Hamilton Pool Preserve
Long privately held but open to the public because its owners didn't feel right about not sharing it, Hamilton Pool is now the centerpiece of a nature preserve run by the state. This is a Hill Country oasis, especially in summer; it is a naturally collapsed grotto with a large round pool of clear, cold water into which a waterfall pours over a fern-embellished wide shelf above. Pack a swimsuit, towel, and athletic shoes; a sign at the entrance booth, where a small admission fee is collected, signals whether swimming is permitted on any given day. But dip or not, you'll want to follow the far less-crowded trail alongside pretty Hamilton Creek to its outlet, about a half mile away, at the Pedernales River (which runs through the LBJ Ranch upriver), a prototypical Hill Country vision of green water, limestone riverbed, bald cypress trees, and low boulders for sunning.