When people think of Texas, watering holes are not the first thing that come to mind. To my surprise, Texas has an abundance of them. Quite a few of which are either in or near Austin. The “Greenbelt” is one of the best things in Austin. There are actually several greenbelts, the main one being the Barton Creek Greenbelt just outside of downtown. These are just a handful of my personal favorites.
1. Barton Creek Greenbelt & Barton Springs
Barton Creek Greenbelt is a 7-mile hiking trail that takes you to some incredible spots, and it’s so close by. You also don’t have to hike the entire thing to see all the sites, there are multiple entry points, so you can drive to the places that most interest you. Barton Springs Pool is a massive, crystal clear, spring fed pool. Gets crowded in peak season. Nearby you’ll find the trailhead for one end of the Barton Creek Greenbelt. Hike about 1 mile in to a beautiful section of the greenbelt with rocks and streams. Wander or relax. There will be a crowd during warmer months here too. If you continue from there, maybe another mile or so, you’ll come to Gus Fruh where you’ll find a boulder for rock climbing as well as a large pool (before it dries up in the summer).
Twin Falls and Sculpture Falls are about midway into the Barton Creek Greenbelt, this very popular hiking trail system is a great place if you’re tight on time, but want to experience some of the nature and “the greenbelt” in Austin before you leave. Park on the frontage road right off of TX-360 and Mopac Loop 1. Tough to find the access road if you’ve never been there, but you’ll see a ton of cars. Search for “Barton 360 Trail Access” on your map/gps. The hike is shaded, rocky, and hilly. Only 10 mins to Twin Falls for a dip, usually dried up towards end of summer. Another maybe 30 minutes you’ll come upon Sculpture Falls which is better and less crowded. Lost Creek is on the opposite end of the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and this lesser known gem is a great place for relaxing in this natural watering hole. You can hike more along the riverbank if you like. It’s part of the 7-mile trail system. Park at the Hill of Life.
2. Guadalupe River State Park
Wonderful place for lounging, picnicking, BBQ’ing, and most notably floating on the river in an inflatable tube. Great place for swimming in the hot Texas summer. I really love the cypress trees along the river bank. Gets crowded in summer, so not the greatest for solitude, but there are always places to escape the crowds if you look hard enough (or go during the week).
3. Jacob’s Well
A small crystal clear underwater spring fed watering hole where you can jump off rocks into the cool blue water. It’s very deep. Requires advanced reservations as the number of visitors are limited. Located in Wimberley.
4. Krause Springs
Really cool hidden(ish) gem with this privately owned spring nestled between rocks and trees. Costs $8, camping also available. Gets crowded in warmer weather. Located in Spicewood.
5. Colorado Bend State Park
Incredible state park with hiking, the famed Gorman Falls which looks like something out of a jungle in Southeast Asia, Spicewood Springs to cool off, and of course the Colorado River that flows through the park for swimming or boating. There are also several short canyon hikes above or below the pools that ultimately feed into Spicewood Springs and the Colorado River. Great place to relax or be active. About 2 hours from Austin.
6. McKinney Falls State Park
The only state park located in Austin proper, this park features hiking, waterfalls, and swimming. Very popular, be sure to get a day pass ahead of time. Camping available. The fact this place is in Austin is both outstanding because it’s close and annoying because it’s close (it gets crowded), which is why it’s a bit lower on my list.