15 Best Swimming Holes in the US

Written by Jan Meeuwesen
Updated on
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Visiting a swimming hole is the epitome of summer. From carefree splashing and adventurous slip-sliding to wallowing and lazing by the shore, whatever your pleasure the US is splattered with an array of swim holes to suit your heart’s desire.

Never mind if you are looking for that romantic off-the-beaten-track jaw dropping wow factor or whether you just want to let the little people play, nature has provided for all.

Check out the array of water playgrounds below designed by Mother Nature for your pleasure.

1. Havasu Falls, Supai, AZ

Havasu Falls, Supai, AZSource: flickr
Havasu Falls, Supai, AZ

Pretty much the swimming hole that wrote the book, Havasu Falls has to be second to none. The southern rim of the Grand Canyon provides the setting for this stunning area of natural beauty.

The sun scorched rock provides the backdrop for the cascading water that thunders over the falls into a pool 100 feet below.

The burnt-orange rock counter poses the unimaginable blue of the pool and invites you into 72 degrees Fahrenheit water year around.

The setting is worthy of a magical tale. The catch? It’s not that easy to get to. The US Postal Service still make deliveries to the local villages here with mules.

To wallow here without a care and soak up the vista you will first need to make either a steep 10-mile hike, hire a pack animal or charter a helicopter.

That said, if you do arrive at its shores, you can be sure it won’t be overrun and will most certainly be worthy of your effort.

2. Redfish Lake, Stanley, ID

Redfish Lake Source: flickr
Redfish Lake

There’s something quite decadent involved in lazing around Redfish Lake and drinking in the view of the snow-capped Sawtooth Range of mountains in the distance.

Couple this with a bird population that boasts peregrine falcons, tuneful warblers and an array of songbirds and you’ll wonder why you hadn’t explored the backcountry before.

The water, now pristine, apparently used to turn red from the amount of sockeye salmon spawning, hence the name.

The lake is over 4.5 miles long and has many out-and-about activities to occupy those that can’t sit still and accommodation so that you can tarry as long as you please.

3. Sliding Rock, Brevard, NC

Sliding RockSource: flickr
Sliding Rock

As the name might suggest, the key feature to this warm weather playground is a smooth 60-foot boulder.

Centuries of water flow have crafted a natural slide who’s flowing water deposits all riders into the river.

Lifeguards supervise at busy times, and you should expect to queue for the pleasure of being shot into the 50 degrees Fahrenheit water below.

Do remember that rock is not as smooth as a water park slide and wearing shorts over your bathers would certainly be a good idea!  This is a favorite spot and easy to reach; find it just off Highway 276 in the Pisgah National Forest.

4. The Homestead Caldera, Midway, UT

The Homestead CalderaSource: travelandleisure
The Homestead Caldera

While most swimming holes are associated with cooling off in the summer, this one offers something a little different.

Essentially a sinkhole, this mineral-rich pool is partially roofed by a 55ft high open dome.

Not that long ago visitors would have to rappel from the roof to enjoy the year-round 90-degree Fahrenheit water temperatures; thankfully now there is a tunnel.

Enjoy wallowing in this year round hot bath and soaking up the invigorating goodness from the richness of the water.

5. Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, AK

Chena Hot Springs Source: alaska
Chena Hot Springs

These steamy hot springs not only boast relief for rheumatism and arthritis, skin and bronchial conditions but also the chance to see aurora borealis.

The mineral-rich waters have attracted sufferers for over a hundred years including early gold miners wanting to invigorate their achy bodies.

Today, you can also explore The Aurora Ice Museum which is the only one like it in the world.

Kept at 25 degrees Fahrenheit, the museum exhibits ice sculptures from world champion ice carver Steve Brice, and you can even relax and sip a cocktail from a martini glass crafted from ice.

6. Cummins Falls, Cookeville, TN

Cummins Falls, CookevilleSource: flickr
Cummins Falls, Cookeville

Cummins Falls are impressive; a lofty narrow cascade gives way to a series of broad but shallow terrace-like falls arriving at a large pool.

A lookout area at the top, which is less than half a mile from the car park, means you can enjoy the majesty of this fall without much effort.

However, if you want to get your toes wet and truly drink in the magnificence then prepare yourself for an adventure.

The reward is worth it! The trail descends for a mile over mixed terrain which can be slippery.

Make sure you have suitable footwear and take with you only what you need.

Lifejackets are advised particularly for children and be aware that small children are likely to find the path too much.

7. Mooney Falls, Supai, AZ

Mooney Falls, SupaiSource: flickr
Mooney Falls, Supai

At a little over 200ft high, Mooney Falls is the highest fall in this area.

It looks, for all the world, like the setting for one of those aftershave commercials where a muscled bronzed Adonis dives into the waters below.

A visit here is not for the faint-hearted or those with a fear of heights, the scramble down is treacherous; steep, slippery, taxing and involves ladders, chains, ropes and a good deal of chutzpah! Is it worth it? Certainly.

The falls are located just over 2 miles from Supai and just passed the campgrounds.

