Right about now, we are all panting our way through the dog days of summer. Luckily, there are plenty of natural swimming spots surrounding Austin to keep cool that don’t come with chlorine and crowded rides and slides. From sublime swimming holes to spring-fed rivers, here are seven of our favorite places to chill on scorching summer days, all courtesy of Mother Nature. The best part? They are all within 70 miles of Austin.
When the mercury rises to the tip of the thermometer, cool yourself down at one of the most beautiful and geologically significant swimming holes in the Hill Country: Jacob’s Well Natural Area. Take it from this native Texan: You’ll be hard pressed to find a more picturesque spot to plunge into than these refreshing waters that remain a constant 68 degrees year-round and glitter like sapphire and emerald jewels in the sunshine. Jacob’s Well, flanked by a lush bank on one side and layered limestone cliffs on the other, is an artesian spring that releases thousands of gallons of water each day. It also serves as the headwaters of Cypress Creek — its water comes from the Trinity Aquifer roughly 140 feet below the surface and continues to flow up through Blue Hole Regional Park and feed into the Blanco River. Fun fact: Jacob’s Well is the second largest fully-submerged cave in Texas. If you’re brave enough to launch yourself into the brisk waters from the boulders above, I’d recommend wearing water shoes because it can get slick. Reservations are required ($9 adults, $5 children/seniors/residents, free children 4 and under) and summertime spots fill up quickly. Book now at: jwna.checkfront.com/reserve.
Wimberley’s Blue Hole
While in Wimberley, don’t miss another Hill Country gem sitting less than 15 minutes from Jacob’s Well. Any seasoned Texan will agree that there’s no better cure for summertime’s sizzle than rope-swinging into a cold, clear natural body of water. When it comes to refreshing swimming holes, these chilly spring waters of Cypress Creek known as Blue Hole Regional Park offer the perfect reprieve from the heat. Less than an hour from Austin, this idyllic natural swimming area is fringed by towering cypress trees, several of which feature natural step-like formations ideal for climbing and ropes perfect for swinging. During the summer months, Blue Hole swimming operates on a reservation system with two time slots — 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. and 2 to 6 p.m. While weekends are limited, there’s plenty of weekday availability. Book your spot ($12 adult, $6 seniors and children 4-12, free under 3) now at https://bluehole.checkfront.com/reserve/.
Georgetown’s Blue Hole
When the temperature outside is stifling and it seems reservations at all surrounding swimming holes have been completely snapped up, set your sights on another Blue Hole just north of Austin. Georgetown’s Blue Hole is a refreshing lagoon hemmed in by limestone bluffs blanketed in leafy trees along the South Fork of the San Gabriel River. Located five blocks north of Georgetown’s beautiful downtown square along North Austin Avenue, this scenic and stress-free swimming hole is completely free and open to the public — no reservations required. Grab the kids, pack some sunscreen and a picnic (no alcohol allowed), and voila: you’ve got a cool way to play for the day without spending a dime.
Devil’s Waterhole at Inks Lake
When trying to keep cool throughout the blazing days of summer, destinations lacking a pool are often the first ones to get crossed off the list. But at Inks Lake State Park, plunging into the glistening waters of Devil’s Waterhole –– a small extension of Inks Lake surrounded by granite boulders –– beats diving into any manmade pool around. When it comes to cool swimming holes, this one deserves a top spot on the list. Devil’s Waterhole remains in the 80s even when the outdoor temps hit triple-digits, and when Valley Spring Creek is running, you can also explore scenic waterfalls upstream of the lake.
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Although it requires less than an hour’s drive to get there, you’ll feel a world away when you arrive at Krause Springs. Just west of Austin tucked on 115 lush acres in sleepy Spicewood, Krause Springs offers 68-degree spring-fed waters guaranteed to provide heat relief even on triple-digit days. Founded in 1955, this Texas swimming hole features 32 natural springs on the property –– several of which feed the man-made pool and natural pool that flows into Lake Travis.
Krause Springs has served as a tranquil escape for nature-lovers for more than 60 years and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. Unlike some swimming holes, reservations aren’t required and entry is on a first come, first serve basis. During COVID, if the main parking area is full, a car has to leave before another car is allowed in (capacity is often reached on the weekends so plan a weekday visit). Bring the whole family to splash, sunbathe and swim in this pristine, refreshing water for the day or tote your tent to stay overnight. Daily admission rates are $9 adult (12+ years), $5 children (4-11) and free for children under 4. Overnight camping fees are $15 adult, $10 children 4-11 and $15 per RV campsite.
Landa Park Springfed Pool
Beloved Barton Springs is unarguably Austin’s go-to spot to seek reprieve from summer’s blaze. But growing up in New Braunfels, we grew goosebumps in our own spring-fed sanctuary: Landa Park Springfed Pool. This 1.5-million-gallon pool fed by the largest springs in Texas, the Comal Springs, was built in the early 1900s and has provided a blissful escape from the sweltering summer for generations. When seeking out cooling swimming holes to counter summer’s blaze, these cold, clear waters in Landa Park should do the trick. This spring-fed pool remains a brisk 72-degrees year-round and it’s an ideal spot to perfect those rope-swing skills. Check daily and weekend admission fees and hours of operation at: www.nbtexas.org/2574/Landa-Park-Aquatic-Complex.
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Comal and Guadalupe Rivers in New Braunfels
We’ve all made a splash at Schlitterbahn by now, but you need to stick around town to check New Braunfels’ other favorite way to keep cool off your bucket list: floating its rivers. Two pristine rivers converge in this once-tiny German town sitting just south of Austin, offering day-trippers ample opportunities for tubing, swimming, kayaking and rafting. If you’ve never experienced the thrill of riding the Guadalupe River’s rapids or gotten that sublime feel that comes from lounging in a sunbaked inner tube while your limbs dangle in the ice cold emerald waters of the Comal River, you are missing out on a quintessential summertime experience that rivals Central Texas’ top swimming holes.
The Guadalupe is an ever-changing river with rapids that fluctuate with the release rate of water from Canyon Dam, while the Comal River is spring-fed and offers a more leisurely floating experience until you reach the Tube Chute (sure to please rapid-hungry river-goers). To avoid tuber traffic, plan a trip outside of weekends and holidays. Find tubing information and outfitter options at www.playinnewbraunfels.com/tube-in-new-braunfels.
If You Go
Jacob’s Well is 40 miles and about a 50-minute drive.
Blue Hole Regional Park is 40 miles and about a 50-minute drive.
Georgetown’s Blue Hole is 30 miles and a 34-minute drive.
Krause Springs is 36 miles and about a 50-minute drive.
Ink’s Lake State Park, where Devil’s Waterhole is located, is about 70 miles and 1.5-hour drive.
Comal and Guadalupe Rivers’ entrance points in New Braunfels are about 50 miles and an hour drive.
Landa Park Springfed Pool is 50 miles and about an hour drive.