7 Must-Visit Swimming Holes in Texas

Escape the heat this summer by traveling to one of these beautiful swimming holes in the great state of Texas. 

1. Jacob's Well

Deemed as one of the most dangerous places to dive in the world, Jacob's Well is an artesian, karst spring and swimming hole located in Wimberly, TX (just 45 minutes south of Austin). The spring's entrance is a 12-foot diameter mouth made of limestone, plunging to cave depths of at least 300-feet. 

The title, "most dangerous place to dive" is a bit misleading. Jacob's Well has claimed the lives of several from scuba diving deaths. No casualties have ever been reported from cliff diving/jumping. 

Although jumping from the cliffs above has claimed no lives, it is still rather gut wrenching to do, yet alone watch. You must push off with a force that takes your weight in a diagonal path to the target that is the well. A miss would mean broken limbs, or worse...

If you’re not a thrill-seeker, there’s always swimming and sunbathing in the enchanting, yet freezing, crystal-clear waters. The creek floor is covered in slippery algae, so I recommend wearing water shoes for comfort against the slimy texture!

  • Website: www.visitwimberley.com/jacobswell
  • Cost: $9 Adults, $5 Children
  • Hours: 10am-8pm, open 7 days a week
  • Insider Tip: Be sure to make a reservation online prior to your trip to ensure you get in. 

2. The Blue Hole, Wimberly

Located just twelve minutes down the road from Jacob’s Well, this swimming hole is another Texas treasure. You might plan on coming here before (or after) your time at Jacob's Well to get the full day's worth in Wimberly. 

Water from the Jacob’s Well spring feeds into the placid waters of the Blue Hole swimming area. The cathedral of trees above permits small amounts of sunlight from entering, therefore producing chilly, yet rejuvenating waters to swim in. 

There are rope swings, if you’re into that sort of thing. Or if you’d rather just lay around, I recommend bringing a floating device. There's also a nice big lawn to lay out and relax. (And snicker as rope swingers face-plant into the water.)

3. Barton Creek Greenbelt

I have yet to venture to every entrance point of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, however of the times I've been there, Twin Falls, Gus Fruh, and the 360 access point have made lasting impressions as swimming holes. 

After Texas summer storms (when not in drought season) the Greenbelt's waters can be crystal and flowing. You can also find much wildlife. I've spotted animals including: armadillos, packs of cardinals, crawdads and ... brace yourself ... snakes. 

Not to let that scare you, as most snakes will only attack when threatened, but still... snakessss! 

AUGUST 2015 UPDATE: hiked the new Violet Crown Trail today and stumbled into a rather large snake on the trail (at least 2 feet long). It was likely to be a bull snake or hognose snake.

The entrance to Twin Falls is near the popular 360 entrance. It's about a half mile hike to reach the swimming hole, and once you do, you'll be mesmerized by its beauty.

That is, if you go on a less crowded day. The Greenbelt gets pretty busy on a summer weekend, as it is an ideal day-escape for residents of Austin (and their dogs). Get there before noon and you'll beat the afternoon crowds. 

A short hike nearby is Sculpture Falls and Gus Fruh Park, amazing swimming holes and relaxation spots for a day spent well outdoors. 

Website: www.austinparks.org/our-parks.html

  • Cost: Free
  • Hours: 5am-10pm, open 7 days a week
  • Insider Tip: Don't forget bug-spray in the humid summertime. There are lots of weird insects on the Greenbelt trail and you should best spray up if you don't want to be bothered by pesky things with wings. 

4. Hamilton Pool Preserve

The Hamilton Pool swimming hole is one of the most breathtaking, natural wonders in Texas. The geology that makes up the preserve is that of a collapsed grotto (or cave). When you go, you'll see a massive, caved-in structure with a beautiful waterfall toppling over into a large pool of aquamarine water that glimmers against the sunlight. Truly mesmerizing.

Swimming is typically allowed in the lagoon-like pool, but the day I went they had a "No Swimming" sign up due to high levels of bacteria. I found that odd, as the water was a jeweled shade of turquoise - the prettiest I had ever seen it. But apparently beauty means deadly in this case.

If you're going to take a day-trip here, I recommend waiting until the swimming hole clears of the high bacteria levels so that you can get the full experience.

  • Website: https://parks.traviscountytx.gov/find-a-park/hamilton-pool
  • Cost: $15 cash per car
  • Hours: 9am-6pm, open 7 days a week
  • Insider Tip: If going on a weekend, be sure to carpool with friends. Try to get there early too. Capacity is reached by the size of the parking lot, so if going on a busy day, be prepared to wait in line to access the park.  

5. Pedernales Falls State Park

Named after the flint rocks dominating the geology of the area, Pedernales Falls is quite the treat. You've got alluring geological formations, fresh river waters to swim in, and the feeling of being in a foreign land. You might find yourself asking, "am I even in Texas anymore?". 

In years past, the basin where the falls is located was in a dry spell due to drought. However thanks to June's floods, the river flourishes with water. 

Pedernales Falls can be quite turbulent and is subject to flash flooding, which can occur within five minutes. So if you notice the water start to rise, even just a few inches, get out of there! 

You aren't allowed to swim in the falls area either, due to the fact that the water is stagnant in some areas and full of bacteria (I saw dead turtles and fish floating around that had been caught in a recent flood...gross!).

However, swimming and tubing is allowed downstream where the refreshing water flows. The ultimate way to beat the summer heat!

6. McKinney Falls State Park

Believe it or not, Texas was once a shallow sea. During the Cretaceous period dinosaurs like the Mosasaur swam around the area that is now known as McKinney Falls State Park. 

A short retreat from downtown Austin, the area is made up of limestone formations and includes beautiful cascading falls against its swimming holes. 

There are two areas you can swim in -- the Upper Falls and Lower Falls. I went not expecting much, given this 104 degree August heat has soaked up June's storms. However parts of the falls were still flowing, yet what impressed me the most were the quirky rock formations. Texas is truly wonderful. 

I visited the Upper Falls first, and right as I approached them I saw a monster snapping turtle floating around. The park ranger notified people of it, but it didn't seem to phase anybody. Turtles are pretty timid creatures. Just don't try to grab them. 

I then ventured to the Lower Falls, which I found very similar to the Upper Falls in looks and functionality as a swimming hole. There were also lots of neat geological formations here, very similar to what I saw at Pedernales Falls State Park. 

By then it was 3pm (the hottest time of the day here in Texas) and being out of water I could no longer handle the heat. I'll surely be back here as it is so close to the city. I would like to go after a downpour to see the falls in full force. There are also hike and bike trails... not too shabby!

7. Balmorhea State Park

If you venture out to Big Bend National Park, I highly recommend making a stop by Balmorehea Springs on your way back home (or way to). Forget boring Marfa...there's not even a grocery store there (unless you want super-expensive hipster organic food and overly Instagramm'ed places to pose in front of). Oh yea, and that Prada store...not even in Marfa (but, hey, I've never been so it might actually be cool). But let's get back to swimming holes...

Instead, go through the Davis Mountains National Park which will lead you to Balmorhea, Texas. If you've been camping in Big Bend, the springs are the ultimate treat to wash off the desert dust. Of course when swimming there I'd been camping for days, showerless and in dire need of a shower. A dip in Balmorhea Springs was icy at first, but eased the muscles after days of hiking and sleeping in a tent.

There's also cute fishies that swim around in the pool. Just don't be stagnant for too long or they'll start to nibble your skin off (but hey, in Asia fish nibbling off your skin is like getting a pedicure).

What are some of your favorite swimming holes and destinations to travel to in Texas (or elsewhere)?  Let me know if I left anything out!