This article was originally written for the Hilltop Views.
Austin has plenty of places for those who love to get their adrenaline pumping and hearts racing. However, there are also plenty of popular hiking trails that locals take advantage of in order to enjoy the more mellow, scenic side of this sunny city.
Hiking offers individuals a chance to immerse themselves in nature. There are several places in and around Austin that offer a variety of hikes for everyone, from the extempore explorer to the trained trekker. There are newer, urban hike routes in Dick Nichols Park in Austin; wooded, rugged trails at Buescher State Park in Smithville; and more elevated, strenuous hikes and climbs at Enchanted Rock, located about seventeen miles north of Fredericksburg.
Professor Jodi Egerton often goes on hikes with her family on greenbelt trails in Austin. Egerton says that she and her family go hiking when “everyone’s going crazy in the house and just want to get out.” Egerton says that she and husband Owen Egerton tell their daughter that they are about to go on “an adventure” and then make their way down the trails and to the lakes to relax and occasionally enjoy a lunch.
Several people have turned this outdoor hobby into a passion. Professor Edward Shirley is one such person, saying, “For years (and years, and years), I’ve loved to hike or backpack. I’ve hiked or backpacked in many state or national parks, including Yosemite, Big Bend and I even climbed Pike’s Peak.”
Professor Shirley also recommends several local Austin hiking trails, “Since I don’t drive, much of my hiking is in Austin. The Bull Creek Trail is nice, as is St. Edward’s Park on Spicewood Springs Road. I love the Barton Creek Greenbelt and have done the whole thing, round trip.”
Hamilton Pool Natural Preserve, part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve, is another spot where popular hiking trails can be found. The preserve is roughly thirty miles southwest of Austin, near Bee Cave. The heavily wooded trails lead to and loop around Hamilton Pool, a natural basin created when the dome of an underground river collapsed due to massive erosion thousands of years ago.
This breathtaking excursion leads hikers down a ½ mile hike to the pool, conveniently beginning at the parking lot. The downhill trail makes its way through lush plant life and jutted rock formations and follows sleepy, serene Hamilton Creek. The right fork of the trail junction, located near the creek, leads upstream to Hamilton Pool and the 50-foot waterfall, while the left fork, called Canyon Trail, leads ¾ mile downstream to where Hamilton Creek converges with the Pedernales River.
Once to the pool, hikers can appreciate the remarkable beauty of the Hamilton Falls, climb the protruding limestone formations, observe the dynamic wildlife, and even take a dip in the Hamilton Pool.
The Hamilton Pool hiking trail is wonderful for both beginning and intermediate hikers who want a change of scenery. The trails are just far and rigorous enough for a solid workout, but are not overly demanding on the hiker.
When asked why he hikes, Shirley answered, “I began because it was fun, [a source of] exercise, and a time of solitude. I continue to enjoy hiking alone. I also like to go with groups who really want to hike. Why? Because it’s fun, and because it is community building. And I hiked post-stroke because I could. And now, I hike again because it’s fun.”
Hamilton Pool Trail
Open 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. daily, weather permitting
Vehicle entry permit (all day) $8
Pedestrian/bicyclist entry permit (all day): $3