The sunny southwestern state of Arizona is home to The Grand Canyon; the cactus filled Sonoran Desert and the rugged red scenery of the aptly named Red Rock State Park. There’s a meteor crater that defies belief and scenery fit for any western movie. Clearly, there are many reasons to visit and holidays can be hot work.
Here are some of the Arizona’s best swimming holes for cooling off and relaxing before your next adventure:
1. Grasshopper Point, Sedona, AZ.
Grasshopper Point is your quintessential swimming hole and a great alternative to Slide Rock. It’s shaded and cool and surrounded by rugged scenery which provides jumping platforms for those who dare. The water depth varies so those that like splashing in the shallows can cool off too. This spot is at the base of Oak Creek Canyon and just two miles south of Encinoso Picnic Area.
The trail from the parking lot is quite rocky as is the water’s edge so do be prepared for some scrambling. For those who want to earn their swim, hiking trails lead from the car park too.
2. Havasu Falls, Supai, AZ.
The Grand Canyon is a major attraction to the state, and the bonus is its associated swimming holes and jaw-dropping falls. Havasu Falls is one such place and a Hollywood style perfect oasis. Red scorched rock contrasts with the 100ft high cascade of water that lands to form an impossibly blue pool. This is not an easy spot to get to; in fact, the US Postal Service still uses mules to deliver to the nearby villages.
To visit you will need to make a 10-mile hike or hire a helicopter which, needless to say, means that this spot doesn’t get over crowded. The rewards are great; stunning scenery and 72 degrees Fahrenheit water in a place like no other.
3. Mooney Falls, Supai, AZ.
Mooney Falls are 200ft high; picture a high diving movie stunt where the hero takes a death-defying leap into the pool below. While that is not the way you access the pool, you need to be aware that getting to the bottom requires a certain amount of mountain goat like confidence. It’s slippery, steep and involves ladders chains and ropes. For those that dare, it’s certainly worth it.
The orangey-red rock horseshoe shaped canyon provides the perfect enclave for the water below and shows the falls off to a T.
4. Romero Pools, Tucson, AZ.
Tucked into the Santa Catalina Mountains, Romero Pools is a local favourite and perfect if you like a bit of a hike through the woods too. There’re a few pools to explore, some requiring a bit more of a challenge to get to but their remoteness makes them less likely to attract a crowd. The area is rich and green, and you’ll be treated to some fantastic views of the mountains too.
The best time to come is after rains, so the falls are flowing well. There are plenty of visitor facilities for your convenience, so bring a picnic and stay a while and enjoy the cool fresh waters.
5. Bull Pen, Camp Verde, AZ.
15 miles west of Camp Verde on West Clear Creek, you’ll find the classic swimming hole called Bull Pen. A well-maintained dirt track allows cars to drive close to this oasis, leaving just a little under a mile of flat trail to the creek. A shallow pebbly beach entry is perfect for young families, and the deeper water will keep the big kids happy too.
If you have daredevils with you, they’ll be pleased with the many jumping off points which range in height up to around 25ft. Although part of the creek, the water movement is lazy and it allows for easy swimming and relaxing lounging.
6. Slide Rock, Sedona, AZ.
The name’s a little bit of a giveaway as to what kind of natural water feature you might find here. Slip along the creek bottom within a natural water chute created in the burnt red rock. While sliding is the main attraction, there is space to wade and enjoy the sun too, but it’s not the relaxing-while-away-the-day type hole of summer romance novels. Get to the water, get in and get involved; it’s perfect for older children and those kidults amongst us.
It can get crowded, so get there early or go on a weekday if you can. The area is home to one of the few remaining original homesteads which innovated an irrigation system to plant the first apple tree orchard in the area.
7. Seven Falls, Tucson, AZ.
If you like to earn your swimming hole then the four-mile hike to get here is for you. If you enjoy a more leisurely arrival to dip your toes in the refreshing water, then take the tram. Either way, you will be treated to impressive views on the way.
