As every good Texan knows, finding the perfect Hill Country swimming hole is akin to an Olympic sport. Everyone has their personal favorite place to cool off—and in the blazing summertime, it’s a necessity. Some are well-advertised and attract heat-weary swimmers like moths to a flame, while others still remain hidden from view. Whatever type of aquatic experience you’re craving, you’re bound to find it on this list.
Jacob’s Well Natural Area / Blue Hole Regional Park (Wimberley)
We’d be remiss not to mention Jacob’s Well and Blue Hole in a roundup of Hill Country swimming holes, although it must be said that these are easily two of the most popular (read: crowded) places to swim in the area. Both are located in the quaint town of Wimberley. Fed by the Trinity Aquifer, Jacob’s Well is an artesian spring that releases thousands of gallons of water per day. It’s also the second-biggest underwater cave in Texas (the deepest part of the cave system is a whopping 140 feet deep!). Meanwhile, Blue Hole is a lush, 126-acre park that boasts pristine waters and plenty of shade, courtesy of the towering cypress trees.
Note that reservations are required, and you should make them as early as possible; both of these swimming areas fill up fast. If you're unable to get a reservation, nearby Cypress Falls Swimming Hole makes for a good alternative.
For scenery that’s similar to Blue Hole—but with about three-fourths of the crowds—James Kiehl River Bend Park is a gem. Nestled on the Guadalupe River in Comfort, this small county park is dedicated to James Kiehl, a local Army soldier who served in Iraq. It’s usually easy to find a quiet spot along the river if you walk far enough down the clear-cut trail. You’ll be rewarded with your own slice of heaven once you do, with reflections of cypress trees shimmering on the water, and the sun casting golden light onto the bank as it peeks through the dark-green canopy.
Keep cool at Inks Lake State Park, where adventurous swimmers can jump off rocky outcroppings and seriously steep cliffs at the Devil’s Watering Hole. This scenic inlet off of the lake is a popular spot not just for cliff-jumping, but also floating. The water is too deep for standing here, so be sure to bring along a flotation device of some kind. Oh, and plan to arrive early—Inks Lake is always packed in the summertime.
The Medina River is a magical Hill Country water source, beloved for its stillness, relative seclusion, and quiet beauty. There are several river crossings to explore near the towns of Medina and Bandera if you want a little privacy. Or, try Paradise Canyon for picnic tables, campsites, fishing, and plenty of swimming holes—all situated in a picturesque canyon.
Located just 30 minutes northwest of Austin, Krause Springs offers natural beauty in the form of ancient cypress trees and jewel-colored waters. You have a few options for swimming: There are a total of 32 springs on the property, which feed the waterway that flows into Lake Travis, creating both a natural swimming hole and human-made pool in the process. The centerpiece is definitely the natural swimming hole, with its bright green fern grotto and twin waterfalls that flow overhead.
The Frio is a mighty force, drawing hordes of visitors throughout the year who yearn to bathe in the river’s chilly, clear waters. In terms of where to go, Garner State Park is the obvious choice, especially if you’re looking to float or kayak (and you should, because tubing the Frio is a Texas summer rite of passage). Drink up soaring limestone cliffs, dense oak thickets, and lush greenery as far as the eye can see as you lazily float along. Plan to camp at least one night—you don’t want to miss the famous Summer Dance, the park’s jukebox dance that’s been around since the 1940s.
Not in the mood to be around a bunch of rowdy river-goers? Utopia Park, a hidden gem just north of Uvalde and the Frio tubing scene, provides a quiet, tree-shaded refuge along the Sabinal River. Apart from the swimming hole area, there are picnic tables, grills, seesaws, and a rope swing; plan to bring a good book and stay awhile.
Definitely one of the more isolated parks in Travis County, Arkansas Bend Park is located on the north shore of Lake Travis. The park recently underwent a large-scale renovation in 2019, and new features include improved campsites, trails, two boat ramps, and a playground. After swimming in the blue-green waters, enjoy a picnic atop the limestone bluffs at one of the tables in the shade.
This clothing-optional swimming hole in Lake Travis may be best known for its reliable coterie of nude sunbathers, but Hippie Hollow also offers a refreshing dip just 30 minutes from downtown Austin (so long as you’re 18 years or older). The scenery here is beautiful—think aquamarine waters, a rugged shoreline, and great views of the lake.
Another awesomely under-the-radar swimming hole, Canyon Lake has been dubbed “The Jewel” of the Hill Country for its lovely scenery and relative peace and quiet. A reservoir on the Guadalupe River, Canyon Lake is about 16 miles northwest of New Braunfels, and about a 1.5-hour drive from Austin. Head down to Overlook Park, where you can swim, hang out on the beach, and jump off giant boulders into the crystal-clear waters.
In a state that’s not exactly short on gorgeous rivers, the Blanco is a standout; winding through rolling land and exposed, rocky bluffs, the iridescent-green waters of the Blanco beckon to swimmers. At Blanco State Park, bask in this spring-fed river and swim along the rushing waterfalls—it’s the perfect way to beat the oppressive Texas heat.