The Austin area is home to both popular and lesser-known waterfalls. From natural swimming holes to man-made dams, there’s nothing quite like a vertical drop. If you love to explore nature, plunge into this guide to the best waterfalls in Central Texas.
McKinney Falls are some of the most consistently flowing waterfalls in the Austin area. The campgrounds feature two swimming holes with natural waterfalls. Entry is $6.
The Upper Falls is one of the best swimming holes in Austin. The large, wide waterfall is fun to swim under or jump off of. The waterfall is easy to access and there’s plenty of parking. After a heavy rain, the current can get too strong and the park may close the pool. Make sure to call ahead before you enter the park.
The Lower Falls are located at the eastern side of the park and require a short hike to access them. The lower falls cut through large rock formations creating an other-worldly environment. The pool isn’t as ideal for swimming as the Upper Falls, but the current is much weaker.
The Greenbelt is the perfect spot to take a quick break from city life. The 13 miles of hiking trails include two swimming holes with natural waterfalls.
Twin Falls includes a couple of small waterfalls after a good rain. It can dry out quickly so keep an eye on the weather. When the pool is full, it’s a fun spot to hangout and swim. If you use the Gaines Creek entry, access is fairly easy. Twin Falls is one of the more popular swimming holes in Austin so prepare for crowds.
Sculpture Falls is about a 3 mile hike north of Twin Falls. It’s not as crowded and offers a more tranquil experience. The waterfalls are small, but stunning. The swimming hole is a beautiful place to relax and connect with nature.
The waterfall at Lost Creek is one of Austin’s best kept secrets. The wide, natural waterfall is peaceful and beautiful. It frames a swimming hole with the perfect balance of swimming and relaxing. The biggest downfall is that it’s not easy to access. Parking is sparse, there’s a large creek to wade through first and then a 20-minute hike. After a heavy rain, the current is extremely strong and can be dangerous. If you’re a strong swimmer, it’s worth the risk.
The district park features three main waterfalls that are lovely, but often dry up during droughts. Visit Bull Creek after a heavy rain.
The northern most waterfall is right off of southbound 360. The natural waterfall forms a pool that’s fun to wade and relax in. The swimming hole can get crowded on the weekends.
The most popular waterfall is located in the main park area and is easy to access. The waterfall is small, but fun to wade through.
The southern most waterfall is downstream from the popular spot. It is small, but less crowded and requires a brief hike.
The St. Ed’s trail system includes a hidden gem. The small man-made waterfall creates two pools. One perfect for rope swinging from trees and the other ideal of wading and relaxing. After a good rain, the water is clear and beautiful. There usually aren’t that many people who swim. The swimming hole is fairly easy to access and requires a short hike.
The park in north Austin features a secret waterfall that flows down in tiers. It’s nice to sit in and let the water flow over you. The natural waterfall frames a small swimming hole that’s so tranquil, you could fall asleep in it. Occasionally one or two people may pass along the trail, but otherwise you can connect with nature in complete solitude. Access is fairly easy, but requires a short hike along the trail. The waterfall dries up quickly so make sure to visit after a heavy rain.
The popular swimming hole in Dripping Springs features one of the largest waterfalls in the area. The 50ft waterfall is gorgeous after a heavy rain. However for the majority of the year, the flow is a mere trickle. The pool can get crowded and requires a hike to access it. Reservations are required during the summer and costs $10.
The outdoor discovery park is just west of Hamilton pool and just as beautiful. The 40ft waterfall flows over travertine columns in a magical grotto at the base of the canyon. After a heavy rain, the waterfall is equally as impressive as Hamilton’s. You must take the guided tour in order to access the waterfall. Canyon Tours are $10.
The campground in Spicewood includes both natural and man-made waterfalls. The spring-fed swimming pool flows over a bluff resulting in a charming waterfall and additional swimming hole. The swimming hole is fairly easy to access and admission is $7 (cash only).
The nature park showcases a well-maintained boardwalk and trail system up in Belton. The trail loop includes a large waterfall and small swimming hole. The falls cascade over tiered rocks in a serene setting. The trail can get crowded, but the hike is very easy.
The San Marcos River includes a variety of small waterfalls that flow consistently since they are spring-fed.
Rio Vista Park includes three tiered waterfalls along the San Marcos River. If you go tubing in San Marcos, you’ll likely encounter the trio toward the end of the trip. The waterfalls are small and fun to slide down over and over. However after a heavy rain, the current is dangerously strong.
SaltGrass Steakhouse is situated on the dam at the south end of Spring Lake. The restaurant patio overlooks the man-made waterfall and you can feel the spray from your table. The swimming hole at the base of the falls features crystal clear water and a heavy current. If you’re willing to fight the current, you’ll discover another man-made waterfall in a grotto off to the side. The swim is rough, but totally worth it.
The state park includes a set of three broad waterfalls stretched across slabs of limestone. Unlike the other natural waterfalls, these falls aren’t created from drastic drops in elevation. The gradual slope creates wide tiers of flowing water into separate pools. The unique swimming hole is perfect for relaxing and wading. Avoid the area after a heavy rain due to flash flooding. Prepare for a hike to access the falls.
Even though you can’t swim in it, the Zilker Botanical Garden waterfall is worth mentioning. The man-made waterfall located in the Prehistoric Garden is peaceful and pleasant. It’s nice to sit by the waterfall and relax after a stroll through the park.
The festival grounds along Onion Creek include a wide waterfall. The man-made waterfall is on private property and swimming isn’t allowed. However, if you happen to be near the venue or at Old Settlers Music Fest, it’s a lovely site to enjoy.
Where is your favorite waterfall in Austin?