24300 Hamilton Pool Rd.
Dripping Spgs, TX
Map & Directions
Hours of Operation
Reservations required May 1 – September 30. 9:00 am to 1:00 pm and 2:00 pm to 6:00 pm daily, weather permitting. Recreational activities, such as swimming, end 30 minutes prior to end of reservation period. Call (512) 264-2740 for daily updates.
(reservation fee required in addition to park entrance fee)
Travis County Parks
Hamilton Pool Preserve is much more than a beautiful place to swim. It is a nature preserve in the federal Balcones Canyonlands Conservation Plan. It is habitat for a wide variety of plants and animals, including the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler. Our mission includes protecting the fragile canyon so that future generations may enjoy it, as well as providing a place to take a swim in a natural setting. Enjoying the natural beauty of the canyon is the most common activity. Some people are surprised to hear that our busiest days occur when swimming is not allowed.
We require all visitors to have reservations from May 1, 2017 through September 30, 2017.
Hamilton Pool Preserve has become extremely popular in the last decade. The small canyon can accommodate only a limited number of people. The number of people trying to visit the preserve on a typical warm weather day greatly exceeds the number of people that are allowed to enter. As a result, most people are turned away after making a long drive to the preserve. The reservation system prevents people from making futile drives to the preserve when there is no room for them.
No. The reason we restrict the number of visitors who can be in the preserve is that the canyon can accommodate only a limited number of people. Parking outside the preserve property does not address the overcrowding issue inside the canyon. Furthermore, Hamilton Pool Road is a narrow road with little or no shoulder and is not safe for parking. The shoulder of the road is a posted No Parking Zone.
Go the Travis County Hamilton Pool Preserve web page, read about the preserve, and then click on the Reservation Link. Choose a date and a time period, morning or afternoon, and pay for your reservation by credit card online. You’ll later pay again with cash when you purchase your entrance permit at the preserve.
Your reservation will allow you to bring a maximum of one vehicle into the preserve. A maximum of 8 people can enter on one reservation. If you want to bring more than one vehicle, then you’ll need to have more reservations. If you are bringing more than 8 people then you’ll need to have more reservations.
No, the reservations are final and cannot be modified or cancelled. Although the reservation fees are non-refundable, you will not be charged the $15 per vehicle entrance fee if you do not come to the preserve to use your reservation.
No, unfortunately, the reservations are final and you cannot change the date and time once you have made the reservation. If you decide that you would rather come on a different date then you must make a new reservation for that new date.
The typical total price for visiting Hamilton Pool Preserve is $26 per vehicle per morning or afternoon time slot. Typical vehicle fees are as follows:
- $10 Reservation Fee – paid online with credit card, not refundable.
- $1 Credit Card Service Fee – paid online with credit card, not refundable.
- $15 Entrance Fee – paid at Hamilton Pool with cash or check, no credit or debit cards accepted at the Preserve. Temporary checks are not accepted.
Exceptions for the Entrance Fee:
- With a valid Travis County Parks Annual Permit, a current Travis County Parks Day Use Permit, a person 62 years of age or older as an occupant, or for a Disabled Veteran providing Veteran Administration’s written documentation stating that an occupant of the vehicle has at least 60% service related disability, the Entrance Fee is $5 per vehicle.
- The fee for pedestrians and bicyclists is $8 per person per reservation time period, plus the reservation fees. Maximum of 8 people per reservation.
- There is an additional $5 trailer fee for vehicles with trailers.
- Note: fees paid at the preserve must be paid in cash or check, no credit cards.
No. All fees are non-refundable. No refunds are granted for unused reservations. You typically pay a total of $11 to make your reservation and an additional $15 per vehicle once you arrive at the preserve. If you do not use your reservation then you would not be charged the $15 per vehicle entrance fee, but the $11 reservation fees would not be refunded.
Please have your reservation receipt ready and easily available to show to preserve staff when you arrive. You can either show us a printed copy of your receipt or a digital copy on your phone. Your receipt will be emailed to you soon after making the reservation. The email will have “Hamilton Pool” in the subject line.
We have two reservation periods every day. They are 9 am – 1 pm and 2 pm – 6 pm. Each reservation period requires a separate reservation and entrance fee. On each day, all recreational activities, such as hiking, birding, and swimming, will end at 12:30 pm and 5:30 pm. All visitors must return to their vehicles so that they can exit the preserve by 1 pm and 6 pm respectively. For the morning and afternoon periods, no entry is allowed after 12:30 pm or 5:30 pm.
