Hamilton Pool Preserve is probably one of the most impressive places to visit in Texas. You’ve probably come across photos of this natural wonder if you’ve done any googling about Texas watering holes or hidden treasures. Unfortunately, Hamilton Pool is not as hidden as it used to be, so it takes some planning to really enjoy. I can be a little too spontaneous at times, so I hope you learn from my experience and find these tips useful!
Do NOT—I repeat: DO NOT—try to just show up. Reservations are required every day through October 31, 2018. In November and December 2018, reservations are required only for weekends and official Travis County holidays. Reserve a time on the website and consider a weekday, as weekends book up pretty quickly. The website allows you to pick one of two time slots: 9:00 A.M.–1:00 P.M., or 2:00 P.M.–6:00 P.M. You’ll pay a $11 deposit online and then also pay $15 via CASH OR CHECK (no credit or debit cards accepted) when you get there. Have your reservation printed or ready on your phone.
Call the hotline and check the website frequently. Bacteria levels determine whether it is safe to swim in the water. I can’t imagine telling my kids we drove two hours only to find that the bacteria levels were too high for swimming. Weather affects bacteria levels, especially after a heavy rain, so be sure to double check the website before your trip.
Don’t forget your river shoes. My family of four survived in flip flops, but if you have a kiddo with sensitive feet or a little one who’s unsteady, I definitely recommend some type of moccasin or enclosed water shoe. The “beach” area is small and full of gravel, and even once you’re in the water, the bottom is still pretty rocky.
Make arrangements for family members with limited mobility or disabilities. To get to the pool, you’ll hike down a steep, rocky trail that is not suitable for those with limited mobility or disabilities. However, according to the website, “guests with physical disabilities can request a ride down into the canyon by preserve staff.” You’ll need to make arrangements with the staff ahead of time, though, to be sure they can accommodate you. To do this, call (512) 264-2740.
Don’t feel pressured to stay for the duration of your entire time slot. Hamilton Pool Preserve does not allow pets, drones, or alcohol, and drinking water is not readily available. My family took a small bag with towels and water bottles. The staff is very diligent about keeping the roped-off areas untouched, so you’re better off not bringing a lot of packaged snacks. Basic bathrooms are located at the top of the trail.
I recommend eating your meals on the way to the preserve instead of having a picnic-style lunch once you get there. Any gear you want to enjoy down at the pool you must lug down the quarter-mile trail—and of course, what goes down must come back up. The trail is rocky, steep terrain, so if you can’t easily carry a baby and your gear (no strollers allowed) or if your children can’t handle the trail on their own, you may want to consider Hamilton Pool for a day date with no kids or wait until your kids are older. I saw a woman baby-wearing and she seemed fine, but I don’t think I would have tried that when my children were that age. (Her kids seemed a little more mild-mannered than mine.)
Hamilton Pool Preserve is a great day trip destination for those wanting to get away for a few hours, and it should definitely be on your Texas bucket list! Hopefully these tips will make the experience as easy as possible!