Take a dip in the best swimming holes nature has carved out.

By Talia Avakian
Updated July 08, 2020
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Editor’s Note: Travel might be complicated right now, but use our inspirational trip ideas to plan ahead for your next bucket list adventure.

Summer often means days spent cooling off in the water, and nature offers plenty of locations where you can take a dip in the midst of spectacular scenery.

America’s natural swimming holes range from magnificent waterfalls that form your very own natural waterslide to creeks that provide crystal-clear waters and even geothermal pools that you can dip into when you’re looking for some warmth.

We’ve put together a list of some of the country’s best swimming holes to enjoy, whether you’re looking to relive your days jumping off of rope swings or to simply indulge in a relaxing swim.

Since many of these magnificent locations reside within national parks and state forests, visitors should be sure to follow each park and forest's regulations regarding when they can enter the water and what items are allowed in or near each location to maintain the area’s pristine natural beauty and your safety.

1. Firehole River Swimming Area, Wyoming

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Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, is famous for its geothermal springs, and if you’re looking to get a taste of what swimming in one might be like, you can get close at the swimming area located along the Firehole River.

The swimming area is fed by thermal activity below the surface, and it is a popular location for swimmers in the summer. There are no lifeguards, so visitors will want to keep that in mind for safety.

To reach the location, head to Firehole Canyon Drive, located south of Madison Junction, and follow the route to reach the swimming location. While it might be tempting, avoid cliff jumping in the area, as it is not only dangerous, but also forbidden.

The area is currently closed amid the coronavirus pandemic — check the website for reopening details.

2. Diana’s Baths, New Hampshire

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This series of small pools and cascades on New Hampshire's Lucy Brook in Bartlett is a popular spot for families in the summer thanks to their easy accessibility through a short trail.

When the water levels reach peak flows, which vary throughout the year, the setting puts on a fantastic natural show to enjoy.

3. Blue Hole, New Mexico

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Santa Rosa, New Mexico's Blue Hole gets its name from the sapphire-blue waters that line its terrain, staying at a constant temperature of about 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

The swimming hole is popular among scuba divers and cliff jumpers, and it is open year-round, giving you a chance to explore its underwater corridors even after summer ends. The Blue Hole Conference and Dive Center is currently closed due to COVID-19 precautions.

4. Blanchard Springs, Arkansas

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You’ll find a couple of swimming areas to explore at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in Arkansas, both of which are fed by the waters of North Sylamore Creek.

The first of the two provides a wider and more shallow swimming experience, while the second swimming area sits adjacent to the campgrounds and can reach depths of up to 12 feet with a bluff line that runs through it.

Visitors should note that the swimming areas recently lost their official designation as swimming holes, meaning they are no longer water tested and there are no lifeguards, so swim at your own risk. That being said, the areas still draw in a large number of visitors who come to take a dip.

5. Chena Hot Springs, Alaska

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For a relaxing dip, the Chena Hot Springs resort in Fairbanks, Alaska offers an outdoor natural hot-spring-fed lake that stays around 106 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The outdoor setting, which sometimes offers views of the aurora borealis, can make for an ultra-romantic getaway, though you don’t need to be staying overnight at the hotel in order to visit.

Once you’ve gone for a swim, make sure to visit the resort’s Aurora Ice Museum, which is the world’s largest year-round ice environment, featuring more than 1,000 tons of ice and snow, and ice-made features that range from rooms and observatory towers to an ice bar and staircase.

6. Havasu Falls, Arizona

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These falls, located within the Havasupai Reservation in the southwest corner of Grand Canyon National Park, attract visitors thanks to their bright blue and green waters and the surrounding travertine rock formations.

While the path to reach the falls requires both a permit and a more than eight-mile hike, that hasn't stopped the tons of tourists — and Beyoncé — who travel here to admire the location's beauty, so you'll need to make reservations well in advance. This area is currently closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

7. Homestead Caldera, Utah

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Head to the Homestead Resort and take a dip in the only warm water scuba diving destination in the continental U.S.

The Homestead Caldera, formed 10,000 years ago when melting snow from the nearby Wasatch Mountains seeped into the ground, now offers swimmers, divers, and snorkelers alike warm and mineral-rich waters that stay at a constant 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the swimming hole is located within a 55-foot-tall limestone rock formation, the resort has created a tunnel that carves through the rock at ground level, giving you an easier way to access its waters.

