21 Swimming Holes So Magical You Won’t Believe They’re in the U.S.
Cerulean plunge pools, rocky grottos, and coursing cascades included.
We already know that the United States has a vast, wealth of natural wonders. And in the thick heat of summer, a secret swimming hole is undoubtedly one of them. These refreshing dips span from crystal clear oases and rocky waterslides to thundering cascades and rolling riverbeds. And the best part? They're all right in your own backyard. So slap on some sunscreen, pack your best picnic, and get out exploring these whimsical, otherworldly pools across America. The water is waiting. And for more gorgeous landscapes, check out the 50 Beautiful, Obscure Places in the U.S. You Should Visit This Summer.
Editors’ Note: All of these attractions were open at the time of publication. For the most up-to-date information, including park/attraction hours and current health and safety measures, we recommend double checking their official websites and/or calling ahead.
Slide Rock State Park, Arizona
Water parks aren’t the best place to be this summer, but a surprising number of natural alternatives exist—including Arizona’s Slide Rock State Park. This popular spot lies just seven miles north of Sedona, and it’s known for its 80-foot-long slide which—thanks to its algae-slick sandstone, tumbling waters, and 7 percent decline—whisks visitors from top to bottom in the blink of an eye.
Silver Glen Springs, Florida
If questionable, overly chlorinated water has you weary of waterparks, turn to this natural playground instead. Every day, the Ocala National Forest spring is fed by 65 million gallons of cool, crystal-clear water. The Floridian oasis is made even more idyllic by the verdant pine, oak, and cedar trees which hug its shore. And if you're looking to get completely off the grid, check out the 17 Stunning Islands That Americans Are Allowed to Visit Now.
Diana’s Baths, New Hampshire
New England humidity is no joke and that’s precisely why you’ll find locals flocking to the cool, crisp waters of Diana’s Baths. Tucked away in White Mountain National Forest, near the popular tourist village of North Conway, the spot entices visitors to take a dip with its 12-foot granite waterfall and various potholes, slides, and plunge pools. The area can get crowded on weekends, but wade upstream and you shouldn’t have trouble finding a secluded space.
Queen’s Bath, Kauai, Hawaii
This popular Princeville attraction wows with a sunken tidal pool ringed by volcanic rock. Queen’s Bath is protected from rough ocean surf by its 10- to 15-foot lava shelf but during the winter, stronger waves can create dangerous swimming conditions. For this reason, it’s always wise to check the daily surf report before slipping on your suit.
Peekamoose Blue Hole, New York
Cool cerulean waters, shady picnic spots, and a good ol’ fashioned rope swing draw swimmers to this Catskills creek. The iconic New York attraction is deep enough for cannonballs, jackknives, and headfirst dives but down stream, you can find a quiet spot to stretch out or wade with little ones. This year, the Blue Hole requires a no-fee permit to visit (240 people are allowed in per day), so just make sure you get in your request ahead of time.
Falling Water Falls, Arkansas
If you’re not interested in completing an arduous hike just to reach your swimming hole of choice, check out this gem in the Ozark National Forest. Falling Water Falls couldn’t be easier to access—pull over on the side of aptly named Falling Water Road, a few miles east of Ben Hur, and you’re there. The mineral-rich emerald waters attract in-the-know Arkansans, but between the natural pool and shaded grotto, you shouldn’t have trouble carving out your own space. The greater Richland Creek Wilderness also offers more than a dozen other falls, so you can explore those as well. And for more whimsical cascades, check out the 15 Waterfalls So Magical You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.
Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri
If you find yourself in the Ozarks this summer, Johnson’s isn’t to be missed. This natural water park is named for its erosion-resistant rocks—AKA shut-ins—which jut smoothly out of the East Fork Black River to create a series of swimmable cascades, potholes, and chutes. Full disclosure: This is one of the busiest state parks in Missouri so if you’re planning to camp, you’ll definitely want to get your reservation taken care of ASAP.
McCloud River Falls, California
Heat waves are no match for this three-in-one NorCal attraction. While each swimming hole can be accessed via its own parking lot, we suggest following the four-mile McCloud River Trail, starting at the base of Mount Shasta. The path crosses Middle McCloud Falls, Upper Falls, and Lower Falls—each the result of the rushing river running head on into erosion-resistant basalt.
Warren Falls, Vermont
Mad River, which runs through Vermont’s Green Mountain National Forest, is home to a number of sought-after swimming holes, Warren Falls being just one of them. The spot can easily be accessed via VT Route 100 and with a convenient parking area, there’s no reason to resist. With 10-, 15-, and 20-foot jumps, as well as calm, green-tinted waters, and striking gorge walls, the area offers choose-your-own adventure fun.
