On the Road

Take a Hike to These Beautiful Texas Waterfalls

Many parks with cascading marvels are within a few hours' drive from Houston.

By Geneva Diaz

Reserve a spot at the Hamilton Pool Preserve located in the Texas Hill Country west of Austin.

Texas may be more known for vast deserts and sprawling cities, but there’s plenty to entice the waterfall-chasers among us. From hidden gems to popular tourist destinations, peaceful oases to adrenaline-fueled adventures, these falls offer a chance to experience the natural beauty of our scenically diverse state.

Hamilton Pool Preserve

Drive time from Houston: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Located just outside of Austin, Hamilton Pool Preserve is a natural 50-foot waterfall that feeds into an intimate water bowl. The collapsed grotto is a popular spot for swimming and relaxing, but the waterfall is the real attraction, accessed via a short hike through the lush Texas Hill Country. Here’s the catch: You’ll need to reserve a spot in advance to visit.

Gorman Falls

Drive time: 4 hours, 15 minutes

Hidden away in Colorado Bend State Park, surrounded by limestone cliffs and dense vegetation, Gorman Falls cascades down 70 feet to feed into the Colorado River. It’ll take a moderate hike to get there, but the views include glimpses of the spring that fuels the falls and the lush environment below. No swimming is allowed, but cave tours offer a chance to explore underground.

Take the kids for a swim at Blanco Falls or plan a weekend camping trip at the state park.

Blanco Falls

Drive time: 3 hours, 25 minutes

Blanco State Park has a small but tranquil waterfall that trickles over a rocky ledge into the Blanco River. What the falls lack in gusto the picturesque park and its offerings more than make up for: swimming, fishing, and kayaking. Reservations are required for camping, but wildlife sightings of armadillos and mallards just take patience. 

Devil’s Waterhole

Drive time: 3 hours, 40 minutes

If you seek the thrill of cliff jumping, Devil’s Waterhole in Inks Lake State Park is just the spot. A small waterfall spills into a deep pool, your landing point for a 40-foot leap. There are no lifeguards on duty, so take caution—or leave jumps to the experts. Nine miles of hiking trails through rock formations, 200 campsites, and fishing aplenty at Inks Lake can keep the less thrill-seeking visitors more than entertained.

At McKinney Falls, visitors can swim, fish, picnic, hike, bike, and camp overnight.

McKinney Falls

Drive time: 2 hours, 30 minutes

Just 10 miles from downtown Austin, McKinney Falls State Park has two waterfalls on Onion Creek that feed into large swimming holes. While you may see a good amount of foot traffic on nice-weather days, there are usually enough parking spaces and trails for everyone.

Hidden Falls Adventure Park

Drive time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

While this Marble Falls park has a hidden waterfall, it’s really the biking and off-roading that are the biggest draw. If you want to make a weekend of it but don’t want to pitch a tent, cabin rentals and RV spots make it easy to glamp.

Quiet your mind and go for a swim at Pedernales Falls.

Pedernales Falls

Drive time: 3 hours, 30 minutes

Pedernales Falls State Park’s namesake cataract flows over a series of rocky ledges, creating a natural playground for swimming and wading. Several other waterfalls and pools make their home in the state park near Johnson City, too, perfect for a refreshing dip on a hot Texas day.

Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center

Drive time: 3 hours, 20 minutes

Tucked away in the Texas Hill Country, this 76-acre preserve stars a 40-foot waterfall flowing into a scenic grotto. Reservations are required, but the tour offerings are extensive, from forest bathing hikes to guided canyon tours.

The 115-acre property is listed on the National Registry of Historical Sites and has been privately owned by the Krause Family for over 50 years.

Krause Springs

Drive time: 3 hours, 15 minutes

This private park located just west of Austin in Spicewood has several waterfalls and swimming holes. The main falls spill 30 feet into a crystal-clear pool. Though picnic areas and campsites scattered around with other water features invite a weekend-long adventure.

Dolan Falls Preserve

Drive time: 7 hours

Located on the western border of the Texas Hill Country, halfway between Del Rio and Sonora in Val Verde County, Devils River State Natural Area is one of the most remote and unspoiled destinations in Texas. Inside is Dolan Falls, a 15-foot cascade that drops into a serene pool and flows down moss-covered rocks, surrounded by pristine wilderness. This remote natural wonder is not open to the general public unless you get permission from the Nature Conservancy. If you do, you’ll also find a beautiful set of falls that run the width of Devils River. The adjacent Devils River State Natural Area, though, is open year-round and shares the same river frontage and habitat as the preserve.

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