Thursday, August 16, 2012

Discover One of Texas Best Kept Secrets: Hamilton Pool

A few weeks ago, this photo popped up on my Facebook Wall from a Fan Page I follow called I Love Texas.  The caption read, "Lake Hamilton Pool. In case you're wondering where this is, it's 23 miles west of Austin off of Highway 71." I had never heard of this place, but it looked incredible and since we were going to Austin anyway... we decided to add this to our list of activities for the weekend. Boy, am I glad we did. 

Hamilton Pool Nature Preserve is managed as a natural area (preserve) with emphasis on habitat protection and restoration, environmental education for public and private groups, and ongoing research; it offers limited, day-use only, with recreational opportunities such as picnicking, hiking, swimming and nature study.  The preserve's pool and grotto were formed when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.  There is a 45 foot water fall creating a great swimming hole. You can also hike some of the nature trails along the creek.

The parking lot is sized for 75 cars, and when all spaces are taken, cars are held up at the gate until a space opens. We got there at 11:30am and were told it could be up to a 2-hour wait. We decided to stick it out and it took about 50 minutes before we made it into the parking lot.  It is a 1/4 mile hike from the parking lot to the pool.  You wind through a magical forest next to a river bed with fish and frogs dancing through it. It's a beautiful trek and the hike was almost as much fun as getting to the pool.

I was surprised that the swimming hole was so cold, but on a 100 degree day it felt divine! You can sit out in the sun on the beach, but if you want shade there are tons of nooks and spaces in the cave area to spread out and stay cool. We had a fabulous afternoon here and I would definitely go back!  A few words of advice: take floaties or noodles so the kids (or you) have something to float or play on. Our kids got bored of just swimming around after a while, but I easily diverted their attention to exploring the cave and wandering the nature trails.

Hours of operation
  • 9 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. daily. 
  • There is an entrance fee of $10 per car. 
  • $3 per pedestrian if you arrive via motorcycle or bicycle.
  • Travis County honors the Federal Golden Age Passport and the Senior Citizen State Pass.
Drinking water or concessions are not available in the preserve; chemical toilets are provided. Pets are not allowed, even on leashes. Neither are visitors allowed to leave pets in cars while they hike and visit the water fall.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is located about 30 miles west of Austin on FM 3238. From SH 71/U.S. 290 junction southwest of Austin, take SH 71 about 81/2miles to FM 3238 (Hamilton Pool Road), turn left and travel about 13 miles to the preserve. The entrance to the 232-acre preserve is on the right.  Updated information is posted at the entrance booth and provided on the park's telephone recorder message(512-264-2740).  For more info., visit