Hamilton Pool

1.00 Mile
400 Feet
4stars (4.00)22
2stars (2.38)
2point5stars (2.58)
More Info

The trails at Hamilton Pool parallel Hamilton Creek as it heads toward the Pedernales River.
The trails at Hamilton Pool parallel Hamilton Creek as it heads toward the Pedernales River.
Getting there: From Austin head west on Hwy 71. Turn left onto RR 3238 (Hamilton Pool Road). Head south for a about 14 miles and look for the park entrance on the right. If you cross the Pedernales River you've gone too far.

The Hike: Natural pools hold a special place in the heart of Central Texans. Along with Barton Springs, Hamilton Pool has provided area residents with a refreshing break for generations. While most residents know of the pool, even if they have never visited, fewer know that there's a great little trail within the preserve's boundaries.

Several spots along the trail allow for close access to the creek, like this one near a small waterfall.
Several spots along the trail allow for close access to the creek, like this one near a small waterfall.
The trails begin at the waypoint "Trailhead" at the preserve parking area. The path descends slightly towards a "T" in the trail. To the right lies a short quarter mile walk to Hamilton Pool. To the left is the longer and less traveled part of the preserve.

I chose to go left first to avoid a small group that went in the opposite direction. The trail heads northwest and parallels Hamilton Creek as it flows towards the Pedernales River. Since the stream bed is well sheltered in the canyon, the air here is cooler than just a few hundred feet away at the top of the canyon rim. The cooler air and water source provide a humid atmosphere that is perfect for Cypress and ferns that line the banks of Hamilton Creek.

The trail surface is packed dirt and rock. Although the trail descends toward the river, it undulates as it heads towards the mouth of the creek. All told there is about 400 feet of elevation gain on the trails.

This fellow was filling his cheeks full of nuts to store away for the upcoming winter.
This fellow was filling his cheeks full of nuts to store away for the upcoming winter.
Though this portion of the trail is less traveled, you won't get too lonely out there. I saw perhaps a dozen others outside of the pool area itself. Still it was possible to find a tranquil spot all to oneself along the creek now and then.

The trail ends at the Pedernales River.
The trail ends at the Pedernales River.
Travis County is determined the restore the natural state of the land, which had been damaged due to misuse up to 1980, when it was purchased from the Reimer family. Prior to this it had grown in popularity as a swimming hole and the unrestricted crowds nearly enjoyed the area to death.

In an effort to allow the native vegetation to make a comeback visitors must stick to the trails at all times. Along the way there are a few spots that diverge from the trail and provide a closer connection with the creek. The official spots are fairly easy to discern by the worn path and the white string tied to trees around these spots to limit damage. Please stay on the trail and within the string boundary. The scenery here is getting better and better because people are no longer trampling over every square inch of the canyon.

Hamilton Pool is named after the small body of water at the base of the collapsed grotto with this waterfall cascading into it.
Hamilton Pool is named after the small body of water at the base of the collapsed grotto with this waterfall cascading into it.
The waypoint "Window Rock" marks a spot in which a hole in a jumble of boulders forms a tunnel that provides an interesting view of a small waterfall on the opposite side.

The trail loops completely around the overhang of the grotto. One spot along this section is quite narrow and requires a sideways shuffle.
The trail loops completely around the overhang of the grotto. One spot along this section is quite narrow and requires a sideways shuffle.
Paradoxically, some of the steeper sections of the trail occur right before it reaches the Pedernales River. The turnaround point at the river features a bench in the shade for some rest or quiet contemplation.

Doubling back, I headed to Hamilton Pool itself. As expected, there were more people around the pool's perimeter, after all, this is what most people come for. But given the recent rains, the water quality had temporarily degraded and no swimming was allowed, which cut down on the crowds a great deal.

Hamilton Pool is formed by a collapsed grotto. As layers of rock collapsed an overhang developed and water cascades into the circular pool below. The pool here is larger than at nearby Westcave Preserve and the trail here actually circles the entire pool, half of the loop under the rock overhang. The overhang is quite large by Central Texas standards and can provide refreshing shade on a hot day.

