Spring is the perfect time of year to explore nature in and around Austin, when it’s warm enough to go for a swim but not so hot that you can’t enjoy an afternoon hike. It’s also a great time to beat the crowds at some very popular tourist destinations. On Monday, we took advantage of the school holiday and spent the day at Hamilton Pool Preserve in Dripping Springs, a local hotspot that quickly gets crowded in warmer months. Featuring a gorgeous grotto and natural swimming area, Hamilton Pool Preserve is a glorious place to swim in cool, clear waters (so clear that you can see the fish as they brush past your legs).
After a swim and a bit of cavern exploration, I took my three boys, ages 3, 5 and 9, on the “long” hike to the Pedernales River and they all did just fine. The .8 mile trail (each way) is a bit rocky, but it’s not steep and there is plenty to see along the way. From turtles, to lizards, to interesting flowers, the boys loved the nature walk. The only problem we encountered was that Crocs and flip flops, while great for the pool area, did not work so well as hiking shoes. But the boys were troopers and we made it all the way to the river and back.
If you go:
- Bring life jackets or floaties for kids who are not strong swimmers as the water does get quite deep and there are no lifeguards.
- Consider bringing water shoes to protect sensitive feet from the rocky beach as well as good walking shoes if you plan to hike.
- Leave fishing nets and buckets at home. Kids are not allowed to catch fish or minnows. All wildlife is protected at the preserve and only observation is allowed.
- Admission is $15 per car*. Be sure to have cash on hand to enter the preserve. Credit cards are not accepted and it’s a long way to an ATM. If you come by foot or by bike, you can enter for $3. Senior citizens, ages 62 and older, and disabled veterans with proof of at least 60% disability, can get a Lone Star Pass at no cost. *UPDATE: Beginning May 15, 2016, and through September 30, 2016, reservations will be required to enter Hamilton Pool Preserve. Click here to make reservations for this period. If you do not have a reservation please do not drive to Hamilton Pool. You can make your reservations online for a particular date. Choose from one of two time periods: 9 a.m. – 1 p.m., or 2 p.m.- 6 p.m. You pay online for your reservation fee, and pay for your entrance fee with cash or local check when you arrive at the preserve. Reservations are not refundable. Only one vehicle allowed for each reservation. Each vehicle needs its own reservation. Once you make your reservation, you cannot change the date.
- You can use your parking pass to visit other Travis County parks on the same day. Milton Reimers Ranch Park is just down the road, if you want to check it out using your pass.
- Use the restrooms in the parking lot before taking the quarter-mile trek down to the pool. These are currently the only working restrooms available.
- Don’t bother bringing a stroller. It’s foot traffic only on the trails.
- Call ahead to make sure swimming is available! Swimming is permitted only when the water quality meets standards for safe human contact as determined by the Texas Department of Health. Call 512-264-2740 for updated swimming conditions.
- Be aware that the parking lot only holds about 75 cars. Once it is full, you will have to wait until a car leaves, which can create a backup of up to two hours. For this reason, try to visit at an off-time, like early on a weekday.
- Pets are not permitted.
- Hamilton Pool Preserve is open from 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, weather permitting. No entry after 5:30 pm.
- For more information, visit the Travis County website.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Springs, TX 78620