8. Little River Canyon, Alabama

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Flowing against the top of Lookout Mountain, northeastern Alabama’s Little River provides plenty of swimming holes for visitors.

At the Little River Falls, you’ll spot a 45-foot waterfall that leads down to the swimming area, with the river itself often serving as a popular destination for expert-level kayakers.

You’ll need to use caution here, as the water can carry you over the falls in seconds when it is high and swift. You can also take the secondary trail on the boardwalk to reach the Little Falls section, where you may spot swimmers jumping into the water. Little River Canyon is currently closed to visitors.

9. Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri

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At Missouri's Johnson’s Shut-ins State Park, visitors can find a series of natural pools to explore. The pools, referred to as “shut-ins,” are named so due to the areas where the water collides with its surrounding rocks to create closed-off swimming areas you can navigate.

Look around while taking a dip, and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the more than one billion-year-old rocks that remain in the area after volcanic activity created the shallow pools.

The park is also home to a series of hiking and equestrian trails that make for a memorable day of exploration after your swim.

10. Madison Blue Spring, Florida

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Located in Florida's Madison Blue Spring State Park, this 83-foot-wide and 25-foot-deep spring is filled with crystal-clear waters that flow over limestone boulders before eventually merging into the river.

Take a dip in the water, where you can enjoy everything from scuba diving and tubing to paddling, and be sure to set some time aside for a relaxing picnic in its surrounding setting of hardwoods and pines, where you can admire the park’s many birds.

11. Sliding Rock, North Carolina

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This natural waterslide is located in Pisgah National Forest, just north of Brevard in North Carolina. The 60-foot mountain waterslide takes you down into a pool at the bottom, with close to 11,000 gallons of water flowing per minute.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the Sliding Rock Recreation Area is open seven days a week and is patrolled by lifeguards, though it’s heavily crowded between noon and 4 p.m.

While the natural slide is slippery, you’ll still want to wear old shorts and sneakers to keep yourself protected. This area is currently closed amid the coronavirus pandemic.

12. Bridal Veil Falls, Georgia

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Visitors flock to Bridal Veil Falls at Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park in the summertime to experience the natural sliding rock that forms at the location.

The falls host an eight-foot-deep swimming hole with water that cascades over a portion of the rocks to create the natural slide.

You'll need a permit to get to the area, and you'll want to head to the park early as the free permits are limited to 100 per day and typically run out early in the morning. The gorge itself stretches two miles in length and reaches a depth of close to 1,000 feet. This part of the park is currently closed — check the website for further updates.

13. Carlon Falls, California

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To get to California's Carlon Falls, you’ll take a trail along the south fork of the Tuolumne River.

The trail leads you to a waterfall with an accompanying swimming area that is open year-round, except for times of drought. The falls flow into a pool that sits surrounded by soaring ponderosa pines and meadows of purple lupine and sunflowers to make for a tranquil swim.

14. Meadow Run Natural Waterslides, Pennsylvania

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This natural waterslide is one of several you’ll find at Pennsylvania's Ohiopyle State Park, which is composed of 20,500 acres and offers a gateway to visitors headed to the Laurel Highlands.

Those looking for a thrilling ride can sit in the creek bed and ride the water through the two natural waterslides in Meadow Run, though officials recommend using caution when visiting the area as natural hazards exist.

You’ll find the spot by following the signs to the Meadow Run Trail, which will lead you to the water.

15. Blue Hole, Texas

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Texas has no shortage of stunning swimming holes, with Wimberley’s Blue Hole swimming area standing as a prime example.

Old growth cypresses provide shady spots for when you need to cool down, while rope swings ensure plenty of adventure.

This is a popular swimming location, so you'll need to book a reservation through their website, with the swimming season running from May through September. Blue Hole is located within Blue Hole Regional Park, which also includes 4.5 miles of trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, and basketball and volleyball courts.

16. Brandywine River, Delaware

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Located near both New York and Washington, D.C., Delaware's Brandywine River offers an array of activities for those looking to explore its waters.

For the ultimate day of relaxation, you can book a tubing ride along its tree-lined paths, while outfitters also offer canoe and kayak trips, with everything from equipment to transportation taken care of for you.