Eight of Our Favorite U.S. Swimming Holes
Who needs swimming pools?
When summer temps spike, you need a place to cool off. You might as well make that place a scenic hideaway in a tumbling river away from the crowds. Whether you jump off a cliff or just dip your toes in, here are eight swimming holes around the United States worth dunking into.
A small waterfall on Ball Mountain Brook ends at an enormous, clear swimming hole called Pikes Falls, in the small town of Jamaica, Vermont. Located about ten minutes from Stratton Mountain ski area, you’ll find ten-foot-long natural water slides, rocks to jump off, and plenty of stone to sunbathe on afterward.
Nevada City, California
The South Fork of the Yuba is one of California’s wildest and most striking rivers. Emerald Pools, a gorgeous section of the river with massive swimmable bowls, can be tough to find—you’ll follow an easy-to-lose trail and scramble over granite boulders tucked off Highway 20 between Truckee and Nevada City—but the scenery alone is worth the journey. Cliff jumping is popular here, but also dangerous.
You’ll hike into a sandstone canyon and past ancient petroglyphs to reach the emerald-green bowls of Mill Creek, which flows from the La Sal Mountains. Walk five minutes from your car and take a dip in the cold water, or hike in a little farther to find deep bowls below cascading waterfalls.
You can find this sunken emerald pool ten miles outside of Aspen, where Colorado’s Roaring Fork River tumbles down Independence Pass. Known as a cliff jumper’s paradise, the Punchbowl features 20-plus-foot leaps into the chilly water.
Bartlett, New Hampshire
Outside North Conway, in New Hampshire’s White Mountains, a meandering stream called Lucy Brook flows down the face of Big Attitash Mountain. Near the bottom, it pours over large granite boulders into a swimming area about half a mile from the trailhead. Dogs are allowed at Diana’s Baths, and there’s a $3 parking fee.
On the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, about 20 minutes from Chattanooga, you’ll find a collection of pools that locals call Blue Hole. Hike along the mellow trail that follows the creek and stop for a dip in whatever pool calls to you. And keep your eyes open for rope swings.
Barton Springs Pool
Barton Springs is an Austin institution that feels more like a massive, everyone-you-know-is-here pond than a hard-to-reach backwoods swimming hole. The three-acre, man-made, spring-fed pool within Austin’s Zilker Park attracts sunbathers and swimmers year-round. It costs $3 to get in if you’re a local, or $8 if you’re from out of town. Admission is free from 9 p.m. to 10 p.m.
Middle Brook, Missouri
About two hours from St. Louis, the East Fork of the Black River gets pinched between big granite rocks, creating natural slides, small rapids, and great gaping pools that are a short walk to reach. If you want a longer hike, there are 45 miles of hiking trails within the surrounding state park.