The best swimming holes in Central Texas

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The best swimming holes in Central Texas

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Hamilton Pool Preserve is a Travis County Park with a waterfall, pool and creek. LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN file

Summer is coming, and it’s gonna be a hot one (but when is it not?) and before long, you’re going to need a way to while away the dog days of summer. Here’s an alphabetized list of some of the most popular swimming holes in Central Texas.

Two girls jump into the water hand in hand at the Barton Creek Greenbelt on Tuesday, July 14, 2015.  Shelby Tauber

Barton Creek Greenbelt

There are so many places in the Barton Creek Greenbelt where the swimming is excellent. There’s Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls, which you can access near the intersection of Loop 360 and MoPac Expressway, and there’s Campbell’s Hole, which can be accessed from the entrance on Spyglass Drive (right across from Tacodeli). The Greenbelt is great because it’s open from dawn to dusk, it’s free and you can bring your dog—but the water levels vary greatly depending on the amount of rainfall, and popular areas like the one we’ve mentioned here can get crowded. Hours: Dawn to dusk. Price: Free

Lifeguard Landon Tourne looks on as swimmers takes a dip on Feb. 27 in Barton Springs Pool on the first day of the reopening after receiving flood damage from the storm early this month. American-Statesman Staff

Barton Springs Pool (and Barking Springs!)

It’s perhaps Austin’s most famous swimming hole, and for good reason: The three-acre spring-fed pool is a cool (read: cold) 68-70 degrees year-round. Hours: 5 a.m.to 10 p.m. daily. Price: For residents, $3 for adults. For non-residents, $8 for adults. Free before 8 a.m. and after 9 p.m. See more pricing information here.

Barking Springs, also known as the Barton Springs Spillway, is right next to Barton Springs Pool, but it’s outside the gates—which means it’s free. While Barton Springs Pool doesn’t allow outside food, drinks or pets into the gates, you don’t have to leave your furry friend or your poolside snacks at home if you opt for the spillway. Hours: Dawn to dusk. Price: Free.

Blanco State Park, located along the banks of the Blanco River, is a 105-acre site that offers recreation activities including swimming, fishing, canoeing, camping, and hiking. Valentino Mauricio

Blanco State Park is perfect for swimming, canoeing and kayaking, and there’s even a shallow wading pool near the dam for small children or adults who just like lounging. You can even rent tubes to float around in. Since it’s about an hour-long drive from Austin, you may want to stay the night: You can camp in travel-trailers or reserve screened shelters. Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily. Price: $5 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Located five blocks north of the downtown Square, swimmers cool off in the Blue Hole. Contributed by Georgetown CVB Special to the American-Statesman

Blue Hole Park in Georgetown features scenic limestone cliffs and shallow wading areas (No jumping from the cliffs, though). Hours: Dawn until dusk. Price: Free.

There's hardly a better way to beat the Central Texas heat than a trip to a nearby swimming hole. For some, that hole was Blue Hole in Wimberley, where the bald cypress trees provide shade and a perfect spot to hang a rope and hurl yourself into the cool water. Or just get a running start and jump right in, as did Ryan Dike, 12, of Austin. Alberto Martinez

Wimberley’s Blue Hole Regional Park is one of the most popular swimming areas in Central Texas. The only bad thing about Blue Hole is when it reaches capacity, organizers close the park for a minimum of two hours and do not admit any new visitors—so get there early. You can bring picnic lunches, camp chairs, small pop-up tents, floats and innter tubes into the park. Hours: 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Price: $9 for adults, $50 for an adult season pass. See more pricing information here.

Cameron Reid of Jonestown enjoys the water at Bob Wentz Park on Lake Travis on Friday, August 30, 2013. (This photo was taken during record-low lake levels, but thanks to rain over the last four years, the water is perfect for swimming once again!) Jay Janner

The park is one of the best-kept secrets in Austin for swimming, sailing, scuba diving, windsurfing and picniking. There’s a beachy area known as “The Point” as well as barbecue grills and a sand volleyball court. Pets are allowed in the park, but must be kept on leash and are not permitted on The Point. Hours: 8 a.m. to dusk. Price: $10 per vehicle. See more pricing information here.

