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Epic Texas Rivers & Lakes Summer Road Trip from Houston

Summers in Texas can be summed up in one word – hot. While people in other parts of the country are enjoying the great outdoors, many of us are hibernating inside, venturing out only to dive into the nearest pool. 

However, there are plenty of ways to explore nature and spend time outside without risking heatstroke. Texas has some incredible rivers and spring-fed water sources that are cold and refreshing, even in the dog days of summer. Here is an itinerary for an incredible Texas rivers and lakes road trip you can take from Houston this summer.

Palmetto State Park

Head west from Houston to Gonzales, TX  (approximately 2 hours). Gonzales is a cute, historic town we covered in a previous issue, and a full Gonzales itinerary is available here. You can choose to explore the town, or just head straight to Palmetto State Park. 

Palmetto State Park has a small oxbow lake with kayaks and stand-up paddle boards available for rent, but you’re going to ignore that – the lake is likely going to be lukewarm during the summer months.

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Instead, you’re going to make your way to the San Marcos River. Be careful here, as the river access isn’t entirely straightforward, and you’ll need to hike down a very short but steep path through the trees – but it’s worth it. You can set up chairs in the shallow part of the river, or catch the current (depending on water level) and enjoy a free water park ride, courtesy of Mother Nature. See our full post about this swimming hole here.


When you’ve had your fill of the San Marcos River, you’re going to head west for a little while (approximately 2.5 hours) until you get to Concan, TX. 

Concan is Texas river swimming heaven, so it can get a bit overwhelming. Here are some of my favorite spots to swim:

Chalk Bluff Park

The water here is so insanely clear you’ll wonder if you’re really still in Texas. Yes, you are, you’re at the Nueces River. There’s also a little zoo with pigs, deer, and even a giraffe. They offer camel rides, farm animal encounters, and safari hayrides.

Chalk Bluff Park in Uvalde, TX

Concan Swimming Hole

This swimming hole is located on the Frio River and has a giant rock in the center, making this a perfect spot for those who love to jump into cool, clear water.

Concan Swimming Hole

7 Bluffs Crossing

This swimming hole is entirely free and is literally right off the road. No, really, you step off the road into the water.


Garner State Park

Of course, I can’t list Frio River swimming holes without mentioning Garner State Park. Here you’ll find rope swings, kayak and paddleboard rentals, and plenty of space to grill at the water’s edge.


While you’re in the area, make sure to go watch the second-largest Mexican Free-Tailed Bat population emerge at night. You can book a tour with Frio Bat Flight. You’ll also need to go grab a coffee at Josh’s Frio River Outfitters, because the store is just too cute for words. See our full Concan itinerary here.


From Concan, you’ll drive an hour north to Hunt, TX, where you will stay at a low-key, yet incredible property right on the Guadalupe River. The River Inn Resort is not fancy, but its location on the river, and its incredible water slide built into the dam, make it a stay you really can’t pass up. 


San Saba

From Hunt, you’ll drive two hours north to San Saba. There are so many great places to swim in San Saba, including Mill Pond Park, which features a sandy beach and an inflatable trampoline in the middle of the water. You can also swim in the San Saba River at Risien Park. 

San Saba Swimming

While you’re in the area, head over to Colorado Bend Park. If you can find a safe way to do so (ie. early morning or on a cooler day) hike out 1.5 miles to Gorman Falls, to see the impressive 60’ tall waterfall.


From here, make your way 2 hours south to Wimberley. You’ll pass some great swimming locations along the way, so feel free to stop at South Llano River State Park or Lake Marble Falls. As you pass through Johnson City, stop off at Science Mill, a really great interactive science museum housed in a refurbished mill.

Wimberley is another adorable town with tons of cute shops along Cypress Creek. If you want to stay overnight, there are hundreds of options, but a fun, inexpensive one is The Lodge at Cypress Falls. Staying with this cute retro motel gives you access to the Cypress Falls swimming hole, and they have kayaks and stand-up paddleboards for rent, as well as a bar right on the water.

Make sure to go for a swim at Blue Hole Regional Park, a jaw-droppingly stunning swimming hole whose spring-fed water is so cold, you’ll get a bit of a shock jumping in, even in August. And I say ‘jump in’ because the entire creek is lined with rope swings of varying heights, and you probably will not be able to resist! For more ideas of what to do in Wimberley, check out our full post.


New Braunfels

From Wimberley, head 40 minutes to New Braunfels to end off your trip with a classic river float. You can book your trip with any number of tubing outfitters, including Rockin R River Rides. Most outfitters offer tubes with and without bottoms and provide transportation back to your starting point. 

And that’s it. Now you can drive the 2.5 hours back to Houston, having explored so many incredible Texas towns and swam in so many different rivers and lakes!

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