8. Big Hollow Recreation Area, Des Moines, IA

Big HollowSource: pinterest
Big Hollow

This 178-acre lake has lots to recommend it for water based fun.

Visitors can canoe, and fish or swim in the roped off swimming which is fringed by a sandy beach.

If you don’t fancy getting wet, you can try your hand at shooting or archery or visit the observatory and gaze at the stars.

This popular spot, located just 10 miles north of Burlington, sees plenty of action.

9. Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Reynolds County, MO

Johnson's Shut-InsSource: flickr
Johnson’s Shut-Ins

Johnson’s Shut-Ins are more of a natural water park than actual swim hole, but they certainly are a lot of fun and ideal for kids.

Smooth volcanic rock deposited in the crystal clear waters of the Black River many lifetimes ago have made the river a cascade of pools, eddy’s and slides.

Join the throng playing and enjoy dipping in and slip sliding along, don’t forget your water shoes.

This wet and wild playground is located 2 hours from St.

Louis and gets very busy on warm weekends.

10. Barton Springs Pool, Austin, TX

Barton Springs PoolSource: flickr
Barton Springs Pool

This 3-acre lake close to the Colorado River in Austin, TX has been keeping Texans cool for many years and is apparently where Robert Redford learnt to swim.

What better company could you be in as you lounge on the grassy banks and enjoy this well-managed swim hole? This year round swimming locale averages 68 degrees Fahrenheit and is fed by springs.

While Barton Springs doesn’t have the romance of a rugged hidden oasis, it’s immaculate, safe and very easy to get to.

Depths range to 18ft, and you will find lifeguards there every day from 8 am.

11. Jacobs Well, Wimberley, TX

Jacobs WellSource: flickr
Jacobs Well

Jacobs Well’s swim hole is the end of one of the longest underwater cave systems in Texas.

Without the right training or equipment to dive here, scuba divers, who have lost more than their way out, have given this hole an unfortunate notoriety for being dangerous.

For swimmers, loungers and wallowers, however, this place is magical.

The seemingly bottomless spring fed crystal clear waters invites you to jump into infinity.

The hole is small, though, just 12ft across with the shallows spreading a little further beyond.

Capacity is limited to 60 people during a 2 hour period, and booking is recommended up to 2 weeks in advance.

12. Warren Falls, Warren, VT

Warren FallsSource: flickr
Warren Falls

Warren Falls is part of The Mad River and where you should go if your crew like jumping off high and low boulders into water.

Let them join their fellow daredevils flinging themselves off prehistoric rock into the clear water below.

While the falls themselves are not the most spectacular, the pools and boulders provide the draw for summer fun that everyone can enjoy.

13. Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs, TX

Hamilton Pool, Dripping SpringsSource: flickr
Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs

Hamilton Pool is unique and stunning.

The limestone outcroppings create a canopy which is what’s left of the collapsed grotto that would’ve covered this water.

The fall tumbles over the outcropping dropping 50ft into the waters below where you can cool down and drink in the magnificence of your surroundings.

Limestone slabs surround the water’s edge, and stalactites grow from what’s left of the roof.

This is real picture postcard territory.

This spot is popular, and patronage is limited to car park spaces available so get there early.

14. Dorset Quarry, VT

Dorset QuarrySource: flickr
Dorset Quarry

As the name might suggest, this hole isn’t exactly natural, but that certainly doesn’t make it any less enjoyable.

Opened in 1785, the quarry was the first commercial marble quarry; it supplied marble for many projects including the New York Public Library.

After it had closed, the hole was filled by a spring, and a nearby stream and the quarry transformed to a 60ft deep swim hole.

It’s encircled by places to jump off into the waters below.

Varied heights mean everyone can find a height that they are comfortable with before maybe working up the courage for something a little higher.

15. God’s Bath, Sonora, CA

God’s BathSource: reliableanswers
God’s Bath

Nestled in the Sierra Nevada Foothills this remote wilderness offers the perfect backdrop for finding secret swim holes.

The adventure begins with the 2.5-mile hike to get there and continues with all the cliff jumping you can stand.

You can swim under the waterfall, bask in the sun on the granite boulders or generally cavort around in the water.

There’s even a small hole about 4 foot wide which has been milled by the river.

Slip in here and duck dive out the bottom under a granite bridge-like structure and you’ll pop up for air in the main pool. Great fun!

15 Best Swimming Holes in the US:

  • Havasu Falls, Supai, AZ
  • Redfish Lake, Stanley, ID
  • Sliding Rock, Brevard, NC
  • The Homestead Caldera, Midway, UT
  • Chena Hot Springs, Fairbanks, AK
  • Cummins Falls, Cookeville, TN
  • Mooney Falls, Supai, AZ
  • Big Hollow Recreation Area, Des Moines, IA
  • Johnson's Shut-Ins, Reynolds County, MO
  • Barton Springs Pool, Austin, TX
  • Jacobs Well, Wimberley, TX
  • Warren Falls, Warren, VT
  • Hamilton Pool, Dripping Springs, TX
  • Dorset Quarry, VT
  • God’s Bath, Sonora, CA