Gorman Falls is flowing at Colorado Bend State Park near Lampasas. The park along the Colorado River is less crowded than some of Austin’s well-known parks and worth the day trip. Pam LeBlanc, American-Statesman

Located an almost two-hour drive away from Austin, this park is perfect for a weekend getaway filled with hiking, fishing, swimming, mountain biking, cave exploring and more. Hours: 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Price: $5 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Girls feed the ducks in Landa Park in New Braunfels. Mauri Elbel

Comal Springs and Landa Park - New Braunfels

Landa Park, located on the Comal River in New Braunfels, is a family-friendly day trip from Austin. The park offers picnicking, hiking, sand volleyball courts, horseshoe pits, playscapes, miniature golf, two pools, paddleboats and a miniature train. Hours: Pool is open 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Saturdays; noon to 7 p.m. Sunday through Friday. Price: Fees vary for different features of the park. See more information on pricing and hours here.

Greg Browne plays with his 15 month-old daughter Piercy Joye Browne in cool shallow waters of Deep Eddy Pool. Ralph Barrera

Deep Eddy is perhaps Barton Springs’ younger, less-popular-but-equally-great brother. The pool has lanes for swimmers who need to get their laps in, and a shallow area for children or casual swimmers. It’s also the oldest swimming pool in Texas, and it’s usually way less crowded than Barton Springs. Hours: Lap swim from 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. weekdays; open to all swimmers from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekdays. Open to all swimmers 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. weekends. Price: $3 for Austin resident adults, $8 for non-residents. See full pricing information here.

The swimming area of Emma Long Park is a popular place for families and friends to gather and enjoy the hot day in the cool waters of Lake Austin. American-Statesman Staff

The northwest Austin park is perfect for swimming, boating and camping. Hours: 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Price: $5 per car Monday through Thursday; $10 per car Friday through Sunday and holidays.

Garner State Park is a popular place for tubing. Chris LeBlanc

Garner State Park is a favorite summer vacation spot for families in Texas. Located on the Frio River, the park offers hiking, camping, tubing, paddleboating and more. There’s also a miniature golf course, and the park hosts dances starting at 8:30 p.m. on summer evenings. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Price: $8 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Matthew Freund, 9, (left) and Jackson Ponder, 9, both of Cibolo, splash in shallow water at Guadalupe River State Park. Ashley Landis

With four miles of river frontage, there’s plenty of room to swim, kayak, canoe, fish or go tubing. There are also 13 miles of hike and bike trails within the park. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Price: $7 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Hamilton Pool Preserve is located outside of Austin for swimming and hiking. Jay Janner

Hamilton Pool Preserve is undoubtedly the most famous swimming hole in Central Texas, and for good reason—it’s beautiful. There are waterfalls. The water is a perfect temperature. Unfortunately, everybody in Central Texas wants to visit—so the pool now offers admission by reservation only. You can make reservations online from May 1 through Sept. 30. Since the pool is so popular, it can be confusing to maneuver what to do when you get there. The park has answered frequently asked questions on its website, so make sure to read up before you make the drive. The good news is that if you get to Hamilton Pool and it’s full or you can’t get in for other reasons, Pedernales Falls State Park is right next door (more on that later). Hours: 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Price: $10 reservation fee, $15 entrance fee.

Photo courtesy City of Lampasas.

If you find yourself in Lampasas, you’re going to want to stop here. It’s spring-fed, which means it’s a chilly 69 degrees year-round. Hours: Noon to 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday, 1 p.m. to 6 p.m. Sundays. Price: $3.50 for adults, $2.50 for children under 2 years old.

In the photo from the 1977 American-Statesman archives, nude sunbathers relax at Hippie Hollow. 

As you can see from the photo above, Hippie Hollow has been a local favorite for decades. It’s perhaps Austin’s most—er—interesting park, as it’s the only clothing-optional park in Austin (as a result, you have to be more than 18 years old to enter). A reminder from Travis County Parks: “Nudity is acceptable, lewd behavior is not.” Hours: 9 a.m. to dusk. Price: $15 per vehicle. 

