How to Visit Hamilton Pool Preserve Swimming Hole near Austin, Texas

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a gorgeous natural pool part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve in Central Texas. It's surprising to find such a fresh blue-green beauty in the middle of Texas, but the secret lies in the fact that this used to be a grotto. Part of the grotto collapsed thousands of years ago, due to erosion, to reveal what we know today as Hamilton Pool Preserve.

The water from Hamilton Pool is from Hamilton Creek and flows into the pool from 50 feet above onto its surface. The waterfall is a beautiful feature and can be seen year-round. As expected, during the wet season there is more water flowing through the waterfall, while during the dry season it's more of a trickle.

The beautiful cave above Hamilton Pool near Austin, Texas

How to Get to Hamilton Pool Preserve

Just 45 minutes out of Austin, Texas, a day at Hamilton Pool Preserve makes for a great trip outside the city. If you're visiting Austin for the weekend, it's worth renting a car to make the drive. Driving outside of the city, you're also able to see the beautiful landscape that surrounds Austin.

Once you arrive at the preserve, there are a few walking trails along the river that culminate at the Hamilton Pool swimming hole. In 1990, this 232-acre area was designated 'protected' to foster restoration and habitat rehabilitation for wildflowers and unique species that lived in the preserve!

If you're interested in getting more information about the flora and fauna of Hamilton Pool Preserve, you can take a tour every Saturday at 10am between the months of April and October. The tour is limited to 20 participants along a one-mile hike and takes about 45 minutes.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is a favorite hang-out spot of local Texans and visitors alike! However, the process of accessing the Hamilton Pool swimming hole is quite different than most others...

Taking in the beautiful blue-green Hamilton Pool outside of Austin, Texas

How to Make Hamilton Pool Reservations

Due to extreme traffic to the preserve, Travis County implemented a reservation system.

The ranger we met at the preserve told us they used to have as many as 500 cars waiting to visit the park every day. They would have to turn away more cars than they could let in. They decided that in order to keep the preserve safe and at its pristine level, only allow a limited amount of cars could come into the park during two reservation times.

Hamilton Pool reservations are absolutely necessary. You don't want to drive 45 minutes outside of Austin for nothing!

If you are planning to visit between March 1st and October 31 you have to have a reservation for each day. However, during the winter months between November and February, reservations are only required during the weekend and holidays.

There are two reservation slots: 9am - 1pm OR 2pm - 6pm.

More accurately, your reservation time will look like 9am -12:30pm (instead of 1pm) because the rangers start to ask people to leave about half an hour before the reservation time is over. This also means you won't be allowed into the preserve if you come after 12:30pm. The rangers require everyone to leave by 1pm even if you have a reservation for the second time.

One reservation is needed per one car. If you have a large car that can hold over 8 people, you may need to make two reservations. Whoever makes the reservation has to be present and may be asked for proof of identity.

Fees paid for reservations are not refundable, but you are allowed to reschedule your visit. Whether for personal reasons or the pools are closed for swimming, any schedule changes have to be done at least by midnight the night before your original reservation.

Hamilton Pool Reservation Cost: $11.00 online AND $15.00 cash at entrance.

**Make sure to bring cash as there are no credit card machines at the entrance.

View of beach from within Hamilton Pool Cave

Can You Swim at Hamilton Pool Preserve?

You can swim at Hamilton Pool most of the time. However, high amounts of rainfall can sometimes cause high levels of harmful bacteria. During these times, swimming in Hamilton Pool is not allowed. The park rangers check the levels everyday to make sure it's accessible for visitors to swim. To avoid disappointment, check swimming access before you go by calling (512) 264-2740.

Since reservation fees cannot be refunded, if you are interested in swimming and the pool is closed, reschedule your visit to Hamilton Pool at least a day before your reservation date.

When you get to swim at Hamilton Pool, do not be surprised to find that there are fish and turtles in the pool! However, with fish and turtles, there is also the possibility for water snakes. It was pretty cold to swim when we went (in early March), but as we sat on the beach we saw a snake swim through the middle of the pool and take a resting place on a sunny log. Be aware of the types of snakes in the area and make sure to read the board between the parking lot and the entrance to the trail. Due to preservation of various animals that live at Hamilton Pool Preserve, pets are not allowed in the park.

Turtle and snake sunbathing at Hamilton Pool Preserve near Austin, Texas

Can you see the snake sunbathing on the log? (hint: it's just in front of the turtle)

How Deep is Hamilton Pool?

It can get pretty deep in the middle of the pool, especially after heavy rainfall. It's estimated that the pool can get as deep as 25 feet in the center.

Although there are park rangers at the preserve, there are no lifeguards. If you are worried about you capabilities as a swimmer, there are life jackets available for use if you need it.

Other Things to Know About Visiting Hamilton Pool Preserve

  • Make a reservation to secure your spot

  • Pay $11 online to reserve your spot AND pay $15 in CASH at entrance

  • There is no drinking water available, so bring water bottles with you.

  • You can bring snacks and lunch, it's a great view for a picnic.

  • There are picnic tables available!

  • No glass or alcohol allowed

  • There are bathrooms (port-a-potties)

  • Bring hand sanitizer after bathrooms

  • Wear good shoes - the trail down to the pool is rocky

  • Bring a towel for swimming & flip flops

  • Leave your pets at home

Anything else you'd like to know about visiting Hamilton Pool Preserve? Leave a comment below!

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