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Nearly five years ago, Alia Stearns embarked on a summer-long research project to find the best swimming holes in each of the fifty states. As a swimming hole aficionado myself, who’s also traveled to all 50 states at one point or another, I figured I could vet her picks myself and maybe reach out to other travel writers for support with any questions. But what Alia did blew me away — her info was on point, she had sources, and details, and had cross-checked every selection with travel writers and influencers until she was able to present her list with absolute confidence.
It was a staggering bit of research that still impresses and amazes me. We’ve published a ton of other swimming hole content, but none has topped this compendium. So when Uproxx developers had to delete a whole bunch of old images and the thousands of posts became image orphans a few years ago, it’s no surprise that losing this post gutted me most of all. And yet… it’s still chugged along — getting those coveted SEO visits year after year.
Since interest hasn’t waned, I decided to present Alia’s compendium anew to kick off August 2023. Her words are intact (unless a business has since closed) and there are new images, obviously. Just as we did back when she first wrote it, we’re amazed by the depth of this guide. If you’re dipping in a swimming hole this summer (you should, water heals all ills), I can’t recommend these spots highly enough. I also added an “Editor’s Pick” because I have a whole lot of swimming hole takes and have to throw my two cents in on every related post.
— Steve Bramucci, Editorial Director of Uproxx Life
EDITOR’S PICK: DEEP CREEK HOT SPRINGS (CA)
The WGA/ SAG-AFTRA strikes, the psychedelic boom, and Instagram’s affection for hot springs have put this lesser-known spot on the freaking map this summer. It’s the LA cool kids hang out and if Lisa Rosen doesn’t post about it by October, I’ll be shocked. With that said, this spot is worth the hype. In part, because it’s on the Pacific Crest Trail, so there’s a steady rotation of interesting folks, and in part because it’s beautiful, and in part because it’s accessed via a private campground (Bowen Ranch) that is folksy and scruffy and where the staff looks the other way when people get loud or run around naked or take mushrooms or whatever (seriously, this place is 97% people on mushrooms at all times).
Plus, unlike California’s parks — which seem to fill up decades in advance and are constantly booked by the sorts of insufferable people who wake up at 2:01 am on a Tuesday to book things nine months ahead of time the millisecond slots open up — this campground is literally never full. They pride themselves on not turning people away. So you can be a half-assed planner (like me!) and still get a spot.
As for the swimming hole itself: It’s an oasis. Multiple hot springs. A river swirling with deep, cold water. Plenty of shade. It’s pretty magical to find that combination in Southern California. To find it at a spot where camping is affordable and easy is amazing. To find one this beautiful is a discovery for the ages.
If you live south of Ojai, I’m sure someone you know is planning a trip right now. My advice: Go with them.
— Steve Bramucci
Alabama: The Hippie Hole (Fort Payne)
Without a doubt, this is one of the best-named swimming holes on the list. Even if the official name is Martha’s Falls, we are totally going to follow the lead of the locals and keep calling it The Hippie Hole.
Located in Little River Canyon in northeastern Alabama, this swimming hole requires you to hike about a mile from the Little River Canyon Falls parking lot, but it’s totally worth it to frolic in the falls and enjoy the rock formations that surround the water. With cliffs ranging from 5 to 25 feet, divers of all levels can get wild.
And, when you are all tuckered out from swimming and sunning, stop at nearby convenience store Ralph’s Little River Canyon Grocery, which has a café that serves up topnotch southern cuisine. For sure get a burger, but don’t forget the fried okra.
Alaska: Chena Lakes (Fairbanks)
Obviously, the location of Alaska means that you won’t be skinny dipping year-round, but there are enough hot summer days that finding a place to take a plunge in chilly waters is totes worth it. Now, there could be some debate about whether Chena Lake in Fairbanks is a swimming hole in the strict definition, but we think it counts. And, on a 90-degree day, are you really gonna refuse to go to it because of semantics? And, if swimming isn’t enough to keep you entertained, you can rent canoes, kayaks, and rowboats and rule the lake.
And, during the cooler months, the lake is great for ice fishing and seeing the Northern Lights, so you may not be able to swim when it’s cold, but you can totally enjoy the recreation area.
Arizona: Havasupai Falls (Supai)
Let’s be real, there is no way this iconic spot wasn’t going to be our pick for Arizona. We know it gets a lot of attention and you have to win a lottery to access it, but it is such a sublime oasis that you cannot miss out on visiting it. Total bucket list fodder.
The red rocks contrast with the startlingly blue pool at the bottom of the falls make the difficult hike to get there totally worth it. You are either going to trek ten miles or rent a helicopter like a baller, so you know that the area won’t be overrun with visitors taking advantage of the 72-degree waters. It’ll just be you and other diehard lovers of outdoor beauty.
Fun fact: the US Postal Services still uses mules to make deliveries to nearby villages, so don’t feel bad when the hike in kicks your ass a teensy bit.
Arkansas: Twin Falls (Witts Springs)
We love swimming holes. Fact. We also love symmetry, so the Twin Falls of Devil’s Fork is a choice place to do some swimming, splashing, and photographing as far as we are concerned. Some people say that one of the falls is called the Falling Water Waterfall (uh, okay), but we mostly hear the pair referred to as the Big Devil’s Fork Falls and the Long Devil’s Fork Falls because those are the names of the rivers that meet at this gorgeous blue pool. This is legitimately one of the most beautiful twin falls sets in all of the states, and it is also super exciting when the water is high and kayakers come plunging down the falls.
