Hamilton Pool is a place you must visit on a trip to Central Texas
Dripping Springs is located in Central Texas and is part of the Austin metropolitan area
Hamilton Pool is one of the most beautiful places in Texas. This is where the Caribbean-like green waters meet the imposing rock formations you can see in the pictures. Together with the blue sky and the yellowish sand, this mix of colors inspires photography and inevitably causes astonishment.
As soon as you arrive, you need a few minutes to process what you’re seeing. Nature’s grandiosity and abundance is striking. And just by looking at the photos you immediately notice one thing missing. One important element you see by hundreds or thousands in every tourist destination: people.
No, it’s not that this is a hidden gem nobody knows about. It’s quite the opposite.
The waiting time to access the Hamilton Pool Preserve can reach 3 hour. Dozens of cars line-up at the park entrance just waiting for a parking spot to vacate. And when the line reaches absurd levels, the staff is forced to ask drivers to go away so that traffic in the access road is not completely shut down.
As this area is very remote, it won’t work if you simply try to leave your car somewhere else and walk to the canyon. You will need to wait in line together with all the vehicles.
What happens is that for preservation reasons only a very limited amount of people can access the park at any given time. And during warm-weather days, specially when swimming is allowed, you can imagine everyone wants to spend at least a couple of hours at the natural pool.
Our Experience at Hamilton Pool
We were very lucky the first time we went there. It was March, at noon, and in a last minute decision we drove about 45 min west of Austin in hopes the line was ok.
When we arrived there were only about 8 cars ahead, and in 30 min we were inside.
The sunny day was perfect for pictures (although we almost run out of battery!), but because of the rain in the previous weeks, swimming was not allowed due to high bacteria levels (remember, this is a natural pool formed by waters which run through nearby farms. A lot can be carried away during heavy rains). It’s a natural process. So before heading to Dripping Springs, where the park is located, make sure to check out their website for the latest updates.
If you plan to visit Hamilton Pool between May and September, you now need a reservation. It costs $10 for the online reservation (in addition to the $15 entrance fee at the park). You can book your reservation at The Travis County Parks website
Visiting Hamilton Pool too?
Here are some recommendations and important info
- Bring water and snacks, as there’s nothing for sale inside the park. The same applies to items like suntan lotion, hats, sunglasses, etc. And make sure you take everything back with you.
- Wear comfortable clothes and adequate shoes, as there’s a 15 min downhill hike to reach the pool. If you enjoy hiking, there’s another 45 min hike towards the place where the Hamilton Creek meets the Pedernales River. Just remember that it’s 45 min each way and you need to leave the park by 6:00 PM.
- The entrance fee is $15 per vehicle. Visitors with Annual and Duplicate Annual Permits pay $5 per vehicle, just like Seniors and disabled veterans with Lone Star Permits. The fee for bicyclists and pedestrians is $8 per person. Note that there’s no “per person” fee if you arrive by car. You simply pay $15 regardless of how many people are inside. Fees should be paid in cash, as credit cards are not accepted.
- For the sake of preserving wildlife, pets are not allowed and fishing is prohibited.
- There are no life-guards on duty.
The Hamilton Pool Preserve is busy all year around, but high season is between April-October. The water can be very cold though. During our visit in March, it was 60 degrees (15 C).
If you can, try to travel there on a weekday. Although it will still be busy, most of the people ahead of you in line will be tourists. On weekends you also compete with locals. And, of course, don’t forget to charge your camera and phone. As you can imagine, there’s no electricity plug in plain nature.