Although Texas is home to many water parks, locals and tourists still enjoy seeking out natural swimming holes to help beat the summer heat. If you prefer lakes, waterfalls, and hidden grottos over concrete pools and water slides, Texas has plenty of options for you, from a three-acre spring in the heart of Austin to a scuba-diving lake south of Dallas.
Located on the Frio River in Concan, roughly 100 miles west of San Antonio, Garner State Park is one of Texas' most popular summer getaways. Whether it's swimming, fishing, paddling, or tubing, most visitors to Garner find a way to get on or in the water. There are also 11 miles of scenic hiking trails for those who prefer to work up a sweat before diving in.
Barton Springs fits the bill for the "Everything's Bigger in Texas" motto. The massive three-acre swimming hole—one of the state's most popular—is set in the heart of Austin's sprawling Zilker Park and is open year-round thanks to its mild 70-degree water temperature. When you're ready to dry off, find a nice shady spot under an oak or pecan tree.
Just 45 minutes northwest of Austin, Krause Springs is an inlet off the Colorado River. Krause Springs encompasses two large swimming holes with picturesque waterfalls and rope swings for the kids. It is also a great weekend campsite spot.
The Hamilton Pool Preserve may only be 30 miles west of Austin, but it feels a world away. The emerald-green grotto looks like a tropical oasis with a 50-foot waterfall and stalactites hanging from the cave. It is part of the 32,000-acre Balcones Canyonlands National Wildlife Refuge.
In the heart of the Texas Hill Country, Blanco State Park is one of the smaller state parks in Texas. However, what Blanco lacks in size, it makes up for in charm and family-friendly amenities. Set along one mile of the Blanco River, there's a wading pool with cascading weir dams and a fishing spot best for catching largemouth bass and rainbow trout. It is also convenient to get to, being just one hour north of San Antonio and one hour west of Austin.
About 80 miles south of Dallas, Lake Whitney is a deep reservoir on the Brazos River. Within Lake Whitney State Park, there is a buoyed swimming area as well as plenty of areas to go snorkeling and scuba diving in the lake's crystal clear waters.
This Central Texas hang is a unique swimming hole compared to Texas' other dips. Shallow rapids, limestone gorges, and calm waterfalls make up this section of the Pedernales River, an hour west of Austin. Outdoor enthusiasts can also enjoy kayaking, horseback riding, and mountain biking around the park.
Mustang Island State Park is a cay adjacent to Corpus Christi on the state's southern shores. It has five miles of beachfront along the Gulf of Mexico and features plenty of outdoor activities, such as fishing, camping, beach-combing, swimming, surfing, birding, and more.
In the Texas Hill Country north of San Antonio, Guadalupe River State Park encompasses a nine-mile stretch of the Guadalupe River, offering park visitors plenty of swimming, tubing, and canoeing opportunities.
Perched on the Colorado River above Lake Buchanan, Colorado Bend State Park is home to some of the best river swimming in the state, as well as camping, fly-fishing, and kayaking. You'll also find 35 miles of hiking and mountain biking trails as well as some impressive ranger-led cave tours. However, it is a two-hour trek from Austin, so it's better to visit on a weekend.