- By Sarah Flood-Baumann
If you’re looking for that sweet spot this summer, somewhere between your impossible-to-touch steering wheel and the overly air-conditioned indoors, we’ve made a list of refreshing (read: water-y) activities and nearby destinations where you can splash around this summer. Some, like dipping into San Pedro Springs or drifting down the ol’ Frio, might be as old hat as that perspiring Lone Star tallboy you hold in your hand. Others, like shuffling through the dark crevices of Gorman Cave or snorkeling the river, might inspire you to try something new. So here you have it — 12 ways to get wet this summer. As with any outdoor ventures in Texas, you’re liable for your own sunburn and mosquito bites.
1. Floating Frio River at Garner State Park
Drive Time: 1.5 hours, 234 RR 1050, Concan
If you’ve ever longed for shaded, cypress-lined river beauty in which to sip from your beer coozy, the Frio has got your back. There are several good put-in locations, depending on how long you want to soak. Bring your own tube, or rent from many local vendors. More information, including water flow rates, available at tubetexas.com.
2. Picnic Paradise Canyon
Drive Time: Less than an hour, 2220 County Road 2615, Rio Medina, paradisecanyon.com
Paradise Canyon is a scenic section of the Medina river that hosts family-oriented campgrounds, picnic areas, and provides all the floating rentals you might need. If you decide to spend the night, beware that their noise policy is pretty strict — as in, no pre-recorded music is allowed. So if you’re looking for a quiet, serene respite, this might be the spot for you.
3. Natural Escape Guadalupe River State Park
Drive Time: Less than an hour, 350 Park Rd 31, Spring Branch, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/guadalupe-river
This classic summer spot is a Texas gem, and obvious destination for San Antonians looking to get away – but not too far. The river itself does most of the talking: four natural rapids that eventually meander through limestone bluffs, making it a great locale for any non-motorized water activity. You may float, fish, hike, or paddle your way down the Guadalupe.
4. Caving Colorado Bend State Park
Drive Time: 2.5 hours, 2236 Park Hill Drive, Bend
Not for the claustrophobic, adventurers hoping for a muddy, belly-crawling romp should visit Gorman’s Cave north of San Antonio. One caving outfit, Nichols Outdoor Adventures, handles all the spelunking tours within the park. They offer three different types of tours, with varying levels of dirtiness and knee-scraping.
5. Waterfalls Pedernales Falls State Park
Drive Time: 1.5 hours, 585 Park Rd. 6026, Johnson City, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/pedernales-falls
Pedernales has everything—camping, hiking, mountain bike, horseback riding, swimming, tubing, fishing—and yes, beautiful falls. After a day of hard-charging fun, there’s plenty of shade along the river where you can settle in for a relaxed nibble and nap.
6. Dog Friendly Overlook Park at Canyon Lake
Drive Time: 1 hour, 601 Coe Rd, Canyon Lake, canyonlakeguide.com
This spot is easy to get to, with a short (however, steep) walk to the beach with room to roam, play fetch, and make memories with the pup. Around sunset, head up to the nearby dam for a truly spectacular day’s end. And bonus: use of this day-time park is free.
7. Rope Swinging The Blue Hole
Drive Time: 1 hour, 100 Blue Hole Lane, Wimberley
This aquatic gem was recently saved from development and turned into a 126-acre park and swimming destination, complete with a circus-like swing hanging from a towering cypress tree. Along with cool water temperatures, the park also offers trails, lounging areas, a playscape and a sand volleyball court.
8. Snorkeling San Marcos River
Drive Time: 1 hour, 221 Sessom Drive, San Marcos,
The water near the San Marcos spring runs clear and cool – perfect for aquatic activities. Grab your grandpa’s old goggles and check out the largemouth bass and bluefin that inhabit our nearby river. Then, once you’ve dried off, head to one of the many riverside bars.
9. Kayaking Rio Vista Park
Drive Time: Less than an hour, 555 Cheatham St., San Marcos, toursanmarcos.com
This spot on the San Marcos River provides a surprising challenge for those in search of quality white water. Three man-made rapids bump and rumble kayakers down the river, and after a day of riff raft you can barbecue on the park’s grills or dip in the year-round-70-degree water.
10. Quick (Urban) Dip San Pedro Spring Pool
Drive Time: It’s right here, 1315 San Pedro Ave, sanantonio.gov
San Pedro Springs Pool, the city’s oldest designated park, is SA’s saving grace during the hot summer months, a spot right in the middle of the city that attracts every kind of splish-splasher imaginable. The pool temperature is always nice and cool, thanks to the spring-fed waters. Just outside the pool, picnic tables lend themselves to great cookouts – and really, it just can’t get any more San Antonio Summertime than SPSP.
11. Fishing Choke Canyon Reservoir
Drive Time: 1.5 hours, 700 Texas 72, Three Rivers
Choke Canyon is a hulking reservoir off the Frio River that is stocked with all kinds of fish, including alligator gar, white bass, white crappie, catfish, and largemouth bass, sunfish, and bluegill. There’s even American alligators (gulp). The bounty of freshwater life alone makes Choke Canyon a must-visit this summer.
12. Beach Bummin’ Mustang Island State Park
Drive Time: 2.5 hours, 17047 State Highway 361, Port Aransas, tpwd.texas.gov/state-parks/mustang-island
Beaching can mean a lot of things. At Mustang Island, there’s swimming, surfing, camping, fishing, hiking, mountain biking, kayaking and nature watching. If you visit before the end of July, you may even find endangered sea turtles nesting in the sand— so step lightly and view from afar.