The Seven Falls is best visited after rain, in spring or fall, for the most active falls. Parking is limited, and there is no alternative or overflow so do get there early.
8. Fossil Creek, Phoenix, AZ.
17 miles down Fossil Creek Road, which lies just a few miles out of Phoenix, is where you will find the short hike leading to Fossil Creek Bridge. This is where the splashing can begin. The creek itself offers lovely cooling off spots; wander up or downstream and you will also find waterfalls to play in.
The area is a lush counterpoint to the dry conditions surrounding it and attracts many visitors. An advanced permit is required to park in one of the nine lots that serve the area. In the summer monsoon season (July-Sept) the area can experience flash floods. The Forest Service will close the area so do check before travelling.
9. Crescent Moon Ranch, AZ
Another alternative to Slide Rock, Crescent Moon is just a short distance from Red Rocks campground. Older children may prefer the excitement of Slide Rock, but Crescent Moon Ranch is perhaps a little more suitable for younger children.
The views of Cathedral Rock are spectacular making this a great place to soak up the views and take some photos. The rocks are slippery, so good water shoes are a must. There are a few pools to choose from; trees provide shade, and there are picnic facilities too.
10. Wet Beaver Creek, Sedona, AZ
Wet Beaver Creek is another riparian area which contrasts with the surrounding desert. The wilderness through which this cool and clear brook runs offers peace with many pools in which to cool off. Trees shade the water offering respite from the sun, and the birds chirp in the trees to complete the away from it all vibe.
The water is crisp, clear and refreshing but just that little bit warmer than other close by waterways. Find this hidden gem near Beaver Creek Campground and the Out of Africa Park.
11. Clear Creek Reservoir, Winslow, AZ
Just a few miles south of Winslow, McHood Park offers free camping and a great reservoir. Clear Creek was damned in the 1930s and today the reservoir provides for a number of water activities. Fishing, canoeing and of course swimming and cooling off are popular. Power boats are allowed, and there are no restrictions for these.
Cliff jumpers will find some good leaping off points in the lower canyon. This area is also popular with rock climbers; climbing without ropes, they simply use the water as their crash mat.
12. Ellison Creek Cascades, Payson, AZ
Close to Water Wheel, Ellison Creek is shudderingly cold and refreshing. There’re some stunning scenes from the hiking trails in the area, but you can get relatively close by car and hike the last mile to the water. There’s some cliff-jumping opportunities as well as a stair-like carved tree trunk alongside the fall from which you can fling yourself too.
Wet the rocks and you will make slides into the water but be careful, slippery rocks are far less fun if you are stood up versus being on your bum.
13. Water Wheel Falls, Payson, AZ
There is a moderate 2-mile trek to the falls along which you can continue to the previously mentioned Ellison Creek Cascades. Apart from the falls expect some lovely pools as well as stunning scenery.
As with most swimming holes, it can get busy at weekends so early in the day or midweek is always preferable if you want to avoid the crowds.
14. Encinoso, Oak Creek, AZ
This swimming hole, relative to others is small. There’s only space for a handful of cars to park which adequately limits the number of adventurers and prevents overcrowding. For parking, you will need a Red Rocks Pass.
There is a bit of boulder scrambling and clinging required to get down to the creek but, once there, the red rock and lush greenery make this a great spot to enjoy the peace of Oak Creek with a picnic. Shade is minimal at midday, but you’ll find the canyon walls provide respite once the sun moves away from its high point.
15. Roper Lake, Tucson, AZ
Roper Lake is 30 acres and offers a well-maintained cooling off spot. For swimmers, there is a sandy beach but no lifeguard. Anglers and canoers also frequent the area; anglers should check out nearby Dankworth Pond too.
There’s even a manmade rock hot tub fed by non-sulphurous hot springs. There are plenty of camping spots and some popular lakeside cabins for those who would like to revel in the peace and greenery of the area a little longer.