Formed when a cave over an underground river collapsed thousands of years ago to create a 45 foot waterfall and water filled grotto, Hamilton Pool is approximately 30 miles southwest of Austin.
Swimming at Hamilton Pool
Swimming is no longer allowed at Hamilton Pool as of summer 2022.
You have to have a paid reservation in advance of visiting Hamilton Pool. Reservations are for either the mornings before 12:30 PM and or in the afternoon after 2 PM. The park closes at 5:30 PM.
Even though you have paid Travis County $12 when you make the reservation, you still have to pay CASH for each person at the entrance. The cash fees range from $3 to $8 per person, so make sure you bring some real money. There is no public transportation to Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve.
Is it Worth Going to Hamilton Pool?
If you could get in a time machine to travel back to say 1976 and go to Hamilton Pool, would it be worth it? Absolutely! My memories of Hamilton Pool are people laughing and swimming and floating on inner tubes and standing under the waterfall. In fact, a lot like the picture of Hamilton Pool on the official Hamilton Pool page on the Travis County website.
Do not be fooled by the picture of Hamilton Pool on the official website or other pictures like that you may see on the Internet. You can NOT get into the water. There literally is someone standing there to make sure that you don’t get into the water.
Is Hamilton Pool worth going to in 2022? I didn’t think so. But I mentioned this opinion to several friends and they emphatically disagreed with me. I guess it depends on how much you like walking on steep rocky stairs to look at a pool of water you can’t get into.
Three Reasons Why It Is Not Worth Going to Hamilton Pool
First of all, if you are expecting a waterfall flowing over a cave grotto, it’s simply not there. Hamilton Creek is bone dry most of the time. If there is a super heavy rain, then the creek might flow for a week or so.
Also, the Travis County parks service has everything under the rock overhang roped off, so you can’t even walk over to where the water fall was or might possibly be for a couple of weeks out of the year. But more to the point, even though the pool itself has water, there is no swimming!
You can look at a couple of fish swimming around in Hamilton pool and see some birds flying around. There is usually a little water dripping out of the limestone on the overhang. That is pretty much it other than the park guide hanging out by the pool.
The park guide at Hamilton Pool the day I visited is named George and he was super helpful. I had lots of questions.
Second of all, please realize it is 8 flight of rocks and rocky stairs to get down to Hamilton Pool and of course the corresponding 8 flights of rocks and rocky stairs to get back up. To think about that another way, it’s a quarter of a mile of steep trail conditions between the parking lot to the pool.
If you are going to go, make your reservation for the morning slot if it is any time of year other than the two months of winter Austin usually has. Take a water bottle down with you because you are going to need it for the return climb. There are a few benches to rest at on the way back up. And wear sturdy shoes. You don’t need hiking boots, but don’t wear flip flops either.
Unless you have exceptionally athletic and cooperative kids, I wouldn’t recommend taking any child under middle school age. However, I saw a family coming from Hamilton Pool with two children who both appeared to be under 7 years of age while I was walking to the pool. I didn’t ask them if they were having fun. Based on my personal experiences as a parent, the answer to that question would be resounding no, but your results may vary.
I am certain that tears would have been involved and not just from the kids if we had ever tried Hamilton Pool as a family outing when my kids were little. And probably some yelling when they kept getting into the water when they are not supposed to be. So, again, big tease for a kid to go down and only be able to stand there looking at a fish and a bird and not be able to splash around in Hamilton Pool.
Also, in my opinion, it would be impossible to carry a child back up from Hamilton Pool to the parking lot unless you had one of those back pack child carriers and a really strong back. And if you have a strong back, perhaps you have an athletic child, so your family might enjoy a half mile of steep rocky trail in the Texas heat.
I can’t think of anything down that 8 flights of stairs to Hamilton Pool that would ever entice me to go there again in this lifetime unless the waterfall was flowing and swimming was allowed, which appears very unlikely. If I had tried going down the trail to the pool with a little kid, that kid might still be down there unless Park Guide George carried the kid back up for me.
Number three and the biggest thing to take into consideration if you visit to Hamilton Pool is CHIGGERS. If you do not know what chiggers are, follow this link. You will be horrified.
I didn’t do anything except stay on the trail and rest on the benches and a day or so later I realized I had at least a dozen chigger bites on my ankles and legs. The bites were an ugly mess for weeks. So if you go to Hamilton Pool, be sure to spray yourself with Deep Woods Off or something that will keep the chiggers off. There is probably also a ton of poison ivy along the trail and definitely poison ivy off the trail.
Why Should You Go to Hamilton Pool? Hamilton Pool Looks Great In Photos On Social Media!
Hamilton Pool looks much better in photos than in person. Look at the photos I took of Hamilton Pool. The colors are beautiful. Park Guide George said that around the year 2015, photos on Trip Advisor started driving an increase in visitors. About 40% or more of the visitors to Hamilton Pool are from out of state.
Thirty percent of the visitors to Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve are international. Park Guide George said when swimming was still allowed, even in the dead of winter foreign visitors would strip down to bathing suites to stand in Hamilton Pool to take a picture. In some countries apparently it is a thing to post a photo of yourself at Hamilton Pool on social media.
There are trails in the Preserve to hike on and there is a trail to the Pedernales River that is three-quarters of a mile long. Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve is also a great spot for bird watchers.
Based on my personal and completely unscientific observations, though, the average amount of time spent down at Hamilton Pool itself is about ten minutes tops, so 16 flights of stairs total to stand around for ten minutes is less than a minute of being at Hamilton Pool per flight of stair. That might be something to keep in mind when deciding if you want to visit Hamilton Pool.
However, one thing I really like about Hamilton Pool is it’s history. Prior to the 1800s, Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches lived in the area and there is evidence of humans in the area dating back over eight-thousand years.
The Reimers, an immigrant family from Germany, bought the property in 1880 to raise sheep and
cattle. Operated by the Reimer family through the 1980’s as a private recreational area, Travis County purchased 232 acres from the Reimer family in 1985 and today Hamilton Pool is operated as Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve. The Reimers still own and operate a nearby recreational area at Reimers Ranch.
If you are going to go all the way out to Hamilton Pool, I would also suggest stopping at Reimers Ranch. Or maybe just go to Reimers. At least you can splash around in the water at Reimers. Or even better, save yourself the 30 mile drive and go to Barton Springs Pool in Austin.