. You won’t regret it.

Until next time…


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