If you’ve been looking into visiting Austin or have lived here/near here for any length of time, you’ve probably heard of Hamilton Pool and seen the gorgeous pictures of the little swimming hole with waterfall. It’s a very popular spot and can be booked up for months in advance!
So is it worth it to make a reservation and go with kids? And what do you need to know when you go?
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What’s Hamilton Pool?
Hamilton Pool is a natural swimming pool west of Austin in Dripping Springs. It’s known for it’s overhanging cliff with small waterfall that flows into the pool. (During droughts, the waterfall is more of a trickle or close to non-existent.) Hamilton Pool Preserve is 232 acres and has hiking as well as the pool.
There’s a small rocky beach by the water where you can leave your stuff — the whole space is small enough that you can see your things from the water, and there’s typically a park ranger keeping watch at the beach.
We love the several big catfish that swim right by you. They don’t seem to be afraid of humans, and you may even be able to touch one if you’re fast enough.
The water gets gradually deeper, so there’s a good amount of space where you’ll be able to touch the bottom. I have brought floaties for my kids in the past, but they also have life jackets available at the pool if you’d like to use one.
The address is:
24300 Hamilton Pool Road
Dripping Springs, Texas 78620
Is it worth it?
I love taking the kids each summer and plan to keep making the trip annually when it’s open. But here’s a bit more information so you can set your expectations accordingly!
There are a few changes in recent years that make it a little less magical to visit than it’s been in the past. First of all, there’s a chance that even if you have a reservation, you may not be able to swim. The preserve monitors algae/bacteria levels and closes the pool to swimming when the levels are high. This happens a lot in drought-stricken summers. Check online before you drive there for the day.
If you’ve seen older photos of Hamilton Pool, you may be a little disappointed to see it now. Because of recent droughts, there’s not much of a waterfall running over the outcropping overhead. It’s been a very small trickle in spots when I’ve gone in 2022 and 2023.
And where you can go is more restricted than it used to be. Visitors aren’t allowed to walk under the waterfall currently due to the risk of falling rocks. And for the same reason, there is a portion of the pool roped off for swimming and the rest is off-limits. It would of course be very cool to be able to explore the whole place, so that part is disappointing, but it is still a nice tucked-away swimming hole with lots of charm.
Can I go without reservations?
No. You need reservations to enter the preserve, even just for hiking. Reservations don’t guarantee that you’ll be able to swim.
Reservations are for either the morning time slot (9-12:30) or afternoon time slot (2-5:30), and park workers ensure that everyone has left the area by the end of the time slot. They drive around the parking lot making sure all the people have made it to their cars.
Is Hamilton Pool free?
No. You have to pay both when you make your online reservation AND when you arrive at the preserve.
When you make your reservation online, you’ll pay $12 per vehicle. When you arrive at the park on the day of your reservation, you have to pay the Day Use Fee in CASH (no debit or credit cards accepted). It’s $8 per person (special rates for seniors) and free for kids 12 and under.
How long is the hike?
The hike from the parking lot down to Hamilton Pool is about a quarter mile. It’s definitely not stroller friendly — it’s rocky and steep. It flattens out near the pool, but you’ll still want to wear decent shoes. No flip flops.
I’ve taken my kids when they were as young as 3, and they could do the hike (though they wanted to stop for a snack break even though it’s pretty short).
How cold is Hamilton Pool?
In the winter, it can get down to 50 degrees or colder, but it warms up in the summer. Still cool, but warmer than places like Barton Springs or Blue Hole in Wimberley. My kids get blue and chattery in those two spots, and they can swim the whole time in Hamilton Pool in the height of summer with no problem.
Are there bathrooms at Hamilton Pool?
There are portable toilets at the parking lot and also on the trail near the pool.
I hope this has answered all your Hamilton Pool questions so you’ll feel confident taking your kids there this summer. Just check for availability a few months in advance to make sure you get your reservation! And fingers crossed they allow swimming that day!
Looking for more to do near Austin? When you’re done with Hamilton Pool, head just down the road to Reimers Ranch Park — your day pass will get you in here too! Or check out one of these state parks within 90 minutes of the city.