I absolutely love living in Austin, and especially so at this time of year. I love seeing the live oak, cedar and pecan trees get their leaves back, and all the gorgeous wildflowers come out alongside Texas’ back roads and highways (thanks, Lady Bird Johnson). Taking pictures of your children in a glorious field of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush is pretty much an obligatory exercise for local parents, as my Facebook feed will attest to every year at this time.
On a particularly fetching day last week I decided to play hooky (or do “location scouting” as I like to call it) and headed out with my camera for a road trip throughout the surrounding Hill Country area just to see what all was abloom.
I got off the main highway just outside of town and made my way up and down whatever roads struck my fancy. These horses grazing in a field of bright yellow caused me to stop in the middle of the road to take their picture — of course, part of the beauty of traveling on back roads means you can easily get away with this.
The first part of the day was overcast but the clouds still made for some dramatic scenery.
The afternoon skies were perfect and blue with scattered puffy clouds, which made for some cool lighting. The shadows playing on this field as I was driving past caught my eye.
Staying on the back roads I made my way past the Pedernales River, which was flowing nicely and looked very inviting. (Yes, I also stopped in the middle of the bridge to take this picture.)
While much of my day was spent going wherever the road took me, I did have one destination picked out for certain: Hamilton Pool Preserve, which, if you’ve never been, NEEDS to be on your list of places to check out in the Austin area! It was my first time to go, and it’s an amazing spot.
If you’re unfamiliar, Hamilton Pool is a natural spring, appropriately located just outside Austin in Dripping Springs, Texas. Jade green in color, it’s fed by an underground river and is surrounded by lush growth, making for an inviting spot for hiking, swimming or just hanging out. The remains of a natural dome that covered the grotto before its collapse more than a century ago provides a deep shady overhang, complete with waterfall. It really creates a stunning display, and makes me wish I were a better photographer to be able to truly capture the beauty of the area.
Depending on certain bacteria levels the pool is not always open for swimming, which was the case when I went. But when swimming is allowed it is quite a popular swimming hole! There is a bright white sandy beach area, which stands in stark contrast to the green water and blue sky.
It’s only about a 30-40 minute drive from Austin, and to get down to the pool there is a relatively easy 1/4 mile or so hike from where you park. If you’re visiting during the months of May – September you must make a reservation to get in, and outside of those times you may run into a waiting line on the weekends as only a certain number of visitors are allowed in to the preserve at any given time. But if you do like me and go mid-week in April you can pretty much waltz right on in, which is why I’m kind of ashamed of myself for not having gone before this. (Travel note: bring cash or a local check to pay the $15 parking fee; they do not accept plastic and the nearest ATM is 5 miles away.)
Again I’ll say, if you haven’t gone do make a point to do so. You won’t be disappointed.
I wrapped up my day’s adventure at sunset, thoroughly pleased with the whole outing and especially happy to visit some new places. We are so fortunate to have so many gorgeous sites to visit right in our back yard — it makes me even more glad to live where I do, and to have a job where I can take advantage of them from time to time!
Happy trails, y’all!