Hamilton Pool Falls, Texas

Hamilton Pool Falls in December 2011

Texas does have waterfalls! That might not come as a shock to some, but for the 2nd largest state, it can be rather difficult to obtain a list of the waterfalls in the state. They aren’t all advertised particularly well. Many of these falls are found in the Austin area (or to the west). Pedernales Falls and McKinney Falls are the two most widely known in the area.

If you’re looking for an even less advertised waterfall, look for Hamilton Pool Falls. It’s not particularly difficult to find, as a county park is designated for the Hamilton Pool Preserve. The hike to the falls is very enjoyable, and the geology of the area is intriguing. A large overhang has been formed, so you can walk under/behind the falls, and I enjoyed photographing the rock layers above. In December 2011, though, there hadn’t been a significant amount of rain in the area for a while. If I remember correctly, the state had been experiencing drought conditions. Hamilton Pool Falls had been reduced to a trickle, though if you look closely, you’ll notice enough water was flowing to at least capture it was a waterfall! After an intense rainfall, Hamilton Pool Falls looks better, at least from the photos I’ve seen.

I would suggest checking the county website for updates on the falls if you’re planning on visiting.

Directions:

  1. From Austin, head west on US-290/TX-71. When they branch off, continue northwest onto TX-71.
  2. Keep driving on TX-71 until you approach the town of Bee Cave. In the Bee Cave area, turn left onto 3238, Hamilton Pool Road.
  3. Drive along Hamilton Pool Road until you reach the Hamilton Pool Preserve. The parking area will be on your right.
  4. There is an entrance fee to the park, and parking is somewhat limited, though we had no difficulty parking in late December. From the parking area, follow the trail the falls.

Accessibility: 8/10 (easy/moderate)
Height: 50′
Length of Hike: 0.5 miles round-trip

Where in the World is Hamilton Pool Falls?

Upper McKinney Falls, Texas

Upper McKinney Falls in January 2011

I showed up to McKinney Falls State Park when there clearly wasn’t a whole lot of water flowing down the river. At the right time, you could see a waterfall that looks very different. With flash flooding, it could even be dangerous.

Even without all of the water flowing, Upper McKinney Falls is still pretty interesting. In this case, it’s really all about erosion. At higher flows, you probably wouldn’t notice this. At low flow, though, the water clearly chooses the paths that erosion has created. At this low flow, you can actually explore and jump over each of the different mini-rivers that are present. It also allows for fun with the camera trying to get different shots of the water plunging.

Directions:

  1. I came from I-35 heading north. I believe I exited at Texas route 71 and headed to the right (east).
  2. I then took the exit for Burleson Road, taking a right onto Burleson.
  3. Keep heading down Burleson Road to McKinney Falls Parkway. At that point, there should be a sign indicating the falls. Turn right onto McKinney Falls Parkway.
  4. Head to the sign indicating the entrance to the park, and enter the park.
  5. At the entrance, pay the entry fee and then follow the signs. Upper McKinney Falls is near the visitor’s center, and there’s much less likelihood of getting “lost” when compared to Lower McKinney Falls.

Accessibility: 10/10 (easy)
Height: 5′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Rocks near Upper McKinney Falls

Where in the World is Upper McKinney Falls?

Lower McKinney Falls, Texas

I showed up to McKinney Falls State Park when there clearly wasn’t a whole lot of water flowing down the river. At the right time, you could see a waterfall that looks very different. With flash flooding, it could even be dangerous.

Even without all of the water flowing, Lower McKinney Falls (and its Upper partner) were still interesting. In this case, it’s really all about erosion. At higher flows, you probably wouldn’t notice this. At low flow, though, the water clearly chooses the paths that erosion has created. At this low flow, you can actually explore and jump over each of the different mini-rivers that are present. It also allows for fun with the camera trying to get different shots of the water plunging.

Directions:

  1. I came from I-35 heading north. I believe I exited at Texas route 71 and headed to the right (east).
  2. I then took the exit for Burleson Road, taking a right onto Burleson.
  3. Keep heading down Burleson Road to McKinney Falls Parkway. At that point, there should be a sign indicating the falls. Turn right onto McKinney Falls Parkway.
  4. Head to the sign indicating the entrance to the park, and enter the park.
  5. At the entrance, pay the entry fee and then follow the signs. The first falls is Lower McKinney Falls.
  6. It’s a short but rather confusing hike to the falls, especially on the return. There are no signs, and there are multiple trails that often lead to dead ends. Just pay attention!

Accessibility: 9/10 (easy)
Height: 5′
Length of Hike: 0.4 miles round-trip

Lower McKinney Falls in January 2011

Where in the World is Lower McKinney Falls?