Inks Lake State Park

About an hour northwest of Austin, Inks Lake is perfect for a day trip or weekend camping. On the water, you can swim, boat, fish, water ski, scuba dive and boat. The park also has 9 miles of hiking trails, and you can rent paddle boats, canoes and kayaks. Hours: 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Price: $6 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Dominick Pottker leaps from the rocks into the deep end of Jacob’s Well on Wednesday. Rodolfo Gonzalez

Jacob’s Well is another incredibly popular swimming area that is reservation-only. You can make reservations online, but it’s worth the hassle: The area is beautiful, and the average water temperature during the summer is 68 degrees (a much-needed relief from the Texas heat). Price: $5 for adult residents of Hays County, $9 for non-residents. See more pricing information here.

Krause Springs

The Spicewood park is a great location for swimming and camping about 30 miles outside of Austin, so it’s perfect for a day trip or a weekend getaway. There are 32 springs on the property, which feed into a manmade pool and a natural pool, which means the water feels super refreshing when you jump in. Hours: 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. Price: $8 for adults, $5 for children 4-11, free for children under 4 years old.

Michael Martinez, 10, jumps into Lake Travis to join his sister Lily Martinez, 6. The two took a trip to Mansfield Dam Park with their father and other family members on July 31. Michael is wearing a life jacket borrowed from the life jacket loaner board at the park. Rachel Rice

Mansfield Dam Park is one of the primary access points for boaters on Lake Travis, but it’s also a favorite swimming area. Thee are picnic sites, a playground and even chess tables. Hours: 8 a.m. to dusk. Price: $10 per vehicle.

Jaclyn Howell jumps into the upper falls during a Yoga Hike event at McKinney Falls State Park Saturday, Aug 15, 2015. (Stephen Spillman for American Statesman) Stephen Spillman

Take a swim in Onion Creek or hike or bike nearly nine miles of trails. Just watch the weather, because the creek can flood after rainfall. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Price: $6 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

The Collier Boat Boat Ramp at Pace Bend Park on Lake Travis. Jay Janner AMERICAN-STATESMAN

The park has more than nine miles of shoreline along Lake Travis, so it’s one of Austin’s most scenic parks, especially at sunset. There are even designated swim coves where boats aren’t allowed. Hours: Dawn to dusk. Price: $10 per vehicle.

Reynaldo Rodriguez takes a walk at Pedernales Falls State Park on Wednesday November 2, 2016. JAY JANNER / AMERICAN-STATESMAN Jay Janner/Jay Janner

Located 30 miles west of Austin (basically next door to Hamilton Pool) and filled with limestone slabs, there are plenty of hiking and swimming opportunities along the Pedernales River. Hours: 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Price: $6 for adults, free for children 12 and under.

Ruth Carrillo, left (can see side of her face) and friends, jump into the San Marcos River at Sewell Park in San Marcos after graduating from Texas State University on May 13, 2016. Laura Skelding

There are plenty of places to swim, float and kayak on the San Marcos River, but Sewell Park, in the heart of Texas State University, is a local favorite. The river is 72 degrees year-round thanks to hundreds of springs (which can make it extremely refreshing—or chilly—when Texas State graduates take part in the tradition of jumping in the water after graduation). Hours: Dawn to dusk. Price: Free.

Lauren Post and Jerry Krusinski hang out at Secret Beach on Wednesday, January 28, 2015, taking advantage of the unseasonably warm weather with temperatures reaching 80 degrees. 01.28.15 LAURA SKELDING/AMERICAN-STATESMAN012915 warm Laura Skelding/Austin American-Statesman

“Secret” Beach (Roy G. Guerrero Metropolitan Park)

Secret Beach is perhaps the worst-kept secret in Austin. Located at Roy G. Guerrero Metropolitan Park, it’s as much a beach as it is a secret—which is to say, not at all. But it is sandy, and it is along the Colorado River. And technically, it’s against city ordinance to swim in that part of the Colorado River, but it is a nice place to sit and enjoy a picnic, or as we said a few years ago, wade.


Did we forget your favorite swimming hole? Send an email to kpsencik@statesman.com and we’ll add it to the list.

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