Hamilton Pool Preserve is a must-visit spot for any Austin visitor or resident. It’s located in Dripping Springs, about 23 miles west of Austin as the crow flies, and it’s open year-round to visitors with reservations.
Nate and I drove out there last weekend for a morning of swimming and relaxing, and we had so much fun! I’ve been meaning to visit it for several years now, actually. (Reservations are a bit tricky…I’ll talk about those below.)
We loaded up the car with drinks, snacks, towels, and a chair (for me…because I’m officially too pregnant to lay out on a towel on the ground, haha) and stopped at Bougie’s Donuts for breakfast on the way out Hamilton Pool. Breakfast of champions, in my humble opinion.
After spending the morning out there, I opened my instagram stories to any questions y’all had about Hamilton Pool, and there were a bunch of them! I’ll make sure I answer all of those in this blog post.
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Everything You Need To Know About Visiting Hamilton Pool
What is Hamilton Pool?
Hamilton Pool is a nature preserve that was formed thousands of years ago when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion. The result is a jade-green natural pool underneath a 50 ft waterfall.
Do I need reservations to visit?
Yes! Definitely yes, and they fill up quickly, so make them months before you want to visit, especially if you’re hoping to stop by on a weekend. Reservations are required every day from March 1 – October 31, and weekends from Nov 1 – Feb 28. You can make reservations on the Travis County Parks website right here.
A reservation will cost you $11 (paid online via credit card), and entrance fees are $15 per car (cash only, and try to bring exact cash to help out the park). You can reserve a morning time slot (9 am – 1 pm, but you’ll be asked to leave at 12:30 pm) or an afternoon time slot (2 pm – 6 pm, but you’ll be asked to leave at 5:30 pm). The website says to print your confirmation, but I just gave them my name and photo ID at the front gate and they let me in.
I made reservations back in summer 2018, but then I ended up having a last-minute trip come up and I couldn’t go to Hamilton Pool. I wish I had known about the rescheduling rule then, because I could have used that reservation at a later date! If you’ve made a reservation, you can reschedule it until midnight the day before.
The same thing happened this year – I went online to make my reservation in June 2019, and the earliest available date was for September 2019…yikes! When my reservation date came up, I had a scheduling conflict, so I went to the website and moved the date back a few weeks. By that point, the only free day was a weekday (weekends book really fast), but a Friday morning was a good time to visit.
What months is it open?
Hamilton Pool Preserve is open year-round (except for a few holidays – check the website for those), so you could potentially swim any day of the year…although it would be really cold in the winter! Reservations are required every day March – Oct and on weekends from Nov – February. It’s occasionally closed for hazardous conditions, like flooding, and sometimes swimming isn’t allowed if bacteria levels get high.
Is parking difficult?
There’s plenty of paved parking available for cars with reservations. Once you park, you’ll have to hike 1/4 mile to get to the pool. The hike took us about 10 minutes (that’s two adults, one of whom is very, very pregnant and slow, haha) and we both just wore flip-flops/sandals. Closed-toe shoes would probably be more comfortable, but honestly, and 37 weeks pregnant my Birkenstocks are the only shoes that feel good, so that’s what I wore.
How cold is the water?
Pretty darn cold! It gets down to 50 degrees in the winter. When I visited in September, the water felt like it was around 68-70 degrees.
Does the waterfall ever stop?
According to online resources, the waterfall never stops flowing. I visited at the very end of a dry summer, and there was still a little trickle of water falling, despite the absence of rain. I can only imagine how pretty it would be after a rainy season! (However, it wouldn’t be as fun to swim during rainy season as it is during the summer.)
Is the water murky?
It really is a pretty jade-green color like the photos suggest! The water is clear around the edges (enough to see the giant catfish swimming around…gross) but in the middle, where it gets to 25 feet deep, it’s murky enough that I couldn’t see my feet below me when I was treading water.
Can I bring food/drinks?
Yep, just no glass.
Can I bring my dog?
No. Hamilton Pool Preserve is strictly no-pets-allowed, which is a bummer for all the cute Austin pups!
Can I bring floaties?
Yes, and I’d recommend it! There were two bachelorette parties there with super cute floaties, and it looked like so much fun. I wish I had brought one! There is a shallow part around the edge where you can stand and lounge, but if you want to swim under the waterfall, you’ll be going to the deep part of the pool (25 feet is the deepest.) They do have plenty of free life vests available for safety.
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What’s the wildlife situation?
Hamilton Pool a nature preserve, so it’s home to wildlife, native grasses and wildflowers, and rare plant species. We were walking along the back of the pool (under the waterfall) and found a little bat nestled into a nook in the wall, and we saw several BIG 18 inch catfish in the pool.
Honestly, it was a hot day and I was hot hot hot and pregnant, so I jumped in the water and didn’t explore the other areas. But if you’re interested in exploring the wildlife, there are guided tours available on Saturdays at 10 am.
All-in-all, visiting Hamilton Pool makes for such a fun outing! The half-day reservation was plenty of time (spending a full day there would be too long, IMO), and the drive from Austin to Dripping Springs is about 45 minutes. There are lots of fun restaurants and breweries in Dripping Springs to visit before/after a trip to Hamilton Pool (check out Proof and Cooper) so you can make a full day of it!
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