Summer Swimming Series
Hidden Holes: Hamilton Pool
Hamilton Pool is one of nature's eroded pleasures. Once upon a time the pool was a simple, underground river, but at some point in the distant past, a dome above the river collapsed. The result? One hell of a swimming hole.
The pool itself is fed by Hamilton Creek, which cascades over the limestone outcropping and into the pool some 50 feet below. Though the creek flow can be severely hampered by summer droughts, the waterfall never truly stops. As a result, even in these driest of days, the pool itself maintains a fairly constant water level.
That water is a magnificent shade of green, and generally maintains nice, cool temperatures throughout the hottest days of summer. This is due in part because of the outcropping shading much of the pool, but also because of the growth of trees surrounding the shoreline.
Access to this aquatic eden is far from cheap, however. There's a $10 entry fee per vehicle. And in order to maintain the bucolic nature of the preserve, park authorities enforce several other policies to ensure that visitors have minimal impact on the environment. Most important for swimmers are the strict no dog policy and the cap on visitors. The parking lot can fit 75 cars, afterward it is a rigid one in, one out entry system.
Because of this population cap, people like to say that Hamilton Pool can't get crowded. But that's a bit like claiming airplanes can't get crowded simply because everyone has their own seat. I'm not rich enough for first-class, so I know coach is damned crowded most of the time. The same goes for Hamilton Pool. Though full of glory, beauty and chilly waters, it can certainly feel crowded. Especially on holidays and weekends, so plan ahead and try to get their early.
Once you get there, however, you have access to a splendid swimming hole. It's a singular space, virtually unrivaled in central Texas. And since the pool is located in a bit of a ravine, a visit can be a peaceful, inviting break from city life.
Notes to Remember:
Hamilton Pool is about a 50 minute drive from downtown. Take 71 West past Bee Cave, then hang a left on FM 3238/Hamilton Pool Road. The park will be on the right, roughly 12 miles further once on Hamilton Pool Road.
One downfall of the Hamilton Pool area is a dearth of “soft” spots to set up a blanket. The shoreline is rather rocky, so take that into consideration when deciding what to pack. Additionally, Hamilton Pool offers no concessions so visitors should pack plenty of water.
The park closes at 6p.m. daily. It is also periodically closed due to heavy rains and/or high bacteria counts in the water. It's always best to call ahead to ensure you aren't wasting a trip.