There are many greenbelts in and around the creeks in Austin, and the Barton Creek Greenbelt is one of the most well-known. The greenbelt begins at the south shore of Lady Bird Lake and continues all the way to Loop 360, with starts and stops along the way. Most of the greenbelt is adjacent to the creek itself and Barton Springs while it meanders through the Zilker Park area, and one of the best places to swim under the trees and among the rocks and trails is called Campbell’s Hole.
Campbell’s hole is actually just an area where the creek widens and rocks form a pool, and it can be accessed on either the east side of the creek or the west side, though most people arrive by the east entrance through the trails. Many swimmers and waders bring their dogs, and picnics on the banks and rocks are quite frequent too. Some of the trails are quite steep, so caution must be used when hiking to and from the area, and good hiking or tennis shoes are suggested.
This year has been very dry, so the water is slightly stagnant, and at such times, it is best not to swallow the water or swim with any open cuts, since all too frequently the visiting dogs use the stream for their personal business, but the swimming hole is very family-friendly and many Barton Hills neighbors take their children and pets down to the hole for a free afternoon of hiking, swimming, floating, and just wandering around.
Campbell’s Hole has been popular with local swimmer since the seventies, or even earlier, and at one point, the primary entrance was from a trail in Zilker Park itself, just south of the springs, and the hole was primarily used by those hoping to avoid the entrance fees at the springs, but in the past, the hole was also considered the most popular place for skinny dippers, or those who prefer swimming in cut-offs and tee shirts. The crowd is very laid back, and in earlier years, most of the guests would be considered “hippies”, in teeny bikinis if any clothing at all.
Many nice homes are perched on the cliffs above the swimming hole, and the entire area offers a majestic view for residents as well as hikers and other visitors. One entrance is across the street from Barton Hills Elementary School, with a trail entrance marked by a city-provided sign with an audio device that gives rules, instructions, and other information, including warnings about snakes and other critters in the park and surrounding areas.
In some places, the trails peter out and hikers have to wander through the brush to find the next section, but eventually one can hike from Campbell’s Hole all the way to the bridge over Loop 360, quite a hike over rocky and irregular terrain, but very good exercise for the hearty.
Many beautiful and interesting kinds of wildlife can be seen from the hole, including owls, hawks, and other birds, along with unusual lizards and geckos, and some are tame enough to actually hold still for a quick picture, given their regular contact with people. Another interesting nearby hiking trail is the St. Mark’s Episcopal Church’s meditation walk, which is a series of trails behind the church, which is located at Barton Hills Drive and Barton Skyway, which dead-ends at the church, thus allowing pedestrians to access the hiking trails which connect to the Barton Creek Greenbelt and eventually Campbell’s Hole itself.
Campbell’s Hole has been an Austin landmark for years, and many fine homes, duplexes, and apartments are in the nearby area. The swimming hole’s proximity to Mopac, which runs just west of the greenbelt, make it easily accessible, and this entire area is perfect for nature lovers, college students, young families and professionals, as well as the older, more established crowd who still enjoy the gorgeous scenery and recreational activities. When is southwest Austin on a hot day, take a brisk hike with your kids or dogs to Campbell’s Hole for a natural day of fun and water in the Austin tradition!