tall blue waterfall surrounded by brown rock formation

15 Awesome Swimming Holes in the U.S. for an Unforgettable Summer Escapade

Fishing Hiking Travel
on
July 13, 2021

It’s summertime in America, and it’s hot! There’s no better way to beat the heat than going for a refreshing swim. While a backyard or local public pool is a great option, there’s something so exhilarating and adventurous about finding a natural swimming hole in the great outdoors.

With so many waterfalls, streams, lakes, and rivers across the U.S., you can find the perfect spot to take a dip. Below is a list of top natural swimming places throughout the country worth exploring when you need to beat the summer heat.

Note: If you’re looking for a great swimming hole in California, check out these 6 Swimming Holes in Northern California.

1. Martha’s Falls – Cherokee County, Alabama

In Northeastern Alabama, near the city of Fort Payne, you’ll encounter a magnificent swimming location known as “Hippie Hole.”

Surrounded by unique rock formations, this gorgeous area is great for cliff jumping. Cliffs range from 5 to 25 feet high, so you’ll find one to fit your style. Martha’s Falls is a local favorite and a terrific place to cool off.

A simple, one-mile hike from the Little River Canyon Falls parking lot leads you to this destination.

people bathing in the body of water surrounded by rocks
The Hippie Hole in Alabama by Tennessee Wanderer.

2. Havasu Falls – Grand Canyon, Arizona

Hidden within the Grand Canyon, on sacred Havasupai tribal lands, you’ll find a special location known as Havasu Falls. Surrounded by giant red rock, this waterfall drops more than 100 feet into a crystal clear, turquoise-colored pool.

This spot, however, is not easily accessible. There are no roads, so you’ll have to strap on your hiking boots and bring a pack because the hike is around 10 miles long. It’s recommended to stay overnight in the canyon, as the hike takes 4 to 6 hours one way. The trip is well worth the effort, and you’ll be rewarded with one of the most unique swimming holes in the country.

waterfall flowing from red rock formation
Visiting the Havasu Falls up close by Sean Hagen.

3. Ouachita Reservoir – Hot Springs, Arkansas

Formed by the damming of the Ouachita River, this reservoir is the largest lake in Arkansas and almost entirely surrounded by the Ouachita National Forest. The reservoir boasts natural beauty at every turn, including a terrific swimming hole known as Crystal Springs Beach.

You may forget you’re in Arkansas and feel like you’re in Hawaii. Don’t forget your mask and flippers: snorkel in the crystal-clear waters where you’ll find the rare (non-stinging) freshwater jellyfish, freshwater shrimp, and many varieties of fish.

body of water under the blue sky
Crystal Springs Beach swimming hole is located on the beautiful Lake Ouachita. Photo by Oliver Graham.

4. Devil’s Punchbowl – Aspen, Colorado 

This swimming hole is located off the Roaring Fork River near Aspen. Small waterfalls on the river converge and pool in this naturally formed swimming hole.

Completely unmarked, park between mile markers 50 and 51 on Highway 82, also known as Independence Pass. Hike down about 200-feet until you see cliff jumpers leaping from large rocks into the blue-green waters below. The rocks, rushing waters, and mountain views create an amazingly scenic swimming spot.

people jumping from a cliff into the water surrounded by rock formations
Visit the the Devil’s Punchbowl in Colorado for an exciting water adventure. Photo by Mark Donoher.

5. Fanning Springs State Park – Fanning Springs, Florida

Located just 50 minutes east of Gainesville, discover another world within Fanning Springs State Park. The beautiful jade-colored springs are situated along the Suwannee River and surrounded by ancient oak trees, providing swimmers with the perfect temperature water for a refreshing dip. Enjoy a variety of wildlife including musk turtles, freshwater flounder, bass, and even manatees.

Fanning Springs is a family-friendly area with shallow waters and plenty of room for outdoor activities.

blue water between two buildings
The beautiful water of Fanning Springs State Park by Paul Clark.

6. Dukes Creek Falls – Helen, Georgia

Dukes Creek Falls is a beautiful waterfall area near Helen with a hidden gem of a swimming hole.

There’s a 2-mile, out-and-back trail to the falls, with excellent creek swimming about halfway. Hike to the end and then go for a swim on the way back in the refreshingly cool little swimming hole. The area is dog- and family-friendly.

waterfall over gray rock formations
Visit Dukes Creek Falls with your whole family and the dog! Photo by Andy Makely.

7. Quarry Park – St. Cloud, Minnesota

Minnesota, the land of 10,000 lakes, offers plenty of great swimming holes. Quarry Park is a popular option, especially for adventure seekers looking to cliff dive into the 115-feet deep waters.

There are plenty of hiking trails if you want to get in a workout in before jumping off a 30-foot rock into the cool waters.

There’s also plenty of room to relax in the quarry waters if you aren’t interested in cliff diving. Just grab your flotation device and spend the day relaxing atop the calm waters. This park is open year-round.

body of water surrounded by green trees and white rock
Visitors of the Quarry Park in Minnesota can try out some top notch cliff diving. Photo by Todd Murray.

8. Blue Hole – Santa Rosa, New Mexico

In the land of desert landscapes and little rain, you’ll find a gem known as the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa. This is one of the best swimming holes for scuba diving and therefore, an incredibly popular location for divers from all around the country.

