I love getting outside with my kids as much as possible, but it becomes more challenging in the summer in Texas. Of course we love pools and splash pads, but that can get repetitive (and chlorine-filled). We like to spend time in nature where we have more opportunities to explore and discover, but it can be tricky to know which areas will have adequate water and shade. Unfortunately, a lot of Austin’s best creek splashing spots are dry in the summer or have been dry for many months due to drought. Some creeks only fill up very occasionally after a big rain, making it hard to know whether it’s worth visiting.

So we’ve gathered the best places to splash in the creek that consistently have water. (Though there is no guarantee here in Texas, and water levels will vary depending on rainfall.) These are mostly short, kid-friendly hikes down to water with shallow areas for wading, and some have deeper water for swimming. Break out of your pool routine and explore one of these beautiful nature areas in Austin.

Lost Creek on the Barton Creek Greenbelt – 2394 Lost Creek Blvd. (West)

The hike down to the creek is very short and easy for young kids. There are shallow areas for wading, deeper areas where you can jump off rocks and swim, and tons of shade. If you have older kids, you can cross the creek and walk about 20-25 minutes through the woods to get to a big swimming hole and waterfall. There is an entrance fee on weekends only.

Sculpture Falls on the Barton Creek Greenbelt – 3918 S. Mopac Expy (South Central)

This is a longer hike to do with younger kids, but if yours are strong hikers this is the only spot on the Barton Creek Greenbelt besides Lost Creek that has water right now. Park at the Twin Falls access point and it’s a 3 mile out-and-back hike to Sculpture Falls.

Barton Springs Spillway – 2201 Barton Springs Rd. (South Central)

Barton Springs Pool is still too chilly for my kids, but we like to splash in the spillway next to it after playing at the Zilker Park playground. Be aware that there are usually a lot of off-leash dogs here.

Austin Nature and Science Center – 2389 Stratford Dr. (South Central)

My kids can spend a long time playing in the stream here. We bring a net and try to catch minnows, and they like to look for shells and hop on the rocks and stone lily pads.

St. Edward’s Trail – 7301 Spicewood Springs Rd. (North)

There are easy, flat dirt trails kids can take down to the creek, where there is a pretty waterfall and water to splash in. An app like All Trails is helpful here to make sure you are staying on the trail.

Camp Ben McCulloch – 18301 Farm to Market Rd 1826 (Driftwood)

This site dates back to the late 1800s, and the camping area hosts festivals and events throughout the year. However, it’s also located along Onion Creek and home to a picturesque and little-known swimming hole. Drive through the camping area and park along the creek, and then it’s a very short walk down to the water, which has shallow and deep areas. The Salt Lick is across the street for some post-splashing barbecue.

Pease Park – 1100 Kingsbury St. (Central)

When you enter the park, walk along the trail to the right for a few minutes and you’ll find stairs leading down to Shoal Creek. There is shallow water for splashing in but not a ton of shade. Once it gets too hot, though, you can move to the splash pad.

Bull Creek District Park and Greenbelt – 6701 Lakewood Drive (North)

There are several trails leading down to the creek, which has shallower and deeper water and waterfalls to play in.

Brushy Creek – 2310 Brushy Creek Rd. (Cedar Park)

Start your hike by the Brushy Creek Sports Park to get to the creek. Park near the basketball courts and follow the path toward the bridge until you find access to the creek. Water can vary from ankle deep to knee deep.

Reimers Ranch Park – 23610 Hamilton Pool Rd. (Dripping Springs)

This park has beautiful canyons for adventurous climbers, but you can also park in the lot with direct access to the river. It’s only a 300-yard hike from the parking lot to the water, where you can hang out on the pebble beach and splash in the Pedernales River. This park has entrance fees.

McKinney Falls – 5808 McKinney Falls Pkwy (Southeast)

Relax in the waters of Onion Creek at this popular swimming spot. Bring floaties if you plan to go to the Upper Falls, where water is deeper. The Lower Falls may be better for young children. This park has entrance fees and reservations are required.


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