There are many ways to outsmart the heat and humidity in Texas, but none as exciting and relaxing as soaking in a natural swimming hole. Thanks to its colorful geology and penchant for housing natural springs, the Texas hill country contains a multitude of natural swimming holes and these spectacular twelve are within an hour’s drive time of downtown Austin:
1.) Barton Springs Pool
Nestled in Austin’s beloved Zilker Park, Barton Springs Pool is a popular three-acre swimming hole that attracts swimmers and endangered salamanders alike. Though it is much more developed than the other natural swimming holes on this list, Barton Springs is spring-fed and is a federally protected habitat for wildlife—we weren’t kidding about the salamanders! Besides the beautiful atmosphere and clear waters, Barton Springs’ greatest plus is its constant water temperatures of 68-70 degrees. That means year-round cannonballing, people!
2.9 miles from Capitol. 2201 Barton Springs Rd. 512-867-3080. Open daily 5 a.m. to 10 p.m., closed Thursdays 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. $5 parking. $1-3 admission per person depending on age and residency. Food, coolers, glass, alcohol, sports balls, and frisbees are prohibited. More information.
2.) McKinney Falls — Upper Falls
Austin’s resident state park houses not one but two of the most gorgeous natural swimming holes on this list. Limestone and cypress-lined, the Upper Falls swimming hole (feature photo) tends to be the most popular hangout spots for park guests looking to beat the heat. One of the Upper Falls’ prime features is a prominent limestone shelf that doubles as a diving board!
10.3 miles from Capitol. 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy near Smith Visitor Center. 512-243-1643. Open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Adults $6, children 12 and under get in free. More information.
3.) McKinney Falls — Lower Falls
Though not quite as picturesque as the Upper Falls swimming hole, the Lower Falls pool often provides a better swimming experience because not as many park guests know about it. The Lower Falls also boasts a rock shelf diving board and more shoreline to picnic or sunbathe.
10.3 miles from Capitol. 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy near Homestead Trail marker. 512-243-1643. Open daily 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Adults $6, children 12 and under get in free. More information.
4.) Twin Falls
Twin Falls is one of three seasonal swimming holes along Austin’s Barton Creek Greenbelt Trail. During the summer months, you can forget about Twin Falls because the pool dries up in the non-rainy months, but in wetter seasons or several days after a particularly heavy rain, you will be able to enjoy Twin Falls in all of its glory and take advantage of its rope swing and jumping rock.
5.8 miles from Capitol. Find Barton Creek Greenbelt Trailhead on S MoPac Expy Service Rd, hike down to the creek and keep right for about five miles to find Twin Falls. Open sunrise to sunset. Free. Hide and lock valuables in vehicle. More information.
5.) Gus Fruh Swimming Hole
Like Twin Falls, the awesome pool along the Gus Fruh Trail is often dry in the summer months and is most impressive a few days after a good storm. Fewer Austinites know about Gus Fruh, which makes for a quieter and more peaceful swimming experience surrounded by nature.
4.7 miles from Capitol. Find Barton Creek Greenbelt/Gus Fruh Trailhead at 2642 Barton Hills Dr and follow trail to swimming hole. Open sunrise to sunset. Free. Hide and lock valuables in vehicle. More information.
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