You’re lucky enough to be living on the doorstep of the Texas Hill Country, the land of artesian springs and crystal clear rivers, just as we emerge from several years of historic drought. If you’re not headed for the coast, check out one of these falls, springs and other freshwater swimming holes that are just a drive away (about two hours or less).
Fort Clark Springs
300 US 90, Brackettville, (830) 563-2493, fortclark.com
On the site of an old frontier fort, at first glance this might just look like an 8-foot deep concrete-lined pool, but it’s actually fed by the Las Moras Springs. And when it feels like a furnace outside, swimming in 68-degree water is exactly what you want to be doing.
Where/what to eat/drink: There’s a bar and grill on the Fort Clark Springs property, but you could always venture into nearby Bracketville for barbecue. What’s nearby: It’s a short drive to the Kickapoo Cavern State Park, which offers nightly bat viewings at the mouth of the caves. Even though it closed recently, you could still drive by Alamo Village and spot the replica movie set used in John Wayne’s The Alamo.
Riding River Ranch
971 Kent Creek Road, Leakey, (361) 215-5939, ridingriverranch.com
This one’s sort of like glamping with some of nature’s finest waterworks, including a spring-fed lake, a frigid blue hole and several waterfalls. There’s no day rate, so you gotta drop coin for that wonderful, wet seclusion — cabins range from $150 to $350 per night, sleep four to eight people, and require a three-night minimum stay.
What/where to eat/drink: If you need a break from the barbecue pit one day, head to Leaky for some diner or Tex-Mex fare at Mama Chole’s or the Mill Creek Cafe. What’s nearby: Tour a collapsed cavern at the Devil’s Sinkhole, which is a short drive away.
2585 Park Road, Johnson City, (830) 868-7304, tpwd.texas.gov
Pedernales Falls is a jewel of the Texas Hill Country. From hiking across the smooth limestone slabs, where the Pedernales River forms a series of pools and waterfalls, to the tranquil, gravely beach downstream, this park’s got range.
What/where to eat/drink: Hit up Pecan Street Brewing for classic American fare, pub grub and craft beer (brewed on the premises), or grab a gourmet snack to go from Whittington’s Jerky and General Store. What’s nearby: Lyndon B. Johnson National Historic Park is the obvious but necessary choice, where you can tour the Texas White House. Also worth exploring, the Hill Country Science Mill combines STEM and art via interactive exhibits.
164 Landa Park Drive, New Braunfels, (830) 221-4000, nbtexas.org
The largest group of artesian springs in Texas spans about two and a half miles, including seven different swimming holes that all feed into the Comal River. Which means booze cruising around the springs on a tube, of course. Plus the water of Comal Springs is said to stay a consistent 72 to 73 degrees year-round. Get your float on.
Where/what to eat/drink. Uh, pretty much anywhere in the New Braunfels area that serves legit German food. Or, for a high-low experience, splurge on Cajun-style seafood at McAdoo’s (housed in a historic post office) and cap it off with live music and cocktails around the corner at The Phoenix Saloon. What’s nearby: Check out whoever’s playing at Gruene Hall.
404 Krause Spring Road, Spicewood, (830) 693-4181, krausesprings.net
Some 32 different springs feed the mix of natural and man-made pools across this private camping and swimming grounds. Plus, it’s picturesque with a natural creek that features a towering cypress tree, rope swings and even a small waterfall. Adults can camp for $14 per night, or just spend a day at the pools for half that price. Yet another cool, spring-fed haven where you can survive during the hottest summer days.
Where/what to eat/drink: Book a tour of Spicewood Vinyards and sip on award-winning wines. What’s nearby: If you wanna make a weekend of it, just a 10-minute drive away is Cypress Valley Canopy Tours, where you can book actual treehouses for the night. And if you’ve only got an afternoon, they’ve got a zipline that’ll fling you in between the trees.