Nothing is better in the summertime than a hike to a beautiful, natural swimming hole. Typically, swimming holes form at the base of waterfalls or any other place where the water naturally settles between the rocks and soil.
While a dip at your local swimming pool is nice, swimming outside in a natural body of water is well worth the added effort. Here, we’ve rounded up some of the best swimming holes in the United States and what you need to know about accessing each.
8 of the Best Summer Swimming Holes
San Diego, California: Cedar Creek Falls
Located in the Cleveland National Forest, Cedar Creek Falls features an 80-foot waterfall plunging into a large swimming hole beneath. The pool is deep and wide, making it perfect for cooling off after a hot hike.
Accessing the falls requires a 5- to 6-mile round-trip hike, with trail access in Julian and Ramona. The hike requires a permit and doesn’t offer much shelter from the sun, so be sure to pack plenty of water.
Although the falls aren’t always flowing, there is enough water for swimming year-round. But fall, winter, and spring are ideal times to visit.
Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming: Firehole River Swimming Area
One of two swimming areas in Yellowstone National Park, the Firehole River swimming area is easy to access, making it family-friendly. To reach the swimming area, drive 2 miles down Firehole Canyon Drive and park on the side of the road.
Be sure to stop at the Firehole Falls overlook on your way. From there, it’s a short walk down a set of wooden stairs to access the swimming area.
The swimming hole features calm water where you can cool off. If you’re feeling adventurous, proceed down the river a ways and explore the pools nestled between the rock canyons.
The swimming area is closed during the winter and high waters of spring, so be sure to plan your trip during the fall or summer months.
Asheville, North Carolina: Sliding Rock
Situated in the heart of Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock is a natural waterslide and swimming hole in one. Sliding Rock is the 60-foot sloping face of a waterfall, and as the name suggests, visitors can slide down into the 8-foot-deep hole below.
The recreation area is located near Brevard, approximately 7.6 miles from the junction of US Highways 64 and 276. If sliding isn’t your thing, there are two observation platforms from which you can watch the fun.
Entry is $4, so be sure to bring cash or a credit card. Additionally, there are dozens of other waterfalls and hiking trails in the immediate vicinity, so plan ahead and really make a day of it.
Grand Canyon, Arizona: Havasu Falls
Havasu Falls is one of the most stunning swimming holes in the nation, but getting there requires a little extra legwork.
To visit, you’ll need a permit and a prior reservation to either the campground or resort. Once you have obtained both, it’s a beautiful yet difficult 10-mile hike to reach the falls and swimming hole.
The 100-foot falls cascade into a large pool that is 4-5 feet deep in most spots, making it a rewarding swim after a challenging hike.
There’s also a large beach area with ample room for lying out and a spattering of cottonwood trees for those seeking shade. The official season runs from February to November, but visiting outside the season can be less crowded.
Princeville, Kauai, Hawaii: Queen’s Bath
Located near Princeville on Hawaii’s “Garden Isle,” Queen’s Bath is a natural tidal pool situated between lava rocks. The pool is roughly the size of a swimming pool and can be a fun spot to snorkel and cool off on a calm day.
Reaching the pool requires a quick 10-minute hike past a waterfall and a 5-minute walk along the rocks. Parking is in a residential area and is limited, so getting there early is your best bet. The surf tends to be high from October to May, so it’s ideal for visiting during the summertime.
Wimberley, Texas: Blue Hole
Just 45 minutes outside of Austin, the Blue Hole has everything you could want in a swimming hole and more.
Situated between lush green lawns perfect for sunbathing, the Blue Hole is tucked beneath cypress trees and boasts 75-degree water year-round. The creek is ideal for swimming, relaxing on a floatie, or enjoying a rope swing hanging from one of the overhanging tree branches.
Accessing the swimming area requires a mellow 5-minute walk down a paved path, so it’s well suited for families. Advance reservations are required for swimming, so be sure to hop online before your visit.
Ithaca, New York: Enfield Falls
Tucked in among the trees in Robert H. Treman State Park, Enfield Falls is a picturesque swimming hole perfect for summer swims.
The 0.4-mile paved trail to the falls is short yet scenic, passing 12 waterfalls en route to Enfield Falls. A dam slows the water during the summer months, resulting in a large swimming area — during the off-season, expect a shallower pool.
The falls are family-friendly and include a roped-off swimming area, diving boards, and lifeguards on duty. The falls and swimming area are open year-round, but the best time to visit is from March to October.
Madison, Florida: Madison Blue Spring
Located in Madison Blue Spring State Park, Madison Blue Spring is a crystal clear swimming oasis that is popular among swimmers and cave divers.
Measuring 82 feet wide by 25 feet deep, the freshwater spring is situated along the west bank of the Withlacoochee River. The cool water is a welcome contrast to the Florida heat, and the underwater caves make the site a particularly unique one.
The spring is open to visitors year-round and costs $4-5 per vehicle and $2 for pedestrians, so be sure to bring some cash.