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Swim under a waterfall at Hamilton Pool

Hamilton Pool is a historic grotto with a 50-foot waterfall. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Hamilton Pool is, by far, the Hill Country’s favorite swimming hole. The beautiful waterfall drops 50 feet into a turquoise pool of cool water and has attracted visitors for thousands of years.

When you arrive and pay your dues at the park entrance, follow a quarter-mile-long trail to the pool. The trail is rugged and uneven, so wear secure shoes. Along the way, you’ll walk through a forest of lush greenery.

The trail is clearly marked with thick ropes on either side. Don’t stray off the trail for any reason or staff will find you and revoke your park privileges.

I had seen photos of Hamilton Pool for years before I finally visited it. When I saw it with my own eyes, the photos didn’t do it justice. I was astonished by how blue the water was. It is absolutely stunning to experience in person.

Hamilton Pool has attracted visitors for thousands of years. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

A rocky beach leads into the water, which is cool and gets quite deep underneath the grotto. The beach is small and crowded. I strongly recommend getting to the reserve as early as possible so you can set up a prime picnic spot on the beach.

Take the trail that leads from the beach to underneath the grotto and all the way around the pool. The temperature drops as you walk along the cool limestone, and you’ll get a neat perspective of the pool.

Before you leave, make sure to snap a photo on the rock underneath the waterfall.

Strike a pose underneath the waterfall at Hamilton Pool. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

People visiting the swimming hole might not have taken selfies for the thousands of years they’ve come here. The earliest history of Hamilton Pool dates back 8,000 years as Comanche, Tonkawa and Lipan Apaches left behind other clues showing they once inhabited the area. In the 1880s, the Reimers — a German immigrant family — obtained the property for cattle grazing from the Hamilton family, which was influential in Texas politics.

When the Reimers rediscovered the grotto, they opened their property for recreational use, wanting to share the natural wonder with the public. The park grew in popularity, attracting visitors from across Texas, but little regulation severely impacted the native vegetation.

In 1986, Travis County purchased the property from the Reimers family after the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department cited Hamilton Pool as “the most significant natural area in rural Travis County.” Hamilton Pool became a reserve to protect its fragile ecosystem, focusing on habitat protection and restoration.

The turquoise waters at Hamilton Pool are a sight worth seeing. Photo by JoAnna Kopp

Today, Hamilton Pool is extremely well-maintained. Its popularity and reputation have led to a need for a new system to manage more people who want to visit than can fit in the park at a time.

When planning your visit, become familiar with the new reservation system, which begins May 15. The new system only allows you to visit the reserve for one of two four-hour sessions a day.

The pool also has new safety features for swimmers, including a life jacket kiosk where visitors can borrow a life jacket free of charge along with a lesson on how to use them. There are also life rings situated around the pool.

Call ahead if you plan on swimming: Bacteria levels change daily, and swimming is only permitted if the levels are healthy. After a heavy rain or during a long drought, conditions might not be up to par, and swimming may be prohibited. For park conditions, call (512) 264-2740; the message is updated at 9 a.m. daily.

For more information, take a look at the website. Hamilton Pool Reserve is located at 24300 Hamilton Pool Road in Dripping Springs.

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