If you are up for a hike, make your way to a part of the recreation area called the Sand Stone Castle, a hidden area once used by outlaws. It is a maze of rooms and entrances in the bluff line that feel like a real hideaway.
California: Cleo’s Bath (Pinecrest)
A lot of people think of California as a beachy paradise, and honestly, Southern Cali is very that. But, it’s the northern part of the state that we turn to for swimming holes. Cleo’s Bath is one of the best-kept secret aquatic locales in this part of the state.
Located in the Stanislaus National Forest, this swimming hole is adjacent to a lake, a river, a waterfall, and a dope hiking trail. You want a full day in nature, well you are covered. Because of snowmelt, the water can be pretty chilly in spring and early summer, but by the time things are in the triple digits, the temps are perfect. Things can get pretty busy on weekends and holidays, but there is room for everybody, so don’t be scared off.
Be sure to stop by the convenience store near the parking lot and grab some local brews to quaff when you soak in the pool.
Colorado: Devil’s Punch Bowl (Independence Pass)
There are actually a couple of Devil’s Punch Bowls in Colorado, which we think speaks to the pervasive popularity of a good fruit beverage in Hell and not to the laziness with which settlers slapped that name on pool after pool of water. We suggest you start at the one that is roughly nine miles out of Aspen and surrounded by 20-foot cliffs that beg you to embrace adrenaline and leap from them. However, if the Roaring Creek that feeds the bowl is out of control, instead embrace your inner safety officer and wait for a less dangerous day.
If you are dying to hit both punch bowls, the other one is off of Schofield Pass near Crested Butte. But, you will have to traverse some 4-wheeling terrain and the cliffs are higher, increasing the chance that you could sustain a serious injury flinging yourself off of them.
Connecticut: Enders Falls (Granby)
You may be noticing a lot of falls and natural waterslides on these lists, but the reality is that they are cool af, and nature has provided nothing more exciting for summer fun. Enders Falls is a total oasis.
The highest set of falls (there are five in the area) is thirty-feet, so it is a genuine thrill ride, unlike smaller slides. And, you don’t ride the rocks smoothly into the water. You are ejected off and free fall into the swimming hole. When you aren’t being a daredevil, you can swim in the pool or wait on the rocks cheering on your brave brethren.
Because there are multiple falls and pools, you shouldn’t have to fight crowds, and you have plenty of options to keep the watery fun going all day. Plan to do some easy hiking and take in as much of this state park area as you can.
Delaware: Brandywine River (Wilmington)
The Brandywine River may not feel like a technical swimming hole as it is…well, it’s a river. But, we think it makes for some awesome tubing, which involves the current pulling you through some riffles into a series of tiny areas that are swimming hole-esque.
It will take you about two hours to float the full course, so allot enough time. And, don’t worry about getting the most industrial tube possible because the gentle nature of the river affords few if any obstructions that will leave you swimming alongside a flat tube. June, July, and August are prime tubing, so prepare to share the water. If you can’t deal with traffic, go in May or September, when daytime temps in the 70s are plenty warm enough for some fun in the sun and water.
If lazily floating isn’t what you are looking for, consider renting a canoe and getting some cardio in along with your outdoor recreation.
Florida: Wekiwa Springs (Apopka)
We want to tell you to go to Weeki Wachee Springs, where women have been doing mermaid shows in one of the deepest, naturally formed underwater caverns since 1947. But, to swim there, you have to do a lot of training and wear a seashell bra and tail, so we know that it’s not a viable option for everyone (but look it up and go there anyway).
Instead, we recommend a swim in Wekiwa Springs located at the headwaters of the Wekiwa River. It provides the opportunity to see a bit of central Florida that has remained roughly the same for hundreds of years. Because the swimming hole is only 20 minutes north of Orlando and is breathtaking, it gets a lot of traffic. Arrive early.
In addition to all the swimsuit-clad fun you can have, there is also canoeing, kayaking, hiking, cycling, and horseback riding in the state park that houses the spring, so why not make a real vacation of it and stay for a few days?
Georgia: Edge of the World, Amicola River (Dawsonville)
Wanna spend an entire day chilling and enjoying the sun? Take an easy hike along the Amicola River Trail until you reach this choice swimming hole. There is plenty of space to soak, wade, and lollygag on the rocks. People still lollygag, right?
River rocks form natural slides into water that varies in depth, allowing for swimming, as well as seated soaking. And, there are plenty of exposed rocky areas you can sit on when sunning yourself and/or posing sultrily for photos. It is a popular spot because of its innate perfection and crowds will gather, but that means you can make some friends or arrange to arrive before the day’s crowds.
Dawson County also has the tallest cascading waterfall east of the Mississippi River, and a big moonshine history, so why not visit Amicalola Falls while you are in the area and the Dawsonville Moonshine Distillery?
Hawaii: ‘O’heo Gulch (Maui)
Just because you are on an island state surrounded by some of the most beautiful waters in the world doesn’t mean that there aren’t times when you want to go for a chill day at a swimming hole. And, our vote is for the Seven Sacred Pools of Haleakala National Park, a natural playground for Hawaiians and visitors alike. And, when the rains hit hard, the number of pools in the area can be as many as 20, so there is no shortage of swimming and splishing to be done.
You have to hike about four -miles round-trip to enjoy the waters, but you will see waterfalls and be out walking in Hawaii, so there shouldn’t be any complaints. If you are concerned about desecrating anything sacred, don’t be. According to rumor, the pools were so named by an enterprising hotel owner who thought it would attract more visitors to his lodgings. Not sacred at all.
