Austin is surrounded by great outdoors. With several hundreds of parks in and around the city, it's a crime not to take advantage of its lush green valleys and picture-perfect waterfalls that can become a highlight of your hike. And while some popular places, like Hamilton Pools, can be rather packed during summer weekends, it's always possible to get away from the crowds and find your private oasis to enjoy the weekend surrounded by beautiful nature.
Best time to visit waterfalls near Austin
Texas doesn't get much snow in the winter, so don't expect any springtime roar and grandeur from waterfalls in Texas. Rivers don't get especially fast there unless it rains a lot and they get overflooded. The rainy season in Austin runs approximately from May to mid-September so you can expect to see more volume at that time. However, if the summer is rather dry, the streams may dry out as well. Summer months is also the time when temperatures in Austin can reach a boiling 95°F (35°C), so taking a hike to the waterfall would seem like a great idea. Most parks with waterfalls also have swimming holes where you can cool down and relax after a hike. Spring and fall is also a good time to visit waterfalls due to vibrant nature around and lesser crowds than in the summer. In the winter, most trails are open as well, however, the landscape might look somewhat dull, comparing to other seasons.
Top 5 places in and near Austin to see waterfalls
Visiting waterfalls is a perfect one-day trip that can be combined with biking, hiking, fishing, and swimming as most parks around the Texas capital offer a variety of activities to try.
Hamilton Pool Preserve
Hamilton Pool Preserve is arguably the most scenic spot at the outskirts of Austin due to a beautiful cave and a 50-ft (15-m) waterfall. Located 30-minutes west of Austin by car, this natural pool was formed by erosion thousands of years ago. A 232 -acre (0.94 sq. km) preserve surrounds Hamilton Creek and a box canyon. Hamilton Pool is one of the most popular swimming holes near Austin and can get quite crowded during weekends. Water temperature in the summer is about 50°F (10°C). You have to make a reservation on the preserve's website to visit the pool.
McKinney Falls State Park is one of the best hiking destinations of the Hill Country, located in just 10 miles (16 km) from the city. You can have a day full of hiking and relaxation in the waters of Onion Creek and its beautiful pools. It's also possible to stay in the park overnight, as there are about 80 campsites. A 641-acre (2.6-sq. km) park's highlight is the remains of an early Texas homestead. The park also offers bike trails and fishing.
Crockett Gardens Falls
Crockett Gardens Falls by the picturesque Lake Georgetown is located about 45-minutes away north from Austin. It features several small waterfalls that feed the lake. The waterfalls can be reached by a 5.8-mile (9-km) trail that starts at Cedar Breaks Park. Or you can opt for a 26-mi (41-km) San Gabriel Goodwater Loop Trail, which goes around Lake Georgetown. The lake has a swimming beach and several picnic zones as well as scenic overlooks to enjoy the view.
Barton Creek Greenbelt: Sculpture Falls and Twin Falls
Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of the favorite summer playgrounds for Austin residents as this beautiful oasis is located in just 10 minutes by car from downtown. 7.9-mile(13-km)-long Barton Creek Greenbelt features several swimming holes with warm water reaching 70°F (21°C) in the summer. Twin Falls are located in just half a mile from the trailhead on the Barton Creek Trail, and Sculpture Falls is 1.5 miles further on the same trail. Both spots are very popular in the summer. Expect to see lots of families with children and dogs. However, you can always find a more secluded spot on the creek if you want less company.
St. Edwards Park
Vast St. Edwards Park can be reached by a 20-minute drive north of Austin. It features several small waterfalls and swimming holes that can be a perfect destination for a summer hike. This park is usually not so crowded and offers a few easy hiking trails along a picturesque stream surrounded by bluffs. Take a 2-mi (3-km) Creek Trail, which is easy and family friendly and you will be awarded with beautiful views of the falls on Bull Creek as well as an easy access to water. The park also has a few fragrant meadows with Texas native plants, grasses, and cacti to explore.
Waterfalls and pools are among the best places to see around Austin at any time of the year. The trails can be easily accessed from major highways and are usually well maintained for visitors to enjoy.
When is the best time to visit waterfalls around Austin?
Waterfalls around Austin are best visited during the rainy season that stretches from May to mid-September when they are generally full. The stream might dry out in case of a dry summer. Fall and Spring are also good options to avoid crowds. Winter could be viable too, but the landscape may not be as appealing as other seasons. Show more
Where can I see the most spectacular waterfalls near Austin?
Austin boasts several hundred parks with countless waterfalls, of which McKinney Falls, St. Edwards Park, Crockett Gardens Falls, Twin Falls at the Barton Creek Greenbelt, and Hamilton Pool Preserve are some of the best-known ones. Hamilton Pool is the most visited, so it might get crowded during peak times. Tourists can swim in most waterfalls and enjoy the cool and refreshing water temperature. Show more
Are all swimming holes always open in Austin?
While most swimming holes around Austin are open throughout the year, some might get closed down during the rainy season due to safety reasons or maintenance. Visitors should check with park websites to avoid scheduling their visit during peak times or days. Some parks would require a reservation to enter, so visitors should plan accordingly. Show more
What temperature should I expect in the water in Austin's swimming holes?
Swimming in Austin's swimming holes is usually cool and refreshing. In summer, the temperature might usually revolve around 50°F (10°C) with some hiking up to 70°F (21°C). During peak summer, a dip in the cold water of the waterfalls can be refreshing and offer a respite from Austin's boiling temperatures that can go as high as 95°F (35°C). Show more
What other activities can I do near the waterfalls in Austin?
There are many outdoor activities to enjoy around Austin's waterfalls, including hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, biking, and backpacking. Different parks offer easy and family-friendly hiking trails, scenic overlooks, and fragrant meadows that are ideal for picnics and family outings. The surroundings of the waterfalls offer a picturesque and relaxing retreat from city life. Show more