When you think of Texas, the image of a sparkling waterfall flowing into a shimmering pool probably isn’t the first thing to pop into your mind. The Lone Star State has many tourist attractions, but some of the most beautiful might surprise you. One such must-see spot is the stunning Hamilton Pool Preserve.
Located just upstream from the Pedernales River and about a 45-minute drive from Austin, the Travis County Commissioner’s Court designated it a nature preserve back in 1990. Since then, it’s become a popular swimming hole and hiking area for visitors.
It’s attracted so many fans that Hamilton Pool actually requires advance reservations for anyone looking to visit and soak up the serene surroundings. And you’re in luck because reservations just opened up for visits through Oct. 31, 2019.
All you need to do to book a time to explore Hamilton Pool is pay the reasonable $11 per vehicle fee. Then, when you arrive, you’ll pay an additional $15 per vehicle for entry for up to eight people, or $8 per person for bicyclists. There are morning and afternoon slots available every day of the week.
Just Keep Swimming
So why is this oasis worth the fees? For starters, most of the year, you can swim in the pool. Picture yourself floating across the natural pool, surrounded by a rock grotto with a waterfall by your side. Simply glorious!
Though it should be noted that the park doesn’t guarantee swimming with your reservation. Swimming status can change based on recent rainfall and bacteria levels. You may call the Public Information Phone Line (512)-264-2740 for the most up-to-date swimming status.
Take A Hike
Swimming isn’t the only activity available. There are also hiking trails leading to and around the pool. The Preserve includes 263 acres, so there’s plenty of space to roam and explore. In fact, the hiking trail to access the pool is a quarter mile from the parking lot and takes about 15 minutes. It’s steep and rugged with uneven steps, so it’s recommended that you wear sturdy shoes.
If you’d like a more official experience, you can hop on a weekly guided hike or participate in one of the educational programs offered on-site. The one-hour tour begins at 10 a.m. on Saturdays in the dry uplands and descends 80 feet into the canyon. The guide will speak about the native plants and animals as well as the history of Hamilton Pool. The tour finishes at the collapsed grotto, waterfall and pool.
Hamilton Pool isn’t the only natural wonder that requires reservations, and it’s no wonder. Increased foot traffic can take a serious toll on the environment, and requiring reservations can help control the crowds. Where else do you need to book a reservation in advance?
Starting May 1, visitors who want to hike to Hanging Lake near Glenwood Springs, Colorado, will have to book a reservation. Reservations will open April 1, 2019, and cost $12 per person May 1 through Oct. 31 and $10 per person Nov. 1 to April 30.
The lake is a National Natural Landmark, so the new reservation system will help control the number of visitors and preserve the area for generations to come. There is no swimming allowed in the lake to preserve the delicate ecology, and dogs are also understandably not permitted.
Similarly, the world renowned Havasu Falls on the Havasupai tribe’s land has had a reservation system in place for a while to curb traffic and increasing demand. A visit to the remote waterfall and pool requires an overnight camping permit and advance reservation that costs $100 to $125 per person per night with a required stay of three nights. Which makes sense, as the 20-mile roundtrip would be extremely strenuous to complete in one day.
Alas, the campground has already sold out for all 2019 dates. While you wait for the 2020 reservations to open up, take a virtual tour with this video.
What do you think about natural wonders that require advance reservations?