Out of summer vacation ideas? Whether you’re traveling or spending the remainder of the summer close to home, there are plenty of sunny days left to explore a favorite swimming hole. Don’t know where to go? This list of top swimming holes across the US should get you started.
Top swimming holes in the US
Often, the key to a good swimming hole is its relative secrecy. For some of the locations below, you may have to do a little detective work on Google to find exact directions (though I get you started). Other swimming holes are well-known. You’ll earn your swim with hikes into some, while others are adjacent to major roads. All are free unless otherwise noted. Lastly, take some advice from a country girl: always check depth before jumping into a swimming hole.
How to find a swimming hole
Northwest Swimming Holes
South Umpqua Falls, OR: Located about 20 miles from Canyonville OR, these rock falls on the South Umpqua River are perfect for sliding and jumping. Primitive camping in the Umpqua National Forest is nearby. On summer weekends, be prepared for crowds: this is a local favorite.
Moulton Falls, WA: Moulton Falls, in 387-acre Moulton Falls Regional Park just over the OR border in WA, is an easy spot to find. The swimming hole on the Lewis River is popular, so avoid weekends.
Buck Lake, OR: Buck Lake is only 70 miles from downtown Portland, but few locals make the journey, as the last 15 are windy Forest Service roads and the final half mile must be traversed on foot. Those who get this far are rewarded with a stream-fed swimming hole in relative seclusion.
Three Pools, OR: Unlike Buck Lake, Three Pools, on the Little North Fork of the Santiam River, is easily accessed, making it a popular spot with Salem, OR residents. With no hike to the water, expect it to be busy on hot summer days. There’s also a $5 fee.
California Swimming Holes
Johnsville Swimming Hole, CA: This small swimming hole in the high sierra near Plumas-Eureka State Park packs a powerful punch with near-freezing water. The summer temperatures are usually in the 80s and 90s though, and there are plenty of granite slabs to warm yourself on between swims. Located in historic Johnsville, CA in Plumas County, the swimming hole is accessed by a short but steep hike from the local poineer-era cemetery.
Aztec Falls, CA: Located along Deep Creek in the San Bernardino National Forest, swimmers can drive (mostly on dirt) all the way to the PCT, where they’ll hike only .4 miles to Aztec Falls.
Yosemite Creek, CA: Yosemite Creek is found in Yosemite National Park About 20 miles east of Yosemite’s Big Oak Flat entrance on Tioga Road (Route 120). From there, swimmers take State Road 120 (Tioga Road) to the parking area for Yosemite Creek and the Ten Lakes Trail.
Southwest Swimming Holes
Slide Rock, AZ: Slide Rock is an incredibly popular series of swimming holes and rock slides in Slide Rock State Park outside Sedona, AZ. On summer days, swimmers will want to arrive in the morning to get a parking spot, let alone a place to sit and soak up the sun, but the slick network of slides and pools are well worth it. A state park fee (per car) applies.
Fossil Springs, AZ: Fossil Springs is only accessed with a six-mile round-trip hike from the Fossil Springs Trailhead four miles west of State 87 on Fossil Creek Road. The pool is shaded with cottonwoods, but hikers will need plenty of water for the uphill trek back.
Midwest Swimming Holes
Lester Park, MN: Located in Lester Park near the city of Duluth, these pools are a series of three swimming holes on the Amnity Creek and Lester River, all within sight of Lake Superior.
Amnicon Falls, WI: The pool below Amnicon Falls is located on the Black River where it runs through Amnicon Falls State Park. While this spot can get busy during summer weekends, it tends to clear out during mid-week.
Ocqueoc Falls, MI: Ocqueoc Falls is located near Mackinaw City and Black Lake State Park. Along the length of several hiking trails in Ocqueoc Falls State Park, visitors can find small swimming holes and falls for sliding and jumping on the Ocqueoc River. Camping is located nearby.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins, MO: Located in the heart of Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, swimmers will find a great pool where the East Fork of the Black River rushes through a trough of rock. Jumping is prohibited here, and crowds abound due to the paved trail access.
Northeast Swimming Holes
Huston Brook Falls, ME: Located near the Sugarloaf ski resort area, this cold swimming hole is accessed by only a .1 mile walk in. The nearest town is Carrabassett Valley.
Diana’s Baths, NH: Outside of Bartlett, NH in the White Mountain National Forest, Diana’s Baths include plunges, cascades, and slides. The hike in is .6 miles, and there is a parking fee.
Twenty Foot Hole, VT: I’m not sure if the hole really is 20 feet deep, but there are ample small plunges and cascades at this popular-with-the-locals swimming hole on the north branch Black River near Reading, VT. Plan on a .6 mile hike in.
Blue Ledges, NY: Located on the Hudson River, at the top of the Hudson River Gorge in Adirondack Park, Blue Ledges starts with a narrow run with rock walls and is popular with kayakers. It’s accessed by a .6 mile trail in from North Woods Club Road.
Bingham Falls, VT: This hole on the West Branch of the Little River in Smugglers Notch State Park is six miles from Stowe. Swimmers can expect a .4 mile walk in before reaching stunning falls with several tiered pools.
Southeast Swimming Holes
Turtleback Falls, NC: Turtleback Falls are located in Nantahala National Forest, where a stretch of the Horsepasture River becomes a flat sheet of rock, descending 12 feet into a deep catch basin. It’s a less than 1 mile walk in, but the climb is steep coming back out once you’ve taken the plunge.
Fargo Swimming Hole, GA: This swimming hole can be found in the Suwanee River in the town of Fargo west of Okefenokee Swamp. Swimmers can spot the river as it flows swiftly past the town of Fargo near the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge.
Bonus Swimming Hole
For those willing to go the extra mile (or nine), Havasu Falls offers both a hiking challenge of nine miles (and 2,350 vertical feet) each way and a spring-fed, 29,600 gallon pool at the end of a 100-foot-fall. Havasu Falls offers impossibly clear blue water originating from the south rim of the Grand Canyon. The trailhead is 170 miles from Flagstaff, AZ, and hikers will need to call ahead for a permit. Plan to overnight camp.
Where are your top swimming holes? They are what summer dreams are made of… enjoy!