Barton Springs Pool is always on our Summer Bucket List. It never seems to get crossed off, even after we visit. I think it’s because we waited so long to try the spring-fed pool — about ten years of peeking through the gate before actually venturing inside — that my kids feel the need to make up for lost time.
For years, it was the sheer size of Barton Springs that kept me away. Taking small children to a pool that measures three acres, and reaches depths of more than 18 feet, did not seem like a sound plan. But, once my kids dipped their toes in the chilly 68-degree water for the first time, they were hooked.
What’s so great about this year-round swimming hole? Well, for starters, Barton Springs is so big that even when the pool is packed, there is plenty of room for everyone. The only times you’ll notice the crowds are when looking for a spot in the Zilker Park parking lot and when waiting in line to get in the front gate. New this year, two pay stations offer the option to pay for admission by credit card, but after printing your ticket, you still have to wait in line to gain admission. Your best bet is to arrive as early as possible, even on a weekday. Just not on a Thursday, when the pool is closed for cleaning from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m.
- You can use floats and lifejackets only in one half of the pool (the shallow side). In the deeper end of the pool, you must be able to swim on your own.
- The diving board is on the deep side, obviously, so only children who are able to swim independently may use it. No swimming aids or lifejackets are permitted on the diving board.
- There is a beach entrance on the west side of the pool, where the water remains shallow for a long stretch. This is, however, also the part of the pool where the natural rock floor is most slippery with algae. Water shoes are recommended for walking in this section of the pool. Inner tubes for floating are also a great idea.
- There are stairs and a ramp for pool entry closer to the center of the pool. The ground is less slippery there, so these are easier ways to enter the pool, if your child is tall enough to stand in the water there. At the bottom of the ramp, the water comes up to an adult’s hips.
- Topless sunbathing is allowed. I’ve never seen anything shocking, but I figure I should mention it.
- The swimming area of Barton Springs is created by damming water along a stretch of Barton Creek. The water is natural and untreated, so the shallow end of the pool can get a bit murky. You may also notice small fish, tadpoles and other creatures sharing the water with you. My boys find this adds to the adventure.
Barton Springs Pool is sometimes free and sometimes not. If you want life guards, you pay for them. If you’d like to “swim at your own risk,” visit for free from 5-8 a.m. and 9-10 p.m. daily. Depending on when you visit, you may also need to bring along $5 to park in Zilker Park. Admission to both the pool and parking lot is free from November to February each year.
It’s important to note that you cannot bring food into Barton Springs. (You can bring non-alcoholic drinks, if they are in a plastic re-sealable container with a twist-top lid.) We usually leave a cooler in the car and exit the pool to picnic by the playground. It’s a bit of extra walking, but the kids never turn down a chance to play. Hand stamps are available for come-and-go pool entry.
Also just outside the Barton Springs Pool gate is the Zilker Zephyr train, the free indoor Splash! exhibit, the Zilker Snack Bar, Zilker Hillside Theater, and the free wading area of Barton Creek, called Barking Springs for its popularity with dog owners.
Barton Springs is open daily, but is closed for cleaning every Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. You can see the current operating hours here. If it has rained recently, call the Barton Springs Hotline (512-867-3080) to make sure the pool is open. Sometimes after a big storm, the pool will close for several days to remove all of the mud and debris that has washed into the water.
Admission for Austin residents during the charging season is $1 for children age 1-11, $2 for children age 12-17, $3 for adults age 18-62, and $1 for seniors age 62 and older. Non-resident fees are $3 for children age 1-11, $4 for children age 12-17, $8 for adults age 18-62, and $4 for seniors age 62 and older. Admission is free during “Swim at Your Own Risk” times: 5-8 a.m. and 9-10 p.m. daily.
For more information, visit the City of Austin website.
Barton Springs Pool
2201 Barton Springs Rd.
Austin, TX 78704