Today I was fortunate enough to venture out to visit another Texas hill country swimming hole, Hamilton Pool (read about Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well here). I was joined by my yoga/running friends Melissa, David and Mike, and it was our second attempt to visit Hamilton Pool as our first reservation was canceled due to high bacteria levels in the water and flooding. We were fortunate however, to reschedule our reservation before the preserve closes for swimming for the season (Sep 30).
There is a ton of information regarding the required reservations at the Hamilton Pool Preserve on the Travis County Parks website, so I will just direct you there. But basically, you need a (difficult to secure) reservation either from 9am – 1pm or 2-6pm. You pay a fee online to make the reservation ($11), and then another fee per car upon entering ($5-15 depending on whether you have a veteran or senior citizen with you). Important to note, they only accept cash at the gate, whereas at Jacob’s Well, they only accept credit cards.
The parking lot accommodates 70 vehicles and they allow in as many people as can fit into that, so potentially up to 200-something. There are restrooms and porta-potties in several locations – both by the parking lot and then also closer to the actual swimming hole. The quarter mile distance from the car to the preserve is actually a bit of hike and took us almost 15 minutes due to the uneven steps and rocks that you must traverse. Strollers, bikes, or anything on wheels would be impossible to get down there so don’t bother. Choose your items wisely for this hike since depending on your fitness level. Speaking of the journey down to the water, it is absolutely gorgeous. It’s mainly a picturesque trail through the lush green woods, the latter part of which is alongside the Hamilton Creek (that ultimately joins the Pedernales River). There is a 0.6 mile trail to the river that we didn’t take as we ran out of time. Eventually the path leads you to the Hamilton Pool which is the result of a beautiful waterfall from 45 feet above what I’ve been calling a “half cave.” I say half cave because it’s like a semi-circular cave but one side opens up in the beautiful green Hamilton Pool. I imagine that exploring this half cave would be a great option for those who suffer from claustrophobia to still be able to enjoy the beauty of the cave-like rock formations. Another neat thing is that there is a trail that you can take completely around the pool (full circle). From every angle it is a gorgeous and majestic site. It’s hard to believe that I’ve lived so close to such beauty for so long and have been unaware of it! The waterfall itself is loud and powerful. You can stand under it if you so dare! The water is refreshing and a pretty emerald green color, reaching 30 feet in depth in the middle. And it’s not without wildlife either! Almost immediately upon arriving, we spotted a cottonmouth snake right near where we had chosen to set up our little camp (see pic)! We also saw large 12-15 inch catfish swimming around in calf deep water (see pic)!
So what to bring… the “beach” is made of river rock and so water shoes might suit you well if you don’t mind swimming in them – otherwise barefoot is definitely doable once you make it past the rocky beach. I wore my Chacos hiking sandals again but only wore them to hike and walk the trail around the pool. It’s definitely a place to lounge (more so than Jacob’s Well) and so my Grand Trunk parasheet (on sale between now and mid-Sep 2016) came in handy for our lunchtime picnic. Other than that, maybe a pool noodle or easy to carry float might be nice and a small cooler for refreshments.
As far as kids go, it would be another fun place for them to see and explore and we saw several children of all ages. Due to the deep water, life jackets or puddle jumpers might be in order for the younger kiddos. I definitely plan on returning to all of the swimming holes next summer with all of my kids (will have to make reservations early on before they sell out!).
If you have any specific questions about the Hamilton Pool Reserve, Jacob’s Well, or Blue Hole, please let me know and I’d love to answer them! Please feel free to contact me here!