Hamilton Pool: Austin’s Not-so-Hidden Gem

 

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When most people think of Texas, they think of cowboy hats, southern hospitality, BBQ, dry desert land, and football. If you’re lucky enough to visit Austin, Texas, you’ll be amazed at all that it has to offer, like swim spots, incredible food, a huge music scene, and tons of fun activities. One of my favorite places was Hamilton Pool, a collapsed grotto with a waterfall 30 minutes outside of the city. Here are a few photos from this surprising oasis in Travis County:

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In addition to the beautiful swimming hole and waterfall, there are some great hikes in the park. Based on the looks of it, you’d never guess that this lush, fairytale-like area is in the middle of Texas:

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If you’re thinking of visiting, here is some additional information about Hamilton Pool:

  • Entrance fee: $15 per car to park
  • As of May 15, 2016, online reservations will be required for an additional $10. Luckily, I just missed this date and walked right in! During high season, the pool can get extremely crowded, so it makes sense to limit the number of people admitted at one time.
  • Make sure to get there early! By some miracle, the pool was almost completely empty when we went (around 11:30 a.m.), and it was absolute bliss. From what I’ve read online and what others have told me, Hamilton Pool gets super crowded in the afternoons in the summer. In my opinion, early May is the perfect time to go, because it’s right before swim season and the weather is still beautiful :).
  • The park rangers test the water in the pool for bacteria levels each day to see if it is safe for swimming. If you have your heart set on swimming, make sure to call or check their website to see if swimming is permitted. When I checked before we went, it said swimming was not allowed that day, but when we got there, the ranger said we could go in- another miracle! Either way, it is definitely worth checking out.
  • Make sure to hike the river trail as well! It is in the opposite direction of the pool and follows a gorgeous river through tons of trees and wildlife. We saw everything from fish to butterflies to dragonflies! Here are a few pictures from the river trail:
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If you’re looking for more swim spots in the Austin area, I would also recommend heading to Barton Springs, which is very close to downtown. The entrance fee is $7 per person, but you can also go to the “free side”, which has more rocks and lots of dogs (not permitted on the other side), but is still awesome! Jacob’s Well is another spot about 30 minutes past Hamilton Pool, which is cool to see, but in my opinion, not worth the long drive. The well is over 300 feet deep and supposedly is a great spot for experienced scuba divers, but the water is not as clean as Barton Springs or Hamilton Pool and there isn’t much else to see in the area. Do you know of any other swim spots in the area? I’d love to hear about them in the comments section!

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Unrelated to swim spots: if you’re looking for a place to stay in Austin, I HIGHLY recommend HK Austin. This hostel is about $34/night, walking distance from tons of activities, a great way to meet new people, and the manager, Alejandro, is really cool and helpful. I had an amazing experience in Austin and a lot of that was thanks to the people I met at HK Austin. If you’re visiting for the first time or traveling solo, let me know and I’d be happy to give you recommendations for bars, breweries, food trucks, activities, and sights to see :). Thanks for reading!

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