Sometimes, the risk of landslides will close the pools, so be sure to contact the park before setting out. If they are open, arrive well before noon to minimize competition from other people in desperate need of a cliff jump. There may be a lot of water to go around, but crowds get intense.
Idaho: Jump Creek Falls (Marsing)
We admit it; we are suckers for waterfalls. It’s partially the majesty of nature on full display, a little bit the daredevilry of leaping off of them, and a smidge of merperson roleplay. We are complex like that.
Jump Creek Falls gives 60-feet of classic, gorgeous falls that descend into a beautiful placid swimming hole tucked inside a canyon. And, because this falls is a bit difficult to access (expect to navigate a labyrinth of private property), you won’t be fighting for your spot in the water. It is a locals swimming hole surrounded by vibrant rock walls that jut out of the earth and climb hundreds of feet.
This swimming hole is only about a half hour from Boise, so you can finish up the day at 10 Barrel or Cloud 9 breweries. A day of swimming, sun, and beer should have you sleeping like a little baby.
Illinois: Bork Falls (Ozark)
Illinois has a surprising number of places you can go to get wet and cool off, but few have the straight out of Middle Earth look of Bork Falls in the Shawnee National Forest along the Ohio River. A hike along the waterfall trail from Ferne Clyffe State Park and a hike to this exquisite blue-green body of water will have you cooling off in the most ethereal setting. Every summer travelers come to splash in the water, take pictures, and relax in the grotto behind the falls. Hey, you can even do yoga there apparently. And, despite how beautiful it is, this swimming hole doesn’t get a lot of traffic.
The roads leading to the falls aren’t always easy to traverse, so make sure you have a vehicle with a lot of ground clearance.
Indiana: White Rock Park (St. Paul)
Yes, natural swimming holes nestled in a wooded canyon are bae, but sometimes you want to swim, swing from ropes, zipline like a mofo, high dive, and do some scuba action. Given how exciting these activities can be at a swimming hole, we wanted to include a couple that are more akin to a water park that a nymph paradise.
White Rock Park is made up of three quarries; the main lake is dedicated to swimming, as well as scuba and cliff diving, while the other two are reserved for fishing. Though the main body of water is plenty big enough for some to float lazily while others swing high above the placid surface before diving in.
Family-owned for over 35 years, this swimtastic venue aims to provide ample opportunities to make lasting memories for every visitor and if social media is any indication, it is working. If you want to get the most out of the park consider camping in one of the many sites throughout the property. The views of the lakes and the Flat Rock River are awesome.
Iowa: Richmond Springs Pool (Dundee)
Backbone State Park is Iowa’s oldest state park, and this incredible nature area in the Maquoketa River valley is the home of a ridge of bedrock called the Devil’s Backbone. This is the home of the Richmond Springs pool, a naturally occurring springs enclosed by the Civilian Conservation Corps between 1934 and 1935. The goal was to preserve the springs for potable water.
Know it is the perfect place to cool down in the hot summer months. The water is a chilly 48 degrees, but the presence of the springs makes the floor of the pool bubble like it is boiling. Every minute 2,000 gallons of crisp fast-flowing, clear water are pumped into the Backbone stream, making it the ideal place to become one with nature and to shed the stresses of your daily life.
This is also a prime area for trout fishing, so consider bringing a rod and enjoying other aspects of the park. And, a hike will bring you across some great bridges and even to a mysterious cave. It’s all great for photographers, as well.
Kansas: Lake Scott (Scott City)
Uproxx loves a spring-fed lake and the 100-acre one at Lake Scott State Park is the best in the region. Truly, this is a must-visit swimming hole, and the lake is sizable enough for a lovely swimming area and designated areas for boating and other water activities.
Like an oasis, the lake stands out from the rest of the High Plains landscape of western Kansas. Not only do the water and associated vegetation vary from the rest of the flat, dry vista, the valley in which it sits is carved into the steep bluffs of the Ogallala Formation, which is made up of sand and gravel that have organically melded together over time. All those rocks rim the steep canyons that surround the lake.
This is a great locale for exploring, so don’t miss out on history for days with the park’s pioneer homesteads, Chalk Pyramids, El Quartelejo Ruins, and museum.
Kentucky: Dog Slaughter Falls (Corbin)
Look, we didn’t name it. Apparently, early settlers named the Dog Slaughter Creek and Falls after the drowning of unwanted pets or the death of hunting dogs due to predatory wildlife. But, really?
Name aside, this waterfall and swimming hole in the Cumberland Falls Resort Park is beautiful. It is a moderate hike to get there, but because of that, you may have the place to yourself. And, should you be quiet, you may end up watching deer swimming through the hole. The water is deep enough to swim about for whitetails and people, and there are tons of boulders you can sun yourself on. Setting up a hammock is even an option.
Some of the hike in involves walking over stones that can be slick. Be sure to wear good shoes or hiking boots. And, as long as we are being your mom, bring sunscreen and reapply it regularly.
Louisiana: South Toledo Bend State Park (Anacoco)
Toledo Bend in the western part of the state is home to a fantastic reservoir that serves as a prime swimming hole. In one of the most beautiful state parks in Louisiana, the water is used for boating, paddle boarding, and fishing (it’s the number one bass lake in the nation), as well as swimming.
