6 best Highland Lakes swimming holes
Water’s therapeutic quality lures us back each summer as temperatures rise from comfortable to unbearable. Sure, the advent of air conditioning makes it easy to stay inside as you escape from triple-digit temperatures, but with four-plus months of hot weather bearing down on us, we all eventually seek respite in the water.
Swimming pools are nice, but on an instinctual level, a true Texas swimming hole is often the only thing that can provide the relief we need.
Some swimming holes are as old as time. Ancient granite and riverbeds have been used by generations of Texans and Native Americans. Others were the result of the Highland Lakes dam system on the Colorado River.
Yes, we think of granite when picturing Hill Country swimming holes, but you’ll see that sand and grass also are prominent features of popular cooling-off spots. Escape to the middle of nowhere or spend an afternoon with hundreds of fellow humans. In the Highland Lakes, you’ll find whatever your soul craves (including water, of course).
Inks Lake State Park’s Devil’s Waterhole
GRANITE • CLIFF DIVING • TREES • SHADE
The natural beauty of the granite in the Highland Lakes is most prominently displayed at Inks Lake State Park. From the winding drive to the park and the hiking trails you’ll find there, you can’t escape it.
So, of course, the main bucket-list item for summertime visitors to the Highland Lakes is a stop at the Devil’s Waterhole.
There, you’ll find a narrow gap in the granite with steep cliffs. Most simply enjoy wading in the water or sitting on the granite in between dips. A few daredevils show off their skills to the hundreds of visitors by jumping off the cliffs into the deep waters below.
Not for the faint of heart, the jumps can range from 20-50 feet.
Whether you take a dive or simply enjoy floating under the overhanging shade trees, you’ll want to come prepared with water and food. The walk from the parking lot to Devil’s Waterhole is long enough that everyone is ready to get in the water once they finally reach their destination.
Inks Lake State Park is located at 3630 Park Road 4 in the Hoover's Valley area of Burnet County. Call 512-793-2223.
GRANITE • PUBLIC • SHALLOW • SUNBATHING
Locals won’t be quick to share one Highland Lakes swimming hole. It’s popular enough already, and it doesn’t show up on maps or popular travel blogs. But we’ll let you in on the secret.
It’s simply referred to as “The Slab.”
This portion of the Llano River is on FM 3404 about 2 miles west of RR 1431. Crowded on weekends and holidays, you’ll still find plenty of space up and down this granite riverbed.
Small children can splash in shallow pools, while adults can relax with a full-body soak in a bigger hole. The water level fluctuates with rains and drought, so you could find more or less water depending on the weather.
Explore, get lost, and experience the undisturbed Hill Country scenery.
GRASSY • BEACH • PICNIC TABLES • FAMILY • SUNBATHING
A towel is all you really need for an afternoon here as you lay it out on the grass or the newly created sandy beach to bask in the sun or use it to dry off after swinging into the lake.
Lakeside Park is not a swimming hole for people to calmly wade in the waters. The build of the concrete retaining walls means swimmers’ only option for getting into the water is a jump.
Pack a picnic and spend a day if you are lucky enough to snag one of the covered granite picnic tables.
While you’re at the lake, watch the boats and water skiers, count the paddleboarders, and listen to the kids spend the day jumping from the shore and splashing in the water.
Lakeside Park is located at 305 Buena Vista Drive in Marble Falls.
Lampasas Hancock Springs Pool
NATURAL SPRING WATER • COLD • POPULAR • FAMILY • HEALING • GRASSY
The smell of sulphur normally isn’t the first thing to hit your senses while visiting a world-famous attraction.
However, sulphur is part of the attraction of the healing Hancock Springs free-flow swim area in Lampasas.
Travelers from around the world visit the spring-fed pool to cure what ails them. Most swim or float in the healing waters. Others have been known to bring jugs to fill up for drinking. Locals grow up swimming at the pool and come back any chance they get. After your visit, you’ll understand why.
The lush grass near the pool accommodates the park’s visitors with room to spare. The old trees provide shade and the Hostess House a backdrop that transports you back to the early 20th century. However, new improvements for this century — such as a ramp into the pool — have made Hancock Springs more inviting to everyone.
The most-unique attraction might be the monthly Moonlight Swim. Wear glow sticks and see the pool through submerged lights. Locals bring food for a potluck, and a DJ plays music until the park closes at 11 p.m.
Hancock Springs Park is located at 1600 U.S. 281 South in Lampasas.
BEACH VIBE • SPACE
The beach is three hours away, but you want the sand, a game of Frisbee, and a relaxing book without the six-hour roundtrip.
Did you know you can find all that at Lake Buchanan?
Sure, there are some rocky parts, but Llano County Park and other public places on the west side of the lake are the perfect sandy alternative to many well-known granite swimming holes.
When the lake is down a few feet from its full level, you can play in the sand from Llano County Park up to Cedar Point Recreation Area. If you’re on a boat for fishing or recreation, you can dock at a number of public spots to feel like you’re on a remote island.
OASIS • WATERFALL • POPULAR
Sunshine bakes the air and blinds your eyes to the point your brain’s remaining energy can focus on only one thing: water.
A drink can soothe your thirst, but you need to immerse your body to fully escape the sweltering heat.
Proximity might be your only priority when going for a dip, which is understandable on 100-plus degree days with no wind.
But if you can manage the trek, this magical oasis in Spicewood cools the body and heals your soul.
The mature oak and cypress trees, waterfall, and butterfly garden are only part of why this spring-fed swimming hole has been a Hill Country Eden since 1955.
Krause Springs is located at 404 Krause Spring Road in Spicewood. Call 830-693-4181.
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