No matter how hot the weather gets, the water at Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas, is always a skin-chilling 68 to 70 degrees. It’s not our favorite place to swim near Austin (that honor goes to Hamilton Pool), but it does the trick. The emerald swim hole, a centerpiece of the 358-acre Zilker Park, is fed entirely by natural springs, with fresh water flushed in weekly from Barton Creek. The pool runs 18 feet deep in some spots and there are several diving boards.
Swimmers may encounter fish, salamanders, and pockets of algae, but they’re unlikely to see water snakes—a common sighting in less-protected swimming spots. The three-acre pool is flanked by gently sloping grassland, making it popular with sunbathers. (Topless roasting is permitted.) Shade is scarce, so pack an umbrella. Pool entry is free from October 1 through March 11 and during the swim-at-your-own-risk hours of 5 to 8 a.m. and 8 to 10 p.m. (March 11-April 30), and 5 to 8 a.m. and 9 to 10 p.m. (May 1-September 30). Otherwise, it’s $1 to $3 for locals and $3 to $8 for non-residents.
Please note: The pool is closed every Thursday from 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. for cleaning. Heavy storms, search-and-rescue missions, algae buildups, and problematic E. coli counts can lead to additional shutdowns. Always call ahead to confirm swimming conditions.
2201 Barton Springs Rd., Austin, TX; 512-867-3080.