Luckily, there are several small swimming holes that are part of the reservoir, so you aren’t competing for space to get your swim on. This is the largest manmade lake in the southern States, so space isn’t exactly at a premium. There are sandstone boulders, rock ledges, and small rapids to provide variety to the landscape. Plus, the water is clear, swift, and cool.
Plus, about 10 miles south of the lake sits the Hodges Garden, a 700-acre scenic garden on the site of an old rock quarry. It also houses a 225-acre lake that feeds waterfalls, geysers, and fountains. Looking for photo opps? You have found them.
Maine: Frenchman’s Hole (Bethel)
In ordinary circumstances, a suggestion that you leap into a Frenchman’s hole would be a strange but scathing insult, but in the case of this Maine swimming hole, it’s a dope invitation to go cliff diving into a quintessential pool of crystal-clear water. This reasonably secluded spot is where the Sunday River, coming off a nearby mountain, eroded a basin.
There is a 10-foot falls that cascades from some decently high rocks, which serve as a jumping-off point for people chasing an adrenaline high. And, the pool is roughly 10 feet deep, so diving can be done with a decent degree of safety (obviously there is always some danger). And, there is a rope alongside the falls that allows jumpers with upper body strength to climb back up rather than having to scale the path up again.
If you were curious, suits are optional in the lower pool so if skinny dipping is one of your interests, get naked and wet.
Maryland: Kilgore Falls (Pylesville)
The 17-foot high Kilgore Falls and the swimming hole into which it cascades are located in the Falling Branch Area of Rocks State Park. This is Maryland’s second-highest vertical drop waterfall, and it is popular in late spring, summer, and early fall, so you likely won’t be the only one enjoying the water. However, despite heavy traffic, the area is well-maintained.
The pool of water is cool and clear, making it great for photography as well as recreation. Plus, it is a really short, easy walk from the parking lot, so people who aren’t down with a big hike are gonna love this one. If the lot is full, however, you may be turned away by a ranger. This is definitely a trip to plan for early in the day. Get there, claim your spot, and swim the day away. The shade in the area will make sure you don’t get super hot or sunburned. If you plan on spending the day at this swimming hole, be warned that there aren’t any bathrooms.
After spending hours in the water and working up an appetite, drive into Pylesville and snag a pizza or a sub at the family-run Buon Gusto Pizzeria and Grill. We think their white pizza is first-rate.
Massachusetts: Walden Pond (Concord)
When people across the country hear Walden Pond, they rightfully think of Henry David Thoreau strolling around it and being inspired. But, Massachusetts natives are well aware it is the best place to escape scalding summer temperatures in cool clear water. This pond is 102 feet deep and was created by a melted glacier. Around the perimeter are sandy beaches made for sunning yourself.
Between the blue waters and soft beaches, this has cemented itself as a choice swimming spot, so be prepared for crowds unless you hit Walden Pond early in the day. Before you leave the area, be sure to check out the replica of Thoreau’s single-room cabin.
Unfortunately, scientists have recently come forward and voiced concerns about the levels of urine being added to the water by swimmers, so when you visit, be sure to get out of the water and use the restroom when you need to pee.
Michigan: Dead River Falls (Marquette)
The Dead River is a name that either strikes you as a little goth sexy or triggers the part of your brain that insists on streaming serial killer shows during bouts of insomnia. But, neither the river nor the falls are teeming with the dead, so you needn’t worry.
Rather, the Dead River Falls are a series of rapids and falls. In a half-mile stretch of the river, it drops a whopping 90 feet, as demonstrated by three drops over 15 feet and a series of smaller ones. The swimming hole is within this section of the river. It’s about two and a half miles from a parking lot, so this one is a healthy hike. But, it’s totally worth it if you are looking to jump off of some cliffs into unblemished water.
Because there are a number of falls in the area, it’s worth going for a long hike and taking some pictures of the falls and as you hike along the riverfront. The entire area is dead scenic.
Minnesota: Quarry Park (St. Cloud)
Quarry Park is a sizable 683 acres, making it the largest in the Stearns County parks system. Visitors can geocache, fish, hike, picnic, and enjoy two swimming quarries. Quarry number two is 116 feet deep with high rock formations, and this is where the daredevils head. Quarry eleven is considerably shallower at forty feet deep and boasts a sandy beach that begs you to have a seat and feel the sun on your skin. Eleven is a recent development aimed more at families and people looking to take it easy. Both swimming holes are rimmed by red granite cliffs, which provide jumps between 10 and 24 feet for those looking to leap from them. The park does get crowded, but it’s genuinely cool to spend part of your day watching people scream through the sky before slicing into the cool water.
In addition to the swimming areas, there are three designated quarries for scuba diving, so that’s another option for fun in the water. But, you must be certified.
Mississippi: Merit Water Park (Mendenhall)
Merit Water Park isn’t a series of waterslides erected theme park style over a cement foundation. Nope. It is 25 acres located on Rials Creek in Simpson County. It has a waterfall (yes, we are waterfall junkies) and an old-fashioned swimming hole. Both a sand and a rock-based, creek-side beach make sunning options, but most people throw down a towel on the large rocks that punctuate the water. The broad rock formations not only provide a dock of sorts to sit on; they also form chutes, pools, and jacuzzies.
Be warned the water is spring-fed, so it is cold even in the peak heat of summer. It’s also some of the most pristine H2O in the state. It is legit crystal clear, though it looks brown in some images. The camera captures the bottom of the creek through the transparent water and makes it appear that the pools of water are themselves discolored.
