From a distance, the youngster looked reluctant as he leaned over a little cliff along the creek. Then, he let out a yelp and jumped with arms flailing before splashing into the cool, flowing water of Barton Creek.
He was hooked. He paddled out, ran around the rocky trail and jumped back in.
Scenes like this one at Twin Falls in the Barton Creek Greenbelt play out everyday at swimming holes in and around Austin. Pack a little picnic, load up the kids and/or dog and hike around until you find the simple, timeless joy of a natural swimming hole. An afternoon out at one of nature’s original pools is basically a rite of passage in Austin, a city known for its popular Barton Springs Pool.
While Barton Springs Pool remains the most popular in Austin, there are many options, especially after a few good rainy days. Here are some of the best:
Just a half-mile hike from the parking area south of Highway 360 along the MoPac service road, Twin Falls has a couple picnic tables and plenty of space to splash around. Depths and currents change with long-term weather patterns. But early summer often provides enough flow to fill shallow wading areas and deeper spots where you can jump in.
For those willing to hike a little more, the Barton Creek Greenbelt offers Sculpture Falls. It’s a little more dramatic and little nicer than Twin Falls. But the two are close together, so if one is too crowded, just keep walking.
Located in southeast Austin, McKinney Falls State Park has plenty of hiking, biking and fishing. But its swimming area in Onion Creek may be its best feature. Entry to the park is $5. Consider calling ahead for swimming conditions, particularly after flooding or drought.
Barton Springs Pool
For $3, you’ll be soaking in one of Austin’s top-rated attractions — a numbingly cold natural springs that can chill you to the core for hours. The large, natural bottom pool has shallow and deep ends. It also has a diving board that can provide a particularly dramatic introduction to the 70 degree water. The pool offers discounts for children and seniors. Learn more about the springs and its history here.
The Blue Hole in Wimberley
Just a half hour outside of Austin is the quaint town of Wimberley, and there you will find one of the most picturesque swimming holes around. Don’t let its simple name deter you, the Blue Hole has clear, cool water that is in the shade of huge, old growth cypress trees that host a rope swing or two. Entry is $9 for adults and $5 for kids and seniors. The area closes from time to time for maintenance, so consider calling ahead and checking their calendar. Learn more about the park and its history here.
The Blue Hole in Georgetown
While many of the best swimming holes in Austin are south of downtown, the Blue Hole in Georgetown is a nice spot on the South Fork of the San Gabriel River to check out north of the city. Just five blocks north of the historic downtown square at the intersection of West Second Street and Rock Street, the Blue Hole is open from dawn until dusk.