Blue Hole Regional Park, Texas
If you’ve gotten your fill of the Barton Springs Pool and Hamilton Pool Preserve, why not take things just slightly south of Austin—say 40 minutes or so—to Wimberley’s Blue Hole Regional Park? The 126-acre preserve includes four and a half miles of trails, a number of picnic areas and basketball/volleyball courts, and its crown jewel: a lush, cypress-lined swimming hole that’s fed by the cool waters of Cypress Creek. Rather soak up the sun and sand? Then, check out the 17 Best Secret Beach Towns in America.
Little River Canyon, Alabama
This Southern Appalachian reserve is home to multiple top-notch swimming holes including the 45-foot Little River Falls and mini Martha's Falls—the latter which goes by “Hippie Hole” among locals. Both of the scenic spots are known for their sandstone bedrock, which has been carved out by the rushing Little River—an attraction that’s worth a visit in and of itself as it flows almost entirely atop a mountain.
Sliding Rock, North Carolina
Sliding Rock—just an hour south of Asheville in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest—is no well-kept secret, that’s for sure. If you can catch it on an off day, though, it’s worth a slight wait to ride. Each passing minute, the 60-foot natural slide is powered by more than 11,000 gallons of freezing-cold mountain water, and the ride is capped off with an exhilarating plummet into an eight-foot-deep plunge pool.
Three Pools, Oregon
Head into Oregon’s rugged Willamette National Forest, following the North Fork of the Santiam River, and you’ll come across this fir- and hemlock-shaded hotspot. With volcanic basalt rocks housing a series of emerald grottos, Three Pools, in the 20,454-acre Opal Creek Wilderness, is popular among sunbathers and swimmers, but you’ll also find deeper pools and outcroppings that attract daredevil cliff-jumpers. And for more up-to-date information, sign up for our daily newsletter.
Meadow Run Natural Waterslides, Pennsylvania
Hop in your car and head an hour and 20 minutes south of Pittsburgh to find this all-natural slide, which twists and turns through 300-million-year-old sandstone channels before feeding into the Lower Youghiogheny River. Meadow Run’s current changes throughout the year—spring and winter waters are quite unforgiving—but summertime offers just the right speed and force for adventurous visitors.
Rutledge Falls, Tennessee
Escape scorching Tennessee temps with a dip in Rutledge Falls’ refreshing crystal-clear waters. Though the cascades are privately owned, the proprietor graciously allows free-of-charge visits from dawn to dusk. Note that there’s no public parking and the spot can be tricky to find on your first go, but that just makes for an even better adventure.
Edge of the World, Georgia
Follow the moderate Amicalola River Trail for three miles and eventually you’ll reach your reward: the unmarked Edge of the World swimming hole. By the time you roll around, you’ll certainly have worked up a sweat, so the clear pools and rushing rapids will be the perfect refresher. Plus, it's a popular place to tube if you're looking for an extra adrenaline rush.
Lewis River Falls, Washington
With three separate waterfalls—Lower, Middle, and Upper Falls—this scenic spot offers plenty of room to stretch out, swim, and soak in the misty, moss-shrouded bedrock of Gifford Pinchot National Forest. If you only have time for one, we suggest Lower Lewis River Falls as it stuns with a highly photogenic 200-foot-wide cascade.
Homestead Crater, Utah
A dip in Midway’s Homestead Crater requires a reservation—it’s $16 for a 40-minute swim on weekends—but hear us out here. The 10,000-year-old geothermal spring is tucked within a towering beehive-shaped chunk of limestone rock. Better yet, since the top of the dome is open and lets in sunlight, its mineral water never drops below 90 degrees. Since the one-of-a-kind pool reaches a depth of 65 feet, scuba diving and snorkeling are also an option.
Bull Pen, Arizona
The Grand Canyon State is no stranger to extreme heat but luckily, the same goes for swimming holes. Bull Pen, about an hour south of Sedona in Coconino National Forest, pulls out all the stops with a pebbled beach, cool, placid waters, and a 20-foot rock that just begs to be jumped off of. Note that the drive in does include a long rocky service road and little to no GPS service, so keep written directions at the ready.
Jump Creek Falls, Idaho
A short quarter-mile hike is all it takes to reach this rugged 60-foot waterfall, which flows down from Idaho’s Sands Basin. The stunning scene plays out just an hour from Boise, so it’s a great day trip option. What’s even more astounding than the falls itself—trust us, you’ll want a camera handy—is the 600-foot rock walls that tower over the canyon-bound creek.
Devil’s Punchbowl, Colorado
Calling all cliff jumpers! The adrenaline-pumping Devil’s Punchbowl lies just nine miles southeast of Aspen; program your GPS for the Grottos Day Use Area and you’ll have no trouble finding it. While a 20-foot plunge into ice-cold White River National Forest waters isn’t for everyone, there’s also plenty of room to stretch out and observe. And for more jaw-dropping places near you, check out the 100 Destinations So Magical You Won't Believe They're in the U.S.