Missouri: Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park (Reynolds County)
Before you go thinking this swimming hole is reserved for people who have a high degree of social awkwardness and difficulty making friends offline, know that “shut-in” is a reference to the place where the breadth of a river is limited by hard rock that resists erosion. In these spaces, the river is forced to move over and around igneous rock worn smooth, and this creates a natural water park when the levels are not dangerously high. Throughout the swimming hole at Johnson’s Shut-Ins are a series of pools and slides.
Plus, the underground springs that feed the region are chilly and guarantee that you will be fully refreshed even on the hottest days. And, if you don’t want to immerse yourself or shoot down rocks on your but, you can scramble around the rocks like an adorable goat or go wading to cool off.
Some pools conceal underwater ledges and caves, so you have to be really careful exploring. You may lose your footing and end up in trouble, so go with a friend and wear water shoes for extra grip on slippery surfaces.
Montana: Gigantic Warm Spring (Lewiston)
Are we getting tricky by forwarding what could be considered more of a hot spring as a swimming hole? Yes. But, technically, this is a warm spring, so slow your outrage roll. It counts.
Gigantic Warm Spring has been owned by the Vanek family since 1940, and it’s considered the world’s largest natural warm spring and the third largest natural spring, which we think is so freaking cool. Every minute of every day, 50,000 gallons of water rise up from the earth and feed the spring. And that water is a soothing 68 degrees and 14 feet deep and clear. However, there is a small $4 fee to get in because it is privately owned, but that also helps keep traffic down. It can get crowded during peak times, but there are other times when it is completely dead, and you get a huge swimming hole to yourself. Sit on the deck surrounding the spring and take in the central Montana countryside or soak and swim in one of the world’s natural wonders.
This is also a great area for a hike, so plan one before you hit the spring.
Nebraska: Sandy Channel State Recreation Area (Elm Creek)
Nebraska has a fair number of gorgeous beaches and swimming opportunities, and it would take a real aqua enthusiast to travel to all of them. If you don’t fancy such a tour de swimming hole, make Sandy Channel State Recreation Area your one-stop. The water is famed for its clarity, so much so that scuba divers call the lakes the best place in the state to dive. The park itself is roughly 180 acres of beautiful landscape with six sandpit lakes that total 52 acres of cool blue water. Not all of it is a swimming hole, but there are areas you can definitely get swimmy.
A lot of people come to the area to boat, camp, and catch largemouth bass, yellow perch, and bluegill. Legit. People bow fish and spearfish here. It is a serious fishing area. If these are things you like doing, consider adding them to the itinerary.
Nevada: First Creek (Las Vegas)
You may not know it, but many consider Nevada the hot spring capital of the world. Bet. There are also some totally epic swimming holes, like First Creek. Located outside of the Red Rock Canyon park entrance, this natural body of water varies from totally dry to decently deep in spring (depending on snow and rainfall). And, it boasts a waterfall, which makes everyone feel like an alluring water nymph, or so we have heard. The hike in and out is about two miles total, so you won’t be completely wasted after a day in the water.
While you are out and about, hit up Yard House, which is about five miles from the Conservation Area. Down some poke nachos and enjoy a huge selection of draft beers. Plus, it’s casual, so you can roll up post-swim without feeling like a doofus.
New Hampshire Horseshoe Falls (Wilton)
New Hampshire has a lot of awesome swimming holes, so this was a pretty tough deliberation. Ultimately, Horseshoe Falls edged out the other options because it is so damn fun. During busy times, the area is filled with the laughter and screams of people scrambling up a grand natural ledge and launching themselves into the cool water below.
The Souhegan River feeds into this area and just upstream is pretty fast and rocky, but at the small falls, the water slows. Most people really will spend the day taking exhilarating 15-foot plunge after plunge into the blue water. But, you can also sit in an area under the falls, swim to the bottom of the 12-foot deep swimming hole, or sit in pools that the river causes to bubble like a jacuzzi.
This swimming hole gets packed, but there are some others a short drive away. Consider the Old Wilton Reservoir as a backup. It’s on private property but owners are pretty chill with respectful visitors.
New Jersey: Highlands Natural Pool (Ringwood)
This is a bit tricky, as the Highlands Natural Pool is a manmade Olympic-sized freshwater swimming pool carved out of a hillside in the mid-1930s. So, does it count? Our feeling is that the pool is totally chemical-free, fed by a mountain stream (keeping it under 65 degrees most of the time), mucky at the bottom, and inhabited by wildlife like fish and newts. That all feels like a swimming hole.
Surrounded by the gorgeous Norvin Green State Forest, this body of water opened 80 years ago as part of the United State’s first racially integrated camp, Camp Midvale. Some people claim the waters are healing, but that hasn’t been definitively proven. We think any swimming hole that lets you swim and play and relax is healing to a degree.
When you aren’t swimming, you can enjoy table tennis, volleyball, and softball. Board games are available to borrow, and next door is the New Weis Center, which occasionally offers goat yoga. Seriously, is there a better day than goat yoga and swimming in natural spring water?
New Mexico: The Jemez Falls Area (Santa Fe)
When we recommended the best microadventures in every state, our pick for New Mexico was The Blue Hole in Santa Rosa. It’s still awesome, so consider hitting it up. For this list though, we are suggesting the pool above Jemez Falls, which is much shallower and less trafficked. It’s also the kind of swimming hole that requires a bit of a hike on a dirt trail; we always love getting good and sweaty and a little grimy before plunging into the water. It’s why they won’t let us use the pool at the community center anymore.
To make it a complete day, continue to the McCauley Hot Springs and let the warm water ease all the tension out of your body. You will return to your daily grind completely blissed out.