No. Swimming is not guaranteed with your reservation. Whether swimming will be allowed during your reservation period is largely determined by unpredictable factors such as recent rain fall and the latest bacteria counts. Hamilton Pool Preserve is not just a swimming hole. The most common activity is enjoying the natural beauty of the canyon and the water fall. Our busiest days occur when swimming is not allowed. See the Swimming Section of the FAQ for more information on swimming.
What happens if the preserve is closed to all visitors due to dangerous conditions caused by heavy rains?
Following or during heavy rain events that cause flash floods in the canyon, or the potential for floods, staff will close the entire preserve to all visitors when the danger becomes apparent. In the event this happens during your reservation period, you will receive instructions via email as to how you can reschedule your visit to Hamilton Pool at no extra charge. We allow visitors to reschedule their reservations only in the rare event that we close the preserve to all visitors for safety reasons.
No. The purpose of the reservation system is to allow the general public, like individuals and small groups or families, direct access to Hamilton Pool Preserve without needing to go through a commercial company.
Are lifeguards on duty at the preserve? – No lifeguards are on duty. Swim at your own risk. The pool is 25 feet deep at its deepest, and there have most unfortunately been drownings in the past. Please use caution if you plan to swim.
Typically, swimming is allowed when we do not suspect that bacteria counts are too high to meet health standards. We test the water for bacteria at least once a week, often twice a week in the summer. We don’t allow swimming following a significant rain, or after our water sample shows a high bacteria count. Since the bacteria counts and the weather are both hard to predict, it is not possible to say with certainty far in advance when swimming will be allowed. Historically, we have sometimes prohibited swimming early in the summer for Cliff swallow birds that nest above the pool and contaminate it, thereby raising the bacteria counts for a couple of weeks. Even this phenomenon is difficult to predict.
Most visitors enjoy hiking to the pool and photographing the waterfall, as well as relaxing on the beach or in the shade of the rock overhang. On most occasions, you can also hike two-thirds of a mile through the plush canyon to the Pedernales River.
Although we test for E coli bacteria, the most serious threats are a multitude of other bacteria that are associated with E coli. It lives in the intestines of warm blooded animals, along with lots of other infectious bacteria. We test for E coli because both the State and the EPA suggest testing for E coli.
This can vary greatly, from just a few days to a couple of weeks. Generally, the greater the rain fall the longer the time for the bacteria counts to fall. It is common for the counts to return to safe levels after a few days.
Can we guarantee safe bacteria levels on days when we allow swimming? – No. We try to make timely management decisions by monitoring rainfall daily and testing the water regularly, but there can be a delay from the time bacteria levels rise and the time we detect the rise. As with swimming in any natural body of water, you should swim at your own risk.
Hamilton Pool is known as a collapsed grotto. The overlying limestone is more resistant to erosion than the underlying rock. During flood events the lower rock gets eroded more than the rock above. Eventually this causes a large overhang that is immediately obvious to visitors at the pool. As the erosion process continues, the overhang will eventually collapse and the process will begin again, with the waterfall moving back a little with each collapse. This erosional process has been occurring for roughly 100,000 years, with the waterfall moving backwards up the canyon roughly two-thirds of a mile in that time.
The pool is usually measured to be about 25 feet deep at its deepest, but the depth varies due to the boulders and irregular bottom.
This is too involved to give a detailed answer, but we have a wide selection of life that is native to central Texas. Just some of the animals include fox, bobcat, porcupine, skunk, White-tailed deer, possum, various species of mice, sun fish, carp, various snakes including water moccasins, large variety of insects, and many other species. We even have some probable sightings of mountain lion, although those are rare. If you are interested in birds, we have a great many to look for, especially in the spring as the migrants pass through. Ask for our Hamilton Pool Preserve Bird List at the entrance booth. Our most famous bird is the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler.
We and other agencies conduct bird surveys, especially for the Golden-cheeked Warbler, deer censuses, juniper control in certain areas, prescribed burns, non-native species control activity, erosion control, and miscellaneous other species monitoring projects.
Drones are not allowed at Hamilton Pool Preserve, but they are allowed at nearby Reimers Ranch Park, as long as they are not flown over other people.
We provide guided tours only on Saturdays at 10 am during the months from October through April. We also offer a written self-guided tour brochure that will identify points of interest at various numbered stops along the trail.
Hamilton Pool Preserve is a nature preserve that is part of a larger federal preserve. We are bound to follow the policy of not allowing pets. Pets can disrupt the behavior of the native animals even after the pets have left. They are not allowed to stay inside the vehicles either. Pets are welcome in nearby Reimers Ranch Park, another Travis County Parks only a mile away. There is lots of room for hiking at Reimers Ranch Park.