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Spring Into Texas

Take a Dip in the State’s Natural Water Wonders
Krause Springs Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Krause Springs
By Christina Garcia | Photos: Balmorhea, Tara Fattouh | Chinati Hot Springs, Michael Anglin | Krause Springs and Barton Springs Pool, Austin Parks and Recreation Department | J.O. Langford’s Bathhouse at Big Bend National Park, National Parks Service Cathryn A. Hoyt.

When the sweat drips, take a dip. However, we didn’t forget the steamy hot springs in this list of natural spring-fed pools, though they’re better suited for a soak than a swim. If you’re partial to cold plunges, head to the state’s fresh and frigid spring pools. Our advice on acclimating? If you’re in good health, jump in!

Krause Springs, Spicewood

It’s the scenery here, really. Cliffside ferns, elephant ears, and vines drape near a small waterfall. The mossy, picturesque grotto is hard to resist. Add a naturally spring-fed pool that stays a brisk 68 degrees, and you have a Central Texas must-see. The pool is not clear, and the shore is hard rock, but Krause Springs remains a bucket list stop for many. Remember to explore the butterfly garden, but don’t expect to visit in the winter, when the private site closes for the season. Online reservations are often booked many weeks ahead of time. Ticketed visitors may tent camp without a reservation, but RV spots must be booked in advance.

Balmorhea Tara Fattouh
Balmorhea Springs Pool

Balmorhea State Park, Toyahvale

The San Solomon Springs pumps millions of gallons to this oasis in the desert, the largest spring-fed pool in the world. With deepest points at 25 feet below the surface, scuba divers are not an unusual sight, either. About halfway between Fort Stockton and Van Horn in southwest Texas, this massive pool is a can’t-miss.

Barton Springs Pool Austin Parks and Recreation Department
Barton Springs Pool

Barton Springs Pool, Austin

Hot days are thick with swimmers at this chilly jewel in Austin’s outdoor crown. Sometimes, the algae are thick, too. That won’t keep front crawlers, back-strokers, and float-loungers from this natural pool fed from an underground spring. Enjoying waters from the sensitive and precious Edwards aquifer in the heart of Austin’s Zilker Park, divers backflip, twirl, and belly flop from the board while families watch near the shallow end. Giant inflatable donuts have become more popular of late. You’ll find a sea of beach towels on the big grassy (hopefully) lawn, with cool water temperatures of around 68 degrees keeping the grounds busy.

“The water is warmer than the outside air in the winter,” say the year-rounders, including many seniors, taking their daily constitutional at Barton Springs Pool. Tip: Visit nearby Deep Eddy for a smaller, quieter experience at a spring-fed pool in Austin.

J O Langford's Bathhouse at Big Bend National Park
J.O. Langford’s Bathhouse

Big Bend National Park

In the ruins of the old bath house right on the edge of the Rio Grande, there’s a small concrete tub people sit in to watch the sunset. Built early in the 20th century by J.O. Langford, the rocky tub is all that’s left of his efforts. Crystal clear, 105-degree water fills the ruins, and the hot springs are very popular with tourists. Most restorative soak seekers visit Big Bend National Park, where the hot springs are located during the busy season from November to April. Due to surging park popularity, lodging reservations can be made six months in advance, but you need not camp to soak. Day-use visitors can take the quarter-mile hike down an easy trail past the pictographs and petroglyphs of days gone by.

Chinati hot springs credit Michael Anglin
Chinati Hot Springs

Chinati Hot Springs, Ruidosa

Once owned by the minimalist sculptor Donald Judd, the secluded Chinati Hot Springs is only open to those staying on the property in one of several colorful desert cabins. Natural lithium content in the water, pumped from five miles below the earth’s surface, is a big draw, according to General Manager Diana Burbach.

Chinati cold pool
Chinati Cold Pool

Guests make the two-hour drive from Marfa to visit year-round, bathing in the cold pool after a hot bath during the sweltering summer months. Groups book the entire property from time to time. Dark skies make this a great place to stargaze. No Wi-Fi makes it an even better place to unplug.

Hancock Springs Pool, Lampasas

Located in Hancock Springs Park, this little spring-fed, free-flow pool was constructed for baptisms in the late 1800s. This sulfurous pool is known to be much less crowded than some of the other spots on our list while still offering lots of shade and grassy picnic areas.   

Honorable mention: Camp Hot Wells, San Antonio

While this location features well water, we thought you should know about it anyway. Next to the ruins of what was once a luxurious turn-of-the-century resort touting the innumerable benefits of bathing in the sulfuric, geothermically heated waters from an Edwards well, Camp Hot Wells breathes new life into San Antonio’s past. Book one of two clawfoot or cedar tubs for 60 to 90 minutes and enjoy a cold shower, too. Opened in 2023, Camp Hot Wells invites guests to dip their toes into their heated front pool. The pool is open to the public without a reservation and free to patrons of their beverage bar, which offers short lists of non-alcoholic beverages, seltzer and sake, and more extensive beer and wine lists.

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