New York: Fawn’s Leap (Catskills)
Firstly, Fawn’s Leap (the name refers to the legendary cliff at the side of the water) is a delightful Eden tucked in the Catskills and populated by people looking to both stretch lazily across warm waterside rocks and hurl themselves off of the towering 40-foot cliffs that ring the swimming hole. Secondly, we have seen a lot of people leap into the water and not a single screaming, flipping one of them looked like a baby deer. But, lest you exhibit that telltale unsteadiness as you make your way up the cliff to jump, there is a rope on the path to help you up the steep grade surefootedly.
This used to be an isolated oasis known only to locals, but more weekenders and visitors are heading upstate to immerse themselves in swimming hole culture. That means you could be surrounded by loads of people, but it’s equally possible you could be rolling alone if you are there mid-week or early in the day.
If you wanna hit another fall while in the area, consider Kaaterskill Falls, a massive double waterfall in which you can also take a dip.
North Carolina: Hooker Falls (Cedar Mountain)
Hooker Falls is on the Little River in DuPont State Forest, and it is one of four major falls in the area (but this is the only one safe for swimming). A 14-foot falls, it cascades into an amazing swimming hole that is only a quarter mile from the parking area. This pool of chilly, water is great for a swim, but a lot of people also like floating on inflatables. Plus, you can actually walk behind the falls like a pirate looking for a hideout, and jump from a rope swing.
Recent renovations to add changing rooms and restrooms is indicative of the growing popularity of this swimming hole. It also means the parking area is being reduced. Combined, this means you need to get there before the crowds or have a backup plan.
It’s worth noting that the falls was named for Edmund Hooker, the operator of a mill below the falls in the 1800s and not for sex workers. We are still on the lookout for swimming holes named for people in the sex industry.
North Dakota: Cascade Falls (Hot Springs)
Named for the gently cascading falls that descend into the swimming hole, this location is ideal for recreation because the six warm springs that run downstream into the Cascade Creek keep it roughly 67 degrees. It’s a wonderful contrast to the colder surrounding creeks and rivers in the region. This is the only part of the river that is recommended for swimming because of the varying depths and the relatively slow flow of the water.
Eight miles south of the town of Hot Springs, this natural beauty is like something out of a film with its turquoise-colored pools and lush foliage. There are literally ferns and orchids that cannot be found in the rest of South Dakota, so be sure to take some time outside the refreshing waters to explore and snap pics.
Cascade was a city established between the springs and the existing town of Hot Springs. It aimed to be a destination for people seeking out the warm mineral water, but the town’s growth was quashed by an influential businessman from Hot Springs who was not having competition. So, if you need supplies, looks like Hot Springs is the only way to go.
Ohio: Nelson Ledges Quarry Park (Nelson)
Visitors have the Ice Age to thank for the breath-taking quartz and sandstone cliffs that surround this swimming hole. The Nelson Ledges Quarry Park’s position at one of the highest points in the state creates the watershed divide between Lake Erie and the Ohio river, as well. So there are a lot of natural factors that have gone into making this privately owned park exquisite for recreation and photo opportunities.
The clear blue-green water is ideal for cliff jumping, tubing, and swimming. Plus, surrounding areas have some awesome graffiti for those looking to take singular selfies. And, the park hosts a lot of music festivals, which means the woods are often filled with tie-dyed campers smoking pot and doing yoga, which we think makes it a near constant party for folks who spend time here.
In the 1940s and 1950s, this was a working quarry, but the machinery hit one of the springs and the 30-acre space filled with mineral water, leaving peninsulas, a small island, and the rock shelves. Once abandoned by the former company, it became a haven for free-loving hippies and bikers who tried to set up a paradise. Now, Evan Kelley, a previous lifeguard and manager, runs the space, and it is dope af.
Oklahoma: Bathtub Rocks (Tahlequah)
Though the oil may run in Oklahoma, water can be scarcer, as dryness and drought legit affect about half the state. But, we had the hardest time making a single pick for this state because it has so many awesome places to take a dip when the water levels are riding high. Do you go rope swing? Waterslide? Waterfall? We considered them all, and Bathtub Rocks ultimately won our hearts.
Visitors to J.T. Nickel Family Nature and Wildlife Preserve will find a tiny geological water park. This isn’t a jumping off of cliffs scenario. It’s a series of depressions that are made of smooth rock, allowing for wading and sliding in. But, below the rocks are pools big enough to get fully submerged.
Nestled in the Ozarks, this is a real find. So, be sure to round out the day by visiting Tahlequah and grabbing an old-timey treat at the Tahlequah Drug Co Soda Fountain. You deserve it.
Oregon: Triangle Lake Rock Slides and Lake Creek Falls (Blachly)
Natural rock water slides? Check. Multiple swimming hole areas? Check. Cliff jumping? Check. Fish ladders? Check. This area has it all. About a mile west of the tiny town of Triangle Lake in western Oregon, this swimtastic area has everything you need to cool off on a hot summer day. And, it’s a short, easy walk from the parking area, so you don’t have to hike in like a lot of similar areas. Heck, you could walk in barefoot if you are down with that.
The water is deep enough to swim, but a lot of people prefer to grab inner tubes and slide over the slick rocks and jump from nearby cliffs. There is also a short waterfall and a larger 25-30 footer. If exploring underwater holes and tunnels is your speed, that’s an option as well. And, when you need a rest, there are tons of large boulders that you can sun yourself upon like a lizard.
