A Local’s Guide to the 15 Best Swimming Holes in Austin
It’s no secret that Texas is hot—and getting hotter every year—but one of the best things about living in Austin is its proximity to incredible swimming holes in every direction. Central Texas is home to many rivers and springs, due in big part to the Edwards Aquifer, a groundwater system that naturally filters spring water and keeps it at a refreshingly cool temperature year-round.
When the temps start to rise, Austinites slather on their sunscreen, blow up their inner tubes, and head to the water. There are a number of amazing swimming holes right in town that certainly fill up in the summertime, but plenty of spots are also located just a short drive outside of Austin.
If floating past majestic cypress trees, swinging on rope swings, and drying off in the sun on smooth limestone rocks sounds like a good time to you, you might just consider moving to Austin, where the following dreamy swimming holes are just a stone’s throw away:
- Barton Springs Pool
- Hamilton Pool Reserve
- Deep Eddy Pool Krause Springs
- Blue Hole Regional Park
- Blue Hole Park
- Lake Plugerville Park
- Mema Long Metropolitan Park
- Sculpture and Twin Falls
- Grus Fruh
- Hippie Hill
- McKinney Falls State Park
- Secret Beach
- Bull Creek District Park
- Jessica Hollis Park
Let’s dive in!
1. Barton Springs Pool
There’s no doubt that Barton Springs is the most iconic swimming hole in Austin, and you can find both visitors and locals alike relaxing under its massive oak trees in between cold plunges. Located within Zilker Park, the spring-fed pool measures three acres in size and remains around 68 to 70 degrees all throughout the year.
The pool’s depth ranges from zero to 18 feet, and the diving board is a community centerpiece, with performative divers often soliciting cheers and supportive claps from observers scattered all over the lawn.
Barton Springs Pool is open Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. and costs $5 to enter, but “night swim” is free from 9 to 10 p.m. (except for on full moon nights).
Note: The main entrance takes you down a flight of stairs to the pool, and you can also find more parking on the west side of the springs and enter that way, walking down the grassy hill to the pool. Some people also opt to swim at their own risk at “Barking Springs,” an overflow area to the north of the pool that’s free to enter and welcomes dogs.
2. Hamilton Pool Preserve
Located 23 miles west of Austin on Highway 71, Hamilton Pool Preserve has been a popular swimming spot for locals since the 1960s. This natural pool (which is typically a chilly 50 degrees) was created when a dome collapsed after thousands of years of erosion, creating a breathtaking limestone grotto and waterfalls cascading over massive stalactites into a jade-green pool.
Since the natural pool isn’t chemically treated, water quality is consistently monitored and swimming is occasionally restricted, particularly after heavy rains. But even when it is closed, a visit to this natural phenomenon is time well spent. Hamilton Pool Preserve can be accessed by a short hike from the entrance, and for an $8 daily use fee, you can access 232 acres of protected natural habitat and take beautiful photos.
Be sure to make a reservation when the pool is open—they fill up very quickly! Reservations are required from March through October and on weekends from November through February.
3. Deep Eddy Pool
This spring-fed pool, named after an eddy formed by a deep hole in a limestone bed of the Colorado River, was built in 1915, making it the oldest swimming pool in Texas! Deep Eddy Pool was originally Deep Eddy Bathing Beach Resort and featured entertainment in the form of a diving horse, a man called the Human Fish, a 50-foot diving tower, a 70-foot slide, trapeze performers, and more, plus a Ferris wheel, carousel rides, cabins, and campsites. In 1935, the city purchased the property and has kept up maintaining the 33-yard pool since then.
The parking lot often fills up, especially on weekends, so you might need to get creative and seek out street parking in the surrounding neighborhood. You’ll purchase tickets at the machines outside ($5 for residents and $9 for non-residents), then enter at the front, where the bathhouse/changing area is located.
The pool, which is down a long set of fairly steep stairs, remains 65 to 75 degrees throughout the year, and its depth ranges from zero to eight feet, with eight lanes reserved for lap swimming. An oak-shaded grassy lawn surrounds the pool for sunbathing and relaxing in between cold plunges.
While food and drink are strictly forbidden in this area, there are picnic areas you can go to if you need a snack.
4. Krause Springs
Located about 40 minutes northwest of Austin in Spicewood, Krause Springs is a magical swimming hole carved out of limestone and lined with maidenhair ferns and mosses. There are actually 32 springs at Krause, and several of them feed into the centerpiece pool, which features beautiful cascades, a rope swing, and a rock face popular for cliff jumping.
The 115-acre private property is actually owned by a family who generously shares their piece of paradise with the public, and it includes a manmade pool, picnic areas, campsites, and a garden with beautiful sculptures, giant wind chimes, and hammocks for relaxing.
Admission fees are $9. They don’t take reservations here, so just be sure to arrive early on weekends before they reach capacity. It is also worth noting that the natural spring-fed pool is reached by a very steep staircase, so it isn’t the most accessible pool for those with mobility challenges.
5. Blue Hole Regional Park
Wimberley’s iconic Blue Hole features some of the clearest water in central Texas, fed by 75-degree water flowing from Cypress Creek. The aptly name swimming hole is flanked by cypress trees, and its clear visibility makes it a great spot for snorkeling. You’ll see plenty of fish and you can check out the impressive roots of the trees underwater, too. There is also a grassy field (with partial shade coverage) where you can lay in between plunges.
Reservations are necessary to swim at Blue Hole, and they fill up at least a month in advance all summer. Two different time slots are available: 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., or 2 to 6 p.m., for $6 each (if you want to stay all day, you must reserve both slots).
Like most of the natural swimming holes here, swimming will occasionally be restricted if high bacteria levels are detected, and refunds are issued to guests during these closures, as well as for any weather cancellations.
6. Blue Hole Park
No, you’re not seeing double—there’s actually another Blue Hole in the Austin area! The other one is located in Georgetown, 30 miles north of Austin and just five blocks north of Georgetown’s downtown square.
This lagoon is bordered by limestone bluffs along the south fork of the San Gabriel River and is perfect for wading when the summer heat becomes unbearable. There are restrooms and picnic areas (on the weekends, families go all out and bring their own grills and canopy covers). And, best of all, it’s completely free!
Street parking is also easy and a short walk to the water. Unlike most Austin-area swimming holes, dogs are welcome here, too!
7. Lake Plugerville Park
This manmade lake, located 20 miles northeast of Austin, features a pebbly sand beach as well as a grassy lawn where you can set up camp for the day. Be sure to bring an umbrella or canopy, because there isn’t much coverage from the sun!
Seven different piers make Lake Plugerville Park a popular fishing spot, and you can rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards by the hour, too. There are also restroom facilities, a playground, and a three-mile trail for jogging, cycling, or walking the dog (this one is pup-friendly too!).
There are no entrance or parking fees here, and the parking lot is big enough that finding a space shouldn’t be an issue.
Note: This lake water is much warmer than the spring-fed swimming holes, so this may not be the best option for late summer swims.
8. Emma Long Metropolitan Park
This city park, located right on crisp Lake Travis, is a popular one for swimming and picnicking, so it’s wise to get here early on weekends to secure a good spot—and make the most of the $10 entry fee (which goes down to $5 on weekdays).
There is a strip of sandy beach (but no tree coverage there, so plan accordingly) and lots of shady, grassy space with picnic tables and grilling areas. Leashed dogs are welcome at Emma Long Metropolitan Park, and there are 12 miles of forested trails to explore (ideally before you take a refreshing plunge).
Advance reservations are required Fridays through Sundays, as well as on holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, and the Fourth of July.
9. Sculpture and Twin Falls
These iconic Austin swimming holes are located right next to each other and can be accessed by an easy three-mile round-trip hike from the Greenbelt entrance at Highway 360 and Mopac (where there is free parking and no entrance fee).
The “falls” and natural pools at Sculpture and Twin Falls are created by limestone formations that fill up with cool water from Barton Springs. Unfortunately, these spots are only wadeable for the very beginning of the summer and typically dry up by late June. In those early summer days, they fill up with eager visitors, so visiting during the week is much more enjoyable.
The Greenbelt is a hot spot for pet owners, so you will encounter plenty of off-leash dogs. And, like most of the swimming holes on this list, alcohol is prohibited, but it is also not uncommon to see police officers surveying this area to give out open container tickets when the falls are flowing.
10. Grus Fruh
This swimming hole on the Greenbelt is accessed by an entry point within a residential neighborhood in South Austin (2642 Barton Hills Drive, to be exact), so while parking (and admission) is free, it is limited. An easy 1.5-mile hike leads to the swimming hole. Keep left for a steeper, stair-like path, or stay right for a more level, ramp-like access.
Grus Fuh (pronounced “froo”) can fill up nicely after heavy rain and is much more of an actual swim spot than Sculpture and Twin Falls, which are more for wading and soaking, even at their fullest. But just like those other swimming holes, this one often dries up by late June or July.
A limestone wall known as Urban Assault is popular with climbers, and there’s a rope swing, as well as some caves to explore. There are also some nice spots here to sling up a hammock and relax with a book.
11. Hippie Hollow
This iconic beach, which has been around since 1969, is the only clothing-optional public park in Texas! Located on the rocky shoreline of Lake Travis in northwest Austin, it’s just a 15-minute drive from downtown.
Entrance to Hippie Hollow is $8 per person (cash only) and is restricted to visitors 18 and older. There are never any lifeguards on duty, so swimming is at your own risk, and there is a little hike on rocks to get to the water, so water shoes are recommended.
There’s also no real beach area for laying, so it’s a good idea to bring chairs with you. It often reaches capacity on weekends, so go early if you’re visiting on a Saturday or Sunday!
12. McKinney Falls State Park
McKinney Falls State Park, located just 13 miles southeast of the Capitol, is where Onion Creek and Williamson meet. The 641-acre state park features plenty of parking, lots of trails for hiking, and over 80 campsites. Plus, it’s just $6 for day use only!
There’s swimming access at both the upper falls and lower falls, which feature rocks for jumping and natural pools carved out of limestone. The water here is considerably warmer than spring-fed swim spots, particularly at the peak of the summer. While dogs are allowed in, they aren’t permitted to swim.
Be sure to check out Old Baldy, the 500-year-old oak tree, while you’re here!
13. Secret Beach
Despite its name, the secret’s out about this little sandy beach located along the Colorado River inside the newly renovated Roy G. Guerrero Park in Southeast Austin. Getting there, however, is still a bit tricky, at least for first-timers.
Take East Riverside to Grove Boulevard, go all to way to the end, and you’ll hit a parking lot. Park there (for free!), then look for a trailhead. This will lead you to Secret Beach, as long as you stay right when the trail splits. An easy 10- to 15-minute walk will lead you to the beach and the swiftly moving, refreshing Colorado River.
Though the water is generally quite shallow here, the depth does fluctuate with the irregular opening and closing of nearby Longhorn Dam, so visitors should take note of that. Swimming and floating are technically not allowed here as of 2013 (though kayaking is), but that doesn’t stop Austinites!
Groups and families tend to bring in chairs and little grills to post up for the afternoon. As is another popular spot for dog owners, you’ll certainly encounter off-leash pups here.
14. Bull Creek District Park
Accessible via an easy hike with lots of tree coverage, this Greenbelt swimming spot is a popular one for dog owners. The entire trail is just under four miles out and back and includes several creek crossings (depending on the time of year, rainfall, and water levels).
Water shoes are highly recommended if you’re visiting Bull Creek District Park in the spring or early summer but, like most of the Greenbelt swimming holes, you can expect it to be pretty dried up by mid- to late- summer.
There are trails on both sides of the creek, an upper and lower area to explore, falls when it’s flowing, rope swings, lots of trees good for hammock-hanging, and the occasional shaded picnic bench.
Good news—there’s no entrance fee here! Just park in the lot off North Capital of Texas Highway and Spicewood Springs Road, where you’ll also find a restroom.
15. Jessica Hollis Park
Located on the north shore of Lake Austin, this LCRA park might have some of the chilliest water in town—perfect for the real dog days of summer! This swimming hole is adjacent to Mansfield Dam, so the cold, clear water comes from the bottom of Lake Travis.
Parking at Jessica Hollis Park is $1 an hour and the lot is very close to the water, making it a popular spot for paddleboarders and kayakers. The LCRA rents out watercraft by the hour, too. There are some sharp stones here, so take note and come prepared with foot cover!
A few picnic tables and grills make this a great spot for picnicking with a beautiful lake view, though the space fills up very quickly on the weekends. As is the case for all Austin swim spots, it’s always best to go very early or on weekdays to avoid crowds.
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