Hamilton Pool offers one of the most unusual swimming experiences you will find in Texas. It looks like it was hauled off a tropical island and dropped in the middle of Austin’s limestone hills. The roughly circular swimming hole is partially shaded by an outcrop of rock. The overhang is all that remains of what was once a cave ceiling. The grotto partially collapsed and revealed a natural pool. Delicate ferns cling to rocks above the pool, and water often trickles through the ferns, creating waterfalls that drip or gush depending on how much rain has recently fallen.
Approximately 150 feet in diameter and 25 feet deep, the pool is large but ecologically sensitive. As a result, the park now requires visitors to register online before visiting the park. The $ 11 registration can be paid with a credit card, but the $ 15 car entrance fee must be paid in cash. (The pool is located at 24300 Hamilton Pool Road, Dripping Springs, Texas 78620)
Things to do in the park
Swimming is obviously the main activity, but the park covers 232 acres of largely undeveloped land, so hiking and bird watching are popular too. In fact, you will have to do a quarter mile walk over uneven terrain just to get to the swimming hole. Bird watchers often arrive early to the park to catch a glimpse of the endangered golden-cheeked warbler and other species that live in the park year-round or pass by during migration. Other animals you can see in the park include deer, foxes, skunks, opossums, porcupines, and lynxes.
Hamilton Pool Preserve is also home to a wide variety of rare plants and trees. The most photogenic specimens are the delicate ferns that grow in and around the waterfall. Beyond the pool, along Hamilton Creek, you’ll find towering cypress trees with gnarled roots sticking out of the water. This is one of the tree’s survival tactics to survive when the base of the tree is submerged under water.
As this is a nature reserve, there are hardly any modern amenities, except for the bathrooms near the entrance and a few picnic tables. You must bring your own water and snacks. Keep in mind that you will have to carry everything you bring within a quarter mile of the pool, so pack lightly. Also, please note that dogs are not allowed in the park. Checklists of birds and other animals in the park are available at the entrance.
Other nearby parks
Reimers Ranch – When Hamilton Pool is full, people often go to nearby Reimers Ranch. While Reimers does not have a collapsed grotto, it does have three miles of frontage along the Pedernales River. Swimming and fishing in the river are popular activities, but there are tons of other options in this sprawling 2,427-acre park. Climbers flock to the park to scale cliffs ranging from easy to advanced. Groups of mountain bikers also descend on the park on weekends to hit hundreds of miles of difficult trails.
Photographers practice their skills in the park, capturing its expansive views of the canyon, hills, and river views. As with the Hamilton Pool Preserve, use is only allowed during the day to protect the fragile ecosystem. Dogs are allowed but must be on a leash at all times.
Pace Bend – Located on Lake Travis, Pace Bend Park has 20 campsites, some with stunning lake views. The campsites have access to water / electricity, showers and toilets. Primitive camping is allowed in other areas of the park as well. The primitive campgrounds are equipped only with barbecue pits, fire pits and picnic tables, and nature trails of varying lengths that run through the entire park. There are two boat ramps in the park, which means there is a lot of traffic on weekend mornings when people launch their boats.
In addition to the usual deer and possum, at dusk or dawn, you may get a chance to see one of the most elusive creatures in Texas – the ring-tailed cat. It looks like a cross between a domestic cat and a raccoon, with a large, bushy, striped tail.
Pedernales Falls State Park: The centerpiece of the park is a series of low, stepped waterfalls over large boulders on the Pedernales River. Swimming is sometimes prohibited when the water is moving rapidly, but it is still an amazing sight. There are several smaller swimming holes around the park that are less likely to turn into whitewater rapids. In addition to dozens of hiking trails, the park is filled with dedicated mountain biking trails for cyclists of all abilities.
Places to eat nearby
The closest restaurants are along Highway 71 near the intersection of 71 and Reimers Road. La Cabana Grill offers excellent chili fillings, enchiladas, and other Tex-Mex dishes. Angel’s Icehouse serves great burgers, tacos, and fried chicken steaks in a fun setting. If it’s smoky brisket you’re craving, go to It’s All Good BBQ. The short ribs of beef and pulled pork are crowd favorites.