If you are looking for exciting city happenings nearby, there isn’t a lot to offer. But, nearby Walton does have some solid places to grab a burger if you forget to pack a picnic.
Pennsylvania: Meadow Run Natural Waterslides (Ohiopyle)
The Meadow Run Natural Waterslides are the kind of noteworthy swimming locale that appears on Google Maps, so though this is a completely naturally occurring Heaven, it’s one that people know about. Prepare to have company while you frolic in the water.
Sandstone rock that has been chiseled into channels and potholes by years of spinning rocks and currents forms the foundation for this unique swimming hole in the Ohiopyle State Park. And though there are multiple falls in the park (30-foot Cucumber Falls is particularly cool) Meadow Run is the only place you are allowed to swim. Although the water rushes quite swiftly in winter and spring, so even though you are allowed to swim here, there are times when doing so could be really dangerous.
If you are really into outdoor activities, this state park is also a great place to hike, cross-country ski, mountain bike, horseback ride, and snowmobile. Consider visiting year-round and making the most of the recreation available.
Rhode Island: Ashville Pond (Hopkinton)
Located in the Rockville Management Area off of Cononchet Road, this 30-acre freshwater pond is substantial for a swimming hole, but we will allow it. In a past life, this pristine man-made pond was a farm field between two elevated areas. Now, it is state-owned and provides a stunning place to sun and swim without a fee. There is a sandy area close to the road, a dam, a few rocks to be used as diving platforms, and a few jumping cliffs on the pond’s north side. It really has everything you need for a great day in the water. Plus, it is always between 65 and 70 degrees, making it bracing but welcome when the sun is relentlessly shining.
If you want to pack in some sandwiches or grab them after your day at the pond, head to Ma and Pa’s on Main Street in Hope Valley. Or, hit the Wood River Inn five miles east of the pond in Richmond for a beer.
South Carolina: Chau Ram Falls (Westminster)
Located in the Sumter National Forest, this swimming hole’s name is a portmanteau of the Chauga River and Ramsey Creek. The falls are actually a pleasant 40-foot cascade created when the Ramsey Creek empties into the Chauga River. This swimming destination is a bit of a secret (even to locals, many of whom don’t know that the park exists). And, they are really missing out because there are so many aspects of this area that are great for summer fun. You have the falls, sandy beaches, and four major sets of rapids for people who want to kayak or tube. Plus, it’s not far from a beautiful suspension bridge — the longest in the county.
There is a really convenient campground if you want to make this more than a day trip and take advantage of the water activities as well as the four miles of hiking trails along the river.
South Dakota: Devil’s Bathtub (Spearfish Canyon)
You have to hike a little bit to get to Devil’s Bathtub in Spearfish Canyon, but it’s totally worth it. Let’s get real, the fact that you can say you were Satan’s loofah might be enough to make this a worthwhile trip, but the swimming hole itself is the best fun to be had in the area. There aren’t any signs that will lead you to the tub; most people get here because a local told them about it, and that keeps crowds down. Well, until internet media spreads it around.
Large limestone walls with layers exposed and areas covered in moss surround the pool. At one point at the top of them, the creek has worn a channel that serves as nature’s waterslide. You can slide into the pool, jump from the surrounding cliffs, and swim through the cold, clear water. Make sure you go when the water levels are high so you can ride the slides.
There are some great falls in this area as well. So why not hike to see Bridal Veil Falls and/or Spearfish Falls while you are checking out the Black Hills?
Tennessee: Rutledge Falls (Tullahoma)
Hidden away on private property, Crumpton Creek drops 40 feet at Rutledge Falls and continues west to Normandy Lake. Generously deemed open to the public by the owners, this continuously cold water constitutes the perfect swimming hole for fighting the Tennessee heat.
Because the swimming hole isn’t maintained by a parks system, many find it a bit difficult to find. There aren’t any signs. Most people use the Rutledge Falls Baptist Church as a landmark, parking across the street at the trailhead. From there, it’s just a short hike away. However, short doesn’t mean easy. You do have to scramble down some slippery rocks. But, once you get to the bottom of the trail and have Rutledge Falls in view, the sheer majesty of it is undeniable.
Exploring the area is a lot of fun. You will probably find yourself face-to-face with a statue of a female figure that used to be part of a set of three gaslight standards installed at the State Capitol grounds in the 1860s. The former owner of the falls rescued her during a renovation and dubbed her the Lady of the Falls when he installed her on his property near the swimming hole. Be sure to get pictures of her. She is lovely.
Texas: Hamilton Pool Preserve (Dripping Springs)
If you insist on being the only person at your swimming hole, Hamilton Pool Preserve may not be enough of a secret for you to get excited. However, if your only requirement for a swimming hole is that it is cool AF, you will be thrilled because it is otherworldly. Hamilton Creek rains over the limestone outcroppings creating a 50-foot waterfall into the shaded box canyon below. The amount of water flowing varies, but even in drought, neither the jade green water in the pool nor the waterfall dries up. Sun is plentiful in parts of the pool, but we are all about the beautiful grotto.
Sometimes, high bacteria levels mean that swimming at Hamilton Pool Preserve is prohibited, so be sure to make a call before you drive out there filled with a raging desire to splash about.
