Here in Texas, we’re all still huddled inside while the snow is falling all around us, but with spring on the way, it won’t be long until our love/hate relationship with hundred-degree temperatures and scorching sunshine will resume. And when it does, look to beat the heat by jumping straight into one of Texas’ many crystal-clear, crisp and cool watering holes. We’ve put together a list of a few of our state’s must-visit swim spots. Take a look and happy almost-summertime!
BARTON SPRINGS POOL, AUSTIN
No list of Texas swimming holes would be complete without a mention of Barton Springs, so why not start with it? Located in Austin’s beautiful Zilker Park, this spring-fed pool’s waters stay at a brisk 68 degrees year-round. The pool is huge, stretching from a shallow, rocky end perfect for families and relaxation, to a deep end that more experiences swimmers and divers frequent.
Crowds can be an issue, especially during the heat of the summer, but it’s always possible to find some place to park, though it may be a bit of a hike to the pool itself. The entrance fee is just $3, and after paying, you can exit and return at any other time during the day.
HAMILTON POOL, DRIPPING SPRINGS
Just a short drive from Austin, Hamilton Pool is certainly one of Texas’ most unique spots to cool off. Situated in the remnants of a huge cave that has since collapsed and opened up to the rest of the world, the pool, like Barton Springs, stays at a cool and constant temperature even during the summer. But the real draw here is the surroundings—towering cliffs, waterfalls onto your head from above, and miles of forest in every direction.
Before heading out, be sure to check Hamilton Pool’s website to make sure swimming is allowed on the day you’re thinking of going- sometimes it’s closed due to low rainfall. To enter, the charge is $15 per vehicle, so get a big group together and split the cost.
BALMORHEA STATE PARK, BALMORHEA
With summer temperatures that regularly eclipse 100 degrees and endless expanses of dry, flat land broken only by even dryer-looking mountains, the stretch of I-10 near Balmorhea, Texas is pretty unforgiving during the dog days. That’s what makes this oasis of a swimming hole so wonderful—when you dive into the frigid waters, you can feel the sense of relief that came over the first settlers in the area when they arrived at the San Solomon Springs.
The pool is a popular destination for scuba divers, due to its depth, its clarity, and the multitudes of fish that have been stocked there, but anyone can enjoy its refreshing waters. Come for a day trip, or book one of the state park’s cabins and make a weekend out of it.
GARNER STATE PARK, CONCAN
The name of the river that flows through this gem of a state park, Frio, says it all. Spanish for “cold,” its flowing waters certainly live up to their name. When the summer gets its hottest, the Frio River is still brimming with ice-cold refreshment. Surrounded by beautiful, rocky Hill Country terrain, the park also features plenty of campsites and hiking trails.
Be advised that during peak season, cabins fill up fast, but the park is large enough to accommodate daytime guests who just want to enjoy the Frio.
DEVIL’S WATERHOLE, BURNET
Located in Ink’s Lake State Park, this swimming hole stands out because, unlike many of the other locations on this list, it is not affected by droughts, which are plentiful during Hill Country summers. No matter how parched the land around it is, Devil’s Waterhole is always flowing with spring-fed water, and the cliffs surrounding it are popular among those who don’t mind jumping from heights.
Being out of the way and not particularly well known, crowds are rarely an issue here. It’s still a good idea to check ahead, especially if you plan on camping.
JACOB’S WELL- WIMBERLEY
This surreal-looking swimming hole is just that- a giant hole descending into nothingness beneath the surface. In spite of its out-of-the-ordinary appearance, it still manages to keep a pretty low profile, with crowds never really being a problem, so it’s a nice quiet getaway.
A word of warning—however impressive the “well” might appear, trying to explore it further is not recommended. Even experienced scuba divers have had trouble exploring the huge cave system more than 50 feet down, with eight fatalities reported throughout the well’s history—so stick near the surface.
GORMAN FALLS- BEND
Possibly the most famous waterfall in Texas, Gorman Falls descends 65 feet down limestone cliffs surrounded by lush greenery and caves. After a warm and exhausting summer hike, nothing feels quite like standing under the crashing water.
As mentioned before, drought conditions play a big part in how enjoyable the experience will be, and in extreme drought periods, the falls have been known to barely flow at all. Checking ahead is a good idea, especially since the falls are located within Colorado Bend State Park, and crowds and reservations are also things to keep in mind.
COMAL RIVER- NEW BRAUNFELS
The Comal River has long been a preferred getaway spot for those looking to float along peacefully, with the warm air above them and the cool water below. But just off the river, there are multiple “chutes,” swift-flowing kinds of concrete water slides, for tubers who want a little more of a thrill.
The best part of the Comal is once you’ve finished your descent, you can either go back up and back down again, or you can just let the gentle current of the river take you further downstream.
THE WATERFALLS OF BIG BEND
These waterfalls, by far the highest in all of Texas, are not for the faint of heart. Many of them, in fact, cannot even be accessed and require visitors to view them from the air. Madrid Falls, at 100 feet tall, and Mexicano Falls, at 80 feel tall, are both located in Big Bend Ranch State Park, but require a well-equipped vehicle with four-wheel drive and an extensive hike across rough terrain to get to.
A relatively easier alternative is Ojito Adentro, also in Big Bend Ranch State Park, and at the end of only a moderately difficult hike. Although more of a trickling stream than a full-on waterfall, the view from the desert oasis at the base is still impressive.