Austin's Sweet Swimming Sanctuaries

Unlike Westeros, Summer is coming to Texas, and quickly. With finals rapidly approaching and the semester wrapping up, we look forward to a Summer comprised of good times and warmer weather. In Central Texas, the temperatures will soar into the triple digits showing no mercy for its citizens. Luckily for us, the Hill Country is home to copious amounts of hidden gems to keep you cool on a hot Summer’s day. Listed below are five of our favorite swimming holes you can visit in Austin and surrounding areas.

Barton Springs Pool

Located in the heart of Zilker Park, minutes from downtown lies a 200-yard-long swimming paradise. This pool stays 68 degrees year-round, being fed by springs from Edward’s Aquifer. The natural-bottom pool has been dammed on both ends to create this beautifully designed swimming area. With green hillsides for relaxing and sunbathing, the pool can get quite crowded on hot days. However, it also opens at 5 a.m. if you want to beat the crowd for an open-water swim workout. Admission is charged from 8 a.m. to 9 p.m., but the pool is open from 5 a.m. to 10 p.m.* ($1 for seniors and kids 1-11, $2 for kids 12-17, and $3 for adults). Zilker Park also charges $5 for parking on summer weekends and holidays.

Hamilton Pool

A 40-minute drive from campus will take you to this historic swimming destination. Hamilton Pool is not your average park, but rather a preserve. Located 3/4 mile upstream from its confluence with the Pedernales River, Hamilton Creek spills out over limestone outcroppings to create a 50-foot waterfall as it plunges into the head of a steep box canyon.The waterfall never completely dries up, but in dry times it does slow to a trickle. However, the pool's water level stays pretty constant, even during periods of drought. The preserve is also home to a variety of native birds, fish, animals, and plants that can be found on its hiking trails. Reservations must be made prior to visiting the preserve. Hamilton Pool is open daily between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. There is a $15 per vehicle admission.

Mckinney Falls State Park

Where the Onion and Williamson Creeks meet, you'll find McKinney Falls State Park, home to McKinney Falls. Located just 13 miles from campus, this state park is loaded with activities for people of all ages. You can camp, hike, mountain or road bike, geocache, go bouldering, and picnic. You can also fish and swim in Onion Creek. The rushing water here pours over a limestone ridge to form a lively waterfall and great backdrop for a day in the water. The creek is susceptible to flooding so be aware of the creek’s current, and check the weather forecast before venturing out. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. with a $6 per person admissions fee.

Jacobs Well

About 40 minutes from downtown lies the ultimate hidden gem of Central Texas. Located on the outskirts of Wimberley, this spot is close enough to visit but not so far out that you need to book a hotel. Jacob’s Well Natural Area gives visitors the unique opportunity to swim directly in an artesian spring. The spring’s cool, clear water surrounded by rock ledges and lots of trees represent what all Texas swimming holes used to be, and should be. The park is open year round, but swimming is permitted seasonally, making it a great Summer attraction. The cave system below is extremely dangerous to explore which has led to several recreational SCUBA casualties in past history due to inexperience. Take that into consideration before attempting to reach the well’s bottom. The park is open daily from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. with no admittance after 5:30 p.m. There is an admission fee of $9 per adult.

Landa Park at Comal Springs

About 45 minutes from campus, you can find a water park attraction unlike any other. At Landa Park, Edwards Aquifer feed into a massive lagoon complete with lazy tubing, climbing, and even a slide carved into the side of a dam. Landa Park also offers picnic facilities under the shade of giant, ancient oak trees. You can walk or jog on the parks special trails, or ride a miniature train that chugs around the 51-acre park. An excursion on a paddle boat is one of the best ways to see the Comal Springs and Landa Lake. If you’re not looking to take a dip, you can unwind by playing a round of miniature golf. This park has something for everyone to enjoy.

As the spring semester comes to a close and you begin making your summer plans, keep these sweet swimming sanctuaries in mind. While they may be off the beaten path, they are sure to make for a beautiful summer day trip in the Texas Hill Country.