Utah: Burriston Ponds (Mona)
Often referred to as the Mona Rope Swings, Burriston ponds is a pretty classic swimming hole with a couple of super fun (you guessed it) rope swings. Unlike other swimming holes featured on these lists, this requires no hiking. You just park, climb the wooden boards affixed to the trees holding the ropes, reach your desired height, and jump. These aren’t swanky ponds with waterfalls or natural water slides. Instead, this is the classic Americana swimming hole experience that probably involves a couple beers and some great picnic food. Plus, in the era of Instagram, a rope swing makes for some great images for your followers.
If rope swinging isn’t enough to fill a day in your estimation, drive twenty minutes to Genola and check out the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, and abandoned mill with a ton of graffiti and its own medium-sized swimming hole.
Vermont: Bristol Falls (Bristol)
There is a lot to recommend Bristol Falls, which is one of the most popular falls in the state. Seriously, hundreds of people can be found at this swimming hole when the thermometer reaches the 90s. But, there is plenty of room for everyone. A 20-foot wide falls, Bristol feeds an immense moss green, 75-yard pool that is ideal for swimming and floating. But, it also has a large space behind the falls that can be accessed by people willing to swim the length of the massive swimming hole and clamber into the water veiled cave. Most people spend at least part of their time soaring from 25-feet high rocky diving boards sit on either side of the falls or swinging from the rope swing. When you are fully knackered, lie on one of the many wide, flat rocks and let the sun dry your suit.
If you visit the falls from outside the area, be sure to pop into Bristol and check out their historic downtown. The town has a single traffic light and recycling is picked up by a horse and wagon.
Virginia: Dismal Falls (Pearisburg)
If the summer heat has got you down and you want to spend time at a Virginia swimming hole under a canopy of trees, Dismal Falls is ideal (despite a gloomy ass name). A 40-foot wide falls drops 12-feet into a striking pool of water. And, on either side of the waterfall are ledges for climbing and jumping. On one side, the ledge is stratified, like a pile of books, making them great for climbing and sitting and posing for choice bathing beauty pics.
Although the pool is in a National Forest, it is very secluded, and the tree coverage keeps it fairly well shielded for the nearby road and passersby. This is one reason so many people who come here choose to swim sans suit. Get there on a weekday and you may be completely alone.
And, unlike the more popular 66-foot Cascades waterfall in Giles County, Dismal Falls is totally free to visit. Even the nearby campgrounds don’t have a fee.
Washington: Dougan Creek Falls (Skamania County)
When it gets hot in the Portland, OR area, residents of the metropolitan area fan across Oregon and Washington looking for awesome swimming holes. Many of them end up between Gifford Pinchot National Forest and Mt. Hood National Forest at Dougan Creek Falls. Unlike many of the falls associated with swimming holes, these are rather small at 12 feet. But, their gradual sliding cascade makes them a lot of fun. And, the deep pool at the base of the falls is all that you need for some great swimming and horseplay. Plus, the area gets a ton of sun, so you shouldn’t end up shivering in some random Pacific Northwest shade while you lie on the sandy beach.
This is a great swimming hole and the proximity to PDX means that it can get crowded in the peak of summer. So, plan accordingly.
West Virginia: Shupe’s Chute (Holly River State Park)
Nestled in the Holly River State Park, Shupe’s Chute is the very model of a modern major waterfall/swimming hole combo. The north fork of the Holly River is routed through a cleft in the quartzite bedrock of wooded, cliffs and falls into a deep, turquoise pool of cool water. The sound of the rushing water can be deafening when the current is strong and the water is high. A little bit further downstream are smaller falls and a tiny, quiet swimming hole, but Shupe’s Chute is so picturesque and refreshing that we wouldn’t go anywhere else if we could help it.
The chute is named for longtime park administrator Walter Shupe, who you are encouraged to ask about at the ranger station. If you have a chance to speak to him, he is a wealth of knowledge about the park and the surrounding area.
Wisconsin: Redgranite Quarry (Redgranite)
Natural swimming holes are the tops, but we also have a special spot in our hearts for quarries, the bad boys of swimming. For realsies, the abandoned ones are death traps. Sharp rocks, abandoned equipment, submerged fencing, and wire can all contribute to a bad scene. So, when we find one that is well-maintained and managed, we get stoked.
When red granite was discovered in the quarry in the 1880s, is triggered a mining boom that brought skilled stone cutters from as far away as Europe and paving blocks mined from the quarry were used to pave streets as far away as Chicago. But, when concrete and asphalt became popular for paving in the 1920s, the quarry closed. It has since been filled with water and functions as a giant swimming hole.
Redgranite Quarry Park is a six-acre lake with a maximum depth of 163 feet, which makes it ideal for swimming and diving off of the rocks that surround it. Rocky outcroppings that vary from between five and 30 above the water level make for awesome diving boards.
Wyoming: Boiling River (Yellowstone National Park)
Yes, this is a river. But, it is also part hot springs and part swimming hole and all awesome. Located in the Mammoth area of Yellowstone (and on both sides of the Montana/Wyoming border), the Boiling River is where a big ass hot spring eases into the Gardner River, making the area the perfect temperature for swimming about. And, if you need to be cooler or hotter, you can adjust the water’s temp by moving around the area to be closer to or farther from the hot springs. And, as an added bonus, the presence of the natural hot water means this is a winter swimming hole too. A little cruising through Instagram reveals many a person enjoying a bathe in a swimming suit and a knit beanie. However, the river rises in spring and becomes dangerous, so the Boiling River doesn’t open until mid-summer.
When you are done with the soak, you still have one of the most beautiful parks in the country to explore. Be sure to take a pic at the 45th Parallel, the imaginary line that circles the globe halfway between the equator and the North Pole.