While it’s a close race, I have to say that the grotto at Westcave Preserve is, hands down, the most beautiful waterfall that I’ve ever laid eyes on in Texas–and that’s saying something!
Picture Hamilton Pool if it were left untouched by decades of swimmers… and that’s Westcave Preserve.
If you’re hoping to visit this magical waterfall for yourself, here’s what to know before you go!
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Where is Westcave Preserve, Texas?
Westcave Preserve, or the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center, is located off of Hamilton Pool Road, just a mile or so (and a hop, skip, and a jump across the Pedernales River) from the famous Hamilton Pool Preserve.
It’s technically located in the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town of Round Mountain, Texas, but for ease of directions, it’s frequently lumped in with Dripping Springs.
It’s about 40 minutes (or 30 miles) from downtown Austin, and 20 minutes (or 14 miles) north of Dripping Springs.
Address of Westcave Preserve
24814 Hamilton Pool Rd, Round Mountain, TX 78663
What’s it like visiting the Westcave Grotto?
The most popular experience at Westcave Preserve is no doubt their one-hour walk through the grotto tour, which is exactly what we signed up for.
The tour includes a shady walk through the Hill Country landscape and a chance to admire the beautiful waterfall and grotto from several angles, including inside the grotto, from across the main pool, and from a small cave situated nearby.
Walking from the entrance to the grotto was fun in its own right, and there was plenty to admire along the way, including beautiful bald cypress trees and dwarf palmettos.
It was an absolute delight from start to finish, and the grotto was even more impressive in person than in photos–especially when standing right by the waterfall.
Our guide was knowledgeable and kind, and taught us the history of the grotto and about local flora and fauna along the way.
Tips for Visiting the Grotto at Westcave
You must reserve a tour in advance.
There are no walk-ins for visiting the grotto at Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center: you’ll need to plan ahead!
The only way to visit the grotto is on a guided tour, which you can book here.
The “Get Tickets Now” button in the bottom right corner of the website will direct you to tour options and the calendar of availability.
Keep in mind that during high season, tours can sell out far in advance.
Tours are pricey (but are sold by household).
At $60 per ticket, there’s no doubt that in addition to having one of the most beautiful waterfalls in Texas, Westcave Preserve is also home to one of the most expensive waterfalls to visit!
However, it’s worth noting that the tickets cover a household of 2-4 people (and there is an option to add on a fifth person for an extra fee).
Personally, we considered the price tag well worth the experience.
Be prepared for a short walk to the grotto.
It takes about 15 minutes of walking–including descending a staircase–to reach the grotto once you start your tour, and you’ll need to walk the same route on the way back out.
There is absolutely no swimming.
This is a double-edged sword: of course, the pool in front of the grotto looks unbelievably tempting as a swimming hole, but if swimmers were allowed, it would quickly lose some of its magic.
Luckily, there’s an enormous number of swimming holes in the Hill Country that you can reach within an hour (or in some cases, much less) of Westcave Preserve!
For those interested in history, it’s worth noting that before Westcave purchased the property in 1974, it was used as a swimming hole–and as a result, looked very different than it does now.
There are compost toilets available near the check-in area.
However, once you start hiking to the grotto, you won’t have access to them.
Westcave isn’t dog-friendly.
This is understandable, of course, but be sure to leave fur friends at home!
Bring water and sun protection.
The walk to the grotto is mercifully quite shady, but as always in Texas, preparing for heat and sun exposure is a must.
We recommend bringing a reusable water bottle when visiting Westcave Preserve!