20 Epic Natural Swimming Holes Across the U.S.

Plunge into these beautiful natural spots to unwind and escape the summer heat.

By Kacey Mya, ContributorJuly 27, 2017
By Kacey Mya, ContributorJuly 27, 2017, at 2:29 p.m.
U.S. News & World Report

20 Epic Natural Swimming Holes Across the U.S.

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Hamilton Pool Inside the Grotto, Texas.
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(Getty Images)

Take a dip in these beautiful natural oases.

During sweltering summer days, nothing beats cooling down by jumping into a pool. But here's the thing: Heading to the pool every day after work can get monotