Warning: If you’re not already thinking about moving to Austin, you will be after you read about these Texas swimming holes. The capital of Texas may be known for its breakfast tacos, university (Hook ‘em Horns!), dedication to keeping it weird and Willie Nelson, but it’s also a city that offers easy access to nature. From the iconic Zilker Bark to the shores of Lake Travis, there are a number of places to hike, picnic and most importantly—at least in the summer months—swim.Here are 7 amazing swimming holes in and around Austin, Texas:
Any list of Austin swimming holes that doesn’t begin with Barton Springs is no list at all. Nestled within 358-acre Zilker Park, there’s something special about Barton Springs—and no, we’re not talking about the fact that it was the setting for LeAnn Rimes’ music video for the song “Blue.” Set your blanket out on the grassy banks of this swimming hole, which is fed from an underground spring, and then take a dip in the water which is about 70 degrees and ranges from 0-70 feet deep. Go before 8 a.m. for free admission or pay $5 if you’re a resident (non-residents are $9). Be sure to add the monthly Howl at the Moon full moon swim event to your calendar, which lends a tranquil, otherworldly atmosphere to the already picturesque setting.
Ah, Hamilton Pool—the swimming hole that launched a thousand Instagram posts. This majestic swimming hole features an overhanging cave, a 50-foot waterfall and emerald green water. Located upstream from a confluence of the Pedernales River and Hamilton Creek, Hamilton Pool does come with a bit of red tape, but it’s well worth the effort. To experience it, make reservations online ($11) for a designated time slot. Plan on waiting in line in your car and then making a steep quarter-mile hike to the pool itself. If you’re interested in learning more about the geography and history of Hamilton Pool, a guided hike takes place each Saturday at 10 a.m.
For the Texan who lives life without tanlines, there’s Hippie Hollow. This 18+ clothing optional beach is situated on the shores of Lake Travis, an expansive reservoir of the Colorado River just 30 minutes from Austin. The park is open from 9 a.m. until dusk and also offers some great hiking trails—although you may want to put your clothes on for that.
Looking for a dog-friendly swimming hole in Austin? The answer is Red Bud Isle. There’s no place better to spend the dog days of summer (bad pun intended) with your four-legged friend. This 17.5-acre off-leash park near Lake Austin includes woodlands, fields and a great swimming area. There’s not much of a beach here, so dogs may enjoy this swimming hole more than humans, but you can still plan on relaxing on the shore and tossing a stick for Fido.
Deep Eddy Pool may look like any other swimming pool, but this spring-fed wonder comes with some serious history. Located right in the heart of Austin, Deep Eddy Pool is the oldest swimming pool in Texas. In fact, it still includes a Depression-era bath house. The Deep Eddy Pool is a fantastic option for those looking for lap swimming. There are also summer movie nights here and swimming competitions. Admission fees, which are charged during the warmer months, are $5 for adult locals and $9 for non-locals. Check the website for designated lap swim and recreational swim times.
Sometimes a single afternoon of swimming just isn’t enough. For the perfect Austin weekend getaway, head to McKinney Falls. Located just 10 miles from downtown Austin, this state park features swimming in Onion Creek plus cascading waterfalls rushing over limestone rock. Pitch your tent in one of 81 campsites or rent a cabin. You can also enjoy nine miles of hiking and biking trails, fishing, bouldering and geocaching. History buffs will love exploring the remains of the McKinney homestead, which was built in 1850 and was once the home of Thomas McKinney, a colonist from Kentucky.
The Barton Creek Greenbelt runs throughout the city, but it’s so lush and green it feels like another world. You’ll find numerous places to swim here, but one popular choice is Twin Falls. This Austin swimming destination can be accessed from the Twin Falls Trailhead on Mopac Frontage Road. Park your car and make the half-mile hike to this swimming hole, which includes ledges from jumping, waterfalls and a rope swing, all nestled in a forest of live oaks.