Spend a day — or night — cooling off at Krause Springs. (Photo: Dreamstime)
It’s no secret that Texas is hot. What surprises some people, however, is just how hot it gets, particularly in central Texas where it’s not uncommon to go weeks or even months without rain. In fact, the city of Austin has had recent summers with more than 30 consecutive days of temperatures over 100 degrees F. So, where’s a local to go to cool off? Hill Country swimming holes.
Of course, you needn’t visit Texas during the summer in order to enjoy Austin’s nearby array of swimming holes; it can be warm enough to take a dip even during the dead of winter. No matter when you visit the city, there’s a pool of water in the surrounding Texas Hill Country calling out your name.
Located approximately 30 miles west of Austin in rural Spicewood, Krause Springs is unique among Hill Country swimming holes in that you don’t need to visit it on a day-trip — it offers dozens of camping options, as well as 24 RV parking spots, on its 115 acres, which also house more than 32 natural springs, several waterfalls and plenty of tree cover. The park, which opened in 1955, is open year-round and is a beautiful place to explore, even if it’s not quite warm enough to swim.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Hamilton Pool is in the middle of a moment of modern fame, but its geology is positively prehistoric. Formed when the ground above an ancient underground river collapsed in on itself, the pool hearkens back to the time when dinosaurs roamed the area that’s now central Texas, as well as to the time when a vast, inland sea covered the region.
TIP: Due to frequent crowding, Hamilton Pool now requires reservations. Call 512-264-2740 to make reservations and also to verify whether swimming is possible.
The name Jacob’s Well references John’s Gospel, but the only Biblical thing likely to befall you here is the wrath of a park ranger if he or she sees you trying to dive into the water. To be sure, while the crystalline blue waters of the 120-foot deep karst seem to invite you to enter head-first, they’re best enjoyed under lounging circumstances, not jumping ones.
Please note that like Hamilton Pool, Jacob’s Well has started to require reservations due to its popularity. Make yours here.
Of all the Austin swimming holes on this list, Sculpture Falls is the closest to the city center, located only about 30 minutes — those are hotel-to-water minutes — from downtown Austin.
It’s part of why arriving at the falls, which requires only a short hike from a parking lot at the confluence of two major Austin thoroughfares, is such a delight. Although the nearer reaches of the Barton Creek Greenbelt offer skyscraper views, Sculpture Falls seems to sit in the middle of nowhere, insulted both from the sights and sounds of the city.
The best time to visit Sculpture Falls is during late winter or early spring when the weather is balmy but college students (who make up the area’s most loyal visitors) are still busy in school.