If you’ve been in Austin for any time at all you’re probably familiar with the spring fed swimming pool at Barton Springs. It’s open year round (except when closed for cleaning) and has changing rooms, bathrooms and other amenities.
What you may not know is that there are other options for swimming in the Barton Creek Greenbelt. These spots are seasonal as the creek only runs part time, there aren’t any amenities, and they all take at least a bit of a walk to get to.
In addition to the popular spots listed below there are lots of other areas that may have enough water to swim or sit in the water depending on conditions. Just head to your favorite trail head and explore.
This is the easiest of the natural swimming holes to reach, so it also tends to be quite busy. It’s only about a mile upstream from Barton Springs pool and just downstream from the Spyglass trail head. It’s also accessible from the east side of the creek via the Homedale trail head.
Since it’s so far downstream it’s also one of the first to dry up in the summer.
When the creek is full this is a deep swimming hole that usually has a rope swing rigged up from a big tree on the south bank. The surrounding area is shaded by large pecan trees which provide a lot of shade.
Although this spot is accessible from the Mopac trail head you’ll have to cross the creek to get there. From the trail head parking area follow the road under the bridge and find the trail that heads downstream along the ridge. (Please don’t go directly down the hill to the creek.) Follow the trail downhill to the intersection with the main trial. Take a right turn, cross the creek and head back upstream to the bridge. Another option is to go to Twin Falls (see below), cross the creek there, and head downstream.
Have you ever been driving south on Mopac and noticed all the cars parked on the frontage road just north of the creek? This is the closet access to Twin Falls, one of the most popular swimming holes on the creek. As you might expect there are two waterfalls here when the creek is running well.
The best way to reach Twin Falls is to start from the entrance on the Mopac frontage road and follow the trail upstream for about a mile.
This popular spot is about a mile upstream from Twin Falls just past mile marker 6. Sculpture (or Sculptured) falls gets its name from the sculptured look of the limestone creek bed. This spot has a large and deep swimming hole with a long section along the south side that’s perfect for jumping.
A great spot, but about a two mile walk from Mopac. You can also get there from Trails End but this requires climbing the Hill of Life to get back to the trail head.
Hill of Life Dam
Just upstream from the bottom of the Hill of Life there’s a large dam and shallow swimming hole. This is one of the most reliable spots for water during the dry season as the creek tends to dry up in stages working upstream. This is a short (about a mile) but steep walk from Trails End. It’s also possible to reach from the bridge at Lost Creek Boulevard.