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How To Visit Barton Springs: Austin’s Favorite Swimming Hole

June 30, 2023
Barton Springs

Barton Springs is one of Austin’s best known and best loved swimming holes. Not only is Barton Springs a great spot to spend a sunny day, it also might be the most refreshing way to beat the infamously muggy Texas heat.

Fed from pristine underground springs, its clear water, fully equipped changing rooms, and scenic surroundings make Barton Springs a popular warm weather destination for tourists and locals alike.

Ready to plan your trip to Barton Springs? Here’s everything you need to know.

What is Barton Springs?

Barton Springs
Credit: Outdoor Craziness / CC BY-SA 3.0

A set of four natural water springs emerging along the path of Barton Creek, Barton Springs begins in the Edwards Aquifer and flows throughout Zilker Park in downtown Austin. 

However, when Austinites refer to Barton Springs, they’re actually referring to Barton Springs Pool, which is fed by the largest of the four springs, Main Barton Spring. A large recreational swimming pool, Barton Springs Pool was constructed in 1920, although the area had long been used by the Tonkawa Native American tribe in their purification rituals.

Where to find Barton Springs

Austin, TX

Barton Springs is located in the center of Austin’s Zilker Park, not far from the University of Texas campus in the heart of Austin. Easily accessible from any part of the city, Barton Springs can be reached by bus, car, or walking.

Why Barton Springs is worth visiting

Barton Springs
Credit: Todd Dwyer / CC BY-SA 2.0

The perfect place to spend time with friends, enjoy the warm weather, and take a refreshing dip in natural water, Barton Springs is a classic Austin experience that’s well worth checking out for any visitor. 

A dip in the cool, refreshing water of this natural spring is the perfect way to break up a long, hot day visiting historic destinations in the searing Texas sun. Plus, the convenient changing rooms and showers make it easy to clean up after a visit before heading out to sunset cocktails on the lake or a nice dinner downtown.

The historic nature of the springs and its impressive array of local wildlife — including Austin’s famous bats and the Barton Springs salamander, found only at this one location — also make the springs a must for any fan of history or the great outdoors.

How to visit Barton Springs

Barton Springs Pool
Credit: Spawnzilla / CC BY-SA 4.0

The easiest way to visit Barton Springs is to drive there. There is parking available in the on-site lot, but if the lot is full, don’t stress! Nearby dirt fields provide ample overflow parking on busy days.

If you don’t have a car, take the 30 bus to the Barton Springs/Jessie stop, about a five-minute walk away. The city also runs a popular free shuttle through the park on weekends in the summer.

Make sure you bring everything you need. Barton Springs essentials include swimwear, a towel or blanket to lounge on, and sun protection such as sunscreen and a hat. You also may want to bring a picnic and definitely plenty of water to stay hydrated. You can also fill up your bottle at the water fountains located in the changing rooms.

Local tip: Bring goggles or a scuba mask if you’re hoping to catch a glimpse of those famous salamanders!

How much does it cost to visit Barton Springs?

The cost to visit Barton Springs varies based on your age, and whether you’re a Texas resident or a visitor. Here’s how much you can expect to pay for one-day admission.

  • Kids under 1 year: free
  • Kids 1-11 years old: $2 for Austin residents, $4 for others
  • Kids 11-17 years old: $3 for Austin residents, $5 for others
  • Adults 18-61 years old: $5 for Austin residents, $9 for others
  • Seniors 62 and older: $2 for Austin residents, $5 for others
  • Veterans: free

Everything to do at Barton Springs

Barton Creek
Credit: LoneStarMike / CC BY-SA 3.0

What’s the best thing to do at Barton Springs? Go for a swim, of course! The deep, cool water offers plenty of space to do laps, float in the sun, or practice your moves on the diving board.

Snorkeling is another popular activity in the shallower half of the pool. Keep an eye out for those famous salamanders, and enjoy the warmth of the sun on your back.

Lastly, many visitors to Barton Springs take advantage of the pool’s scenic surroundings to practice photography. Snap the perfect selfie for the gram, or capture the beauty of Barton Springs’ natural surroundings.

Insider tips for Visiting Barton Springs

Barton Springs Pool
Credit: Spawnzilla / CC BY-SA 4.0

First off, you have to decide when to visit Barton Springs. Summertime, perhaps not surprisingly, is the best time to go. 

Not only are the blazing hot temperatures of the Texas afternoons the perfect accompaniment to the cool, refreshing waters of the springs, it’s also the season when you’re most likely to spot a migrating bat! June, July, and August are all ideal months for your visit.

However, visiting at other times of the year can mean lighter crowds, and it’s often still warm enough for a swim in the shoulder seasons of spring and fall. In winter, when the high is typically not much over 60 degrees, I recommend coming to snap a few scenic photos or picnic by the water rather than a full swim, but it’s up to you! 

Save the date: If you’re in town on the first day of the year, you can even join brave locals for the traditional New Year’s Day polar plunge into the frigid spring water. Hey, you know Austin is weird. 

Whenever you go, especially in warm weather, if you want to beat the crowds, you have to be strategic about the time of day you visit. With school out in the summer, the pool will be packed with families enjoying the water. To swim in (relative) peace, plan on going during the morning, before 8 a.m., or in the later afternoon around 4 p.m.

If you’re visiting with kids, avoid visiting Barton Springs 5-8 a.m. and 9-10 p.m. These are the unsupervised swim times when no lifeguard is on duty.

FAQs for your visit to Barton Springs

Here are some answers to the most frequently asked questions to help you plan for your visit.

Do you have to make a reservation for Barton Springs?

Nope! Just show up and get in the water.

Is Barton Springs safe to swim in?

Yes! The water at Barton Springs has been tested and is completely safe to swim in. I’ve done it many a time. Come during supervised hours between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. when a lifeguard is on duty for extra protection.

When is Barton Springs free?

Barton Springs is free from 5-8 a.m. daily and from 9-10 p.m. on Tuesday, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. However, remember that there are no lifeguards on duty during these hours, so inexperienced swimmers should stay at home.

Spring Into a Great Swim Day!

Barton Springs Pool

I hope this guide was helpful to you as you plan your visit to Barton Springs! A day at this historic pool is such a quintessential Austin experience that I highly recommend it for any visitor looking to beat the Texas heat and unwind like the locals do with the perfect day in the park.

Of course, you’ll be hungry after all that swimming. Meet you in East Austin for a foodie tour?