Texas doesn’t usually conjure visions of emerald green pools and flowing waterfalls, but Hamilton Pool Preserve, about 23 miles west of Austin, is one such spot. What used to be an underground river is now a favorite swimming spot due to the collapse of the dome (a few thousand years ago). It’s been a popular summer swim spot since the 1960’s.

The Hamilton Pool Preserve is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve and has been a designated nature preserve since 1990. The 232-acre nature preserve focuses on habitat protection, restoration, and habitat for wildlife.

In order to keep the area pristine, access to the pool is by reservation only, daily from March to October with weekend reservations required November until December. The pool is a quarter mile from the parking lot, but note that the path is rocky and steep in areas.

The natural pool, surrounded by limestone slabs, is fed by Hamilton creek. Its 50-foot waterfall never completely stops flowing, but in the dry season it slows to a trickle — interestingly, the pool’s water level stays pretty constant.

The water quality is constantly monitored, and sometimes the pool may not be open for swimming. The preserve allows swimming only on days when the bacteria levels and rainfall are in a safe range. Call the public information line to find out the status: 512-264-2740

How to get there

The Hamilton Pool Preserve is a 45-minute drive west of Austin, Texas. The address is 24300 Hamilton Pool Rd. Dripping Spgs, TX 78620. Google maps will get you there.

What to consider

  • Visiting the pool is by reservation only every day from March 1st through October 31st and weekends in November and December.
  • Admission is $15 per vehicle, or $5 per vehicle if there’s a senior (62+) aboard. There is also a non-refundable reservation fee of $11.
  • There are some amenities: picnic tables, hiking trails, and restrooms.
  • Bring your own drinking water, there is no potable water on site.
  • The water can get VERY cold — 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter months.
  • Entrance fees are collected when you arrive. They do honor the Federal Golden Age Passport and the Senior Citizen State Pass.
  • They only accept cash and “most” checks — NO debit or credit cards.
  • Glass bottles and alcohol are not allowed.
  • No pets, not even in your car. They’ll turn you away.
  • Hours of operation are from 9 AM to 6 PM. No entry after 5:30 PM.
  • Day use only.
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