The lake is 80-feet deep and provides 100 percent visibility, meaning you’re able to see the bottom of the pool standing at the top! Even if you don’t have your divers certification, you can still enjoy this area swimming and cliff diving. Blue Hole is a great place for the whole family.

people swimming in body of water next to a cliff
Don’t miss scuba diving when you visit the fantastic Blue Hole in Santa Rosa! Photo by Tony Hisgett.

9. Enfield Falls – Ithaca, New York

Located in the wine-making region of upstate New York, you’ll find a stunning swimming hole that’s fed by a vibrant waterfall. Within Robert H. Treman State Park, Enfield Falls is a great place for the whole family, and kids enjoy shallow areas in the natural pool.

two children standing next to waterfall
Enfield Falls – Lower Falls, Robert Treman State Park. Photo by woodleywonderworks.

10. Sliding Rock – Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina

In Western North Carolina, on Looking Glass Creek, discover a location with not only a spectacular swimming hole but also a unique 60-foot-long natural water slide. Rush down this rock slide into a refreshing 7-foot deep pool.

It’s worth the wait, but plan to wait in line at this popular spot.

people sliding down the grey rock covered with water
Visitors love the Sliding Rock in Pisgah National Forest as it’s a truly unique spot for summer adventuring. Photo by Forest Service, USDA.

11. Opal Creek Wilderness Pools – Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Travel into Willamette National Forest to revel among the lush old-growth of Douglas firs, Pacific silver firs, and Western hemlocks and find one of the most ideal swimming holes in Oregon.

With running waterfalls, emerald waters, and basalt pools, you’ll want to stay all day. You can also follow the Santiam River to another awesome swimming hole known as Three Pools to experience some of the best cliff diving in the state. 

body of water next to rocks and trees
Small Cascade in the Three Pools Recreation Area by the Opal Creek Wilderness. Photo by U.S. Forest Service- Pacific Northwest Region.

12. Cummins Falls State Park – Cookeville, Tennessee

Cummins Falls State Park provides visitors with a magical setting. Encompassing 282-acres of rugged terrain with a variety of oaks, beech, buckeye, sycamore, and hemlock trees, you’ll begin to understand why locals have been visiting this swimming hole for more than 100 years.

A simple but steep 1.5-mile hike leads to Cummins Falls. This 75-foot waterfall is a must-see and a great location to capture some amazing nature photographs.

body of water in front of waterfall
Visit the Cummins Falls State Park in Tennessee if you like hiking, swimming, and taking landscape photos. Photo by Brenton Rogers from Tullahoma, TN, CC BY 2.0 via Wikimedia Commons.

13. Barton Springs Pool – Austin, Texas

Inside the city of Austin is a special place to many residents known as Barton Springs Pool. Within Zilker Park (Austin’s “most-loved park”), you’ll find a three-acre swimming location where people go to relax, sunbathe, swim and enjoy the heat of summer. Open year-round, Barton Springs is fed by underground springs for a steady temperature of 70 degrees.

people swimming in an outdoor pool
Barton Springs Pool, Austin, by Alex George.

14. Lewis River Falls – Washington

With three separate waterfalls, Lewis River Falls is an enchanting place to explore. Find these falls in Gifford Pinchot National Forest where you’ll discover moss-covered rock beds, cool crisp waters, and a 200-foot wide waterfall waiting for you right from the parking lot! For an even more picturesque view, take the nearby trail that runs along the Lewis River to find more waterfalls, turquoise-blue waters to swim in and flat rocks to sunbathe from. Relax, cool off, and revel in the tropical oasis feel that Lewis River Falls offers.

long exposure waterfalls during daytime
Lower Lewis River Falls by Michael McNulty.

15. Firehole River Swimming Area – Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Are you visiting Yellowstone and wish to experience the waters? Well, the Firehole River Swimming Area may be the closest you could get to this experience.

Even though Firehole consists of runoff from the hydrothermal geysers, it doesn’t get that warm. This swimming hole is about the same temperature as any other lake or river. With a rocky beach, strong currents to float on and a serene setting, Firehole River Swimming Area is a delightful spot to spend a hot summer day when visiting Yellowstone.

people swimming in body of water under mountain
Firehole River Swimming Area by Yellowstone National Park.

Know Before You Go

There are many refreshing and refreshingly beautiful swimming holes around the country to be explored, and these are just a few of them. Add these to your bucket list or visit them again and again.

Remember that most natural swimming spots are not monitored by lifeguards, so swim with care and attention towards others. Also keep in mind:

  • Many of these locations are near campgrounds, so if you decide to stay anywhere in the forest remember to pack out whatever you bring with you.
  • It’s always a good idea to check with the local rangers to check the conditions for safety and make sure that swimming is still allowed. 
  • Be cautious when exploring near rocky waterfalls. Always keep an eye on currents, slippery rocks, and other potential hazards. 
  • Take note of the water’s depth, and never jump into a pool from height if there is any uncertainty about depth or underwater hazards.
man jumping in body of water
You’ll find a rope swing at many of the swimming holes – they are fun, but require strength and caution. Photo by Blake Wheeler.
  • Use extra caution with rope swings.
  • Read and heed any warnings posted at trailheads or near waterfalls/swimming holes regarding safety, regulations, or private property.

Dive Right in with KÜHL

Whether you’re looking for a local spot to chill out for the day, or you’re traveling the U.S. for the summer, be sure to check these out these spots for a refreshing reprieve from the heat and scenic natural setting. There’s truly nothing like the feel of fresh, clear water on a steamy summer day. Visit our online shop for top-notch summer styles you can travel, hike and swim in!

Featured image – Havasu Falls by Jan Kronies.

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