Hamilton Pool
Hamilton Pool (Photo by oliverd)
texas roadrunner
never got this close to one before (Photo by jimmy peace)
River Trail
There is a narrow, 0.6 mile trail that takes you to the river and back. (Photo by Blaze)
Water flows off the rock ceiling into the pool below, especially after it has rained. (Photo by Blaze)
Walk Through
You can walk on a narrow path on the inside underneath the impressive ceiling. (Photo by Blaze)
Impressive Formation
Hamilton Pool is a very impressive geological formation. (Photo by Blaze)
Turtle on Bald Cypress
As I walked through the forest I saw some turtles bathing in the sun. (Photo by JEMS1212)
While walking to the Pedernales River you go though this swampy part of the forest. (Photo by JEMS1212)
Goblins of the Forest
Goblins that were in the movie (Photo by JEMS1212)
Hamilton Pool
Different angle of the Pool (Photo by JEMS1212)
the Pool
Hamilton Pool (Photo by JEMS1212)
Another view of the falls at Hamilton Pool. Note that the trail passes just behind the falls. (Photo by Austin Explorer)

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Log Entries
nice for a fall hike
By jimmy peace on 11/30/2013
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 3point5stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 3.50 Miles Duration: N/A

actually had water running... then hiked to the river, and back 

A Texas Oasis
By Blaze on 5/11/2013
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 1star Solitude: 1star
Distance: 1.20 Miles Duration: 45 minutes

As a Houstonian visiting the Austin area, I was thoroughly impressed by Hamilton Pool.  It is an amazing geological formation surrounded by beautiful trees and birds.  It is like a little oasis in Texas.

I arrived with a group after hiking Pace Bend Park earlier in the day, so I was pleased to find out that the steep $10/vehicle entrance fee we paid at Pace Bend admitted us to the Hamilton Pool for free since they are both part of the Travis County Park system.

This isn't a hike, per se, as much as a place to visit and take photos, although there is a nice little nature walk down to the river.

As impressive as photos of this place are, it does not compare to "being there" and experiencing the environment.  The water in the pool was a murky brown when we went, but I suppose this is due to the fact that we arrived after a couple of days of rain and the bacteria count was high.

One more thing -- pets are not allowed.

By crocodile235 on 9/1/2012
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 2point5stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 1.00 Mile Duration: N/A
Easy hike , beautiful foilage and trees
By Jack3409 on 4/23/2012
Rating: 3point5stars Difficulty: 2point5stars Solitude: 3point5stars
Distance: 2.50 Miles Duration: N/A

Enjoyed the mile hike to and from the river and thought the pool was very pretty too. Wish I had brought a swim suit I could have jumped in

By JEMS1212 on 1/22/2012
Rating: 4point5stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 3.00 Miles Duration: N/A

Pack a lunch and off you go to a place time has forgotten. It is like walking into a land of magic. On our visit there a movie was being filmed. The people were in mid-evil costumes and there were goblins in the woods. After your walk around the pool, which is an emerald green you head down to the Pedernales River where you can have your lunch and watch the pipers fly by.

One of my favorite places
By JSTEMEN on 9/9/2009
Rating: 5stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 4stars
Distance: 1.20 Miles Duration: N/A

As the 23rd palsm says, he make me to lay down in the green grass and leadeth me to the still waters and restoreth my soul...this is what hamilton's pool does for me...I've gone a few times and never have been disappointed...taking a group of teenagers who gripped and complained at first that they had to "walk" go figure, but at the end of the day, they were all thanking me for bringing them to such a cool place...going again this next week, veterans day, by myself for peace and solitude...can't wait...been a few years since I've been there and I'm ready:)  Happy Hiking

Worth the drive, but a little crowded
By Whit on 11/27/2008
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 3stars
Distance: 2.00 Miles Duration: 1 minute

It's been about nine years since I've been out here - the trail seems worse for the wear.  Late afternoon walk, so not much bird activity.  Drought means the falls are very thin, but sitll worthwhile

Get there early!!!
By ANDYROOSKY on 9/8/2008
Rating: 3stars Difficulty: 3stars Solitude: 1star
Distance: 1.00 Mile Duration: 20 minutes

This place is so much busier than it was 10-15 years ago, lucikly it hasn't changed overall.  They have added bathrooms about 5 minutes away from the pool, which was comforting.  The falls weren't falling a lot because of lack of rain but the water is cool.  Bu sure to get there before 10 to pull right in or you might have to wait till someone leaves to get a parking spot...I rated this hike so high in difficulty because I was carrying my 3 year old girl, which is suggested because of the terrian is tight and bumpy.  Don't bring heavy coolers or strollers....

By perk1963 on 6/4/2007
Rating: 4stars Difficulty: 2stars Solitude: 1star
Distance: 2.00 Miles Duration: 1 hour

Yikes.  By noon, this beautiful place was so packed there was very little walking space on the 'beach' to be had.  I know they limit cars, but darn, how many people were in these cars??  It really is beautiful, though.  Loved floating on our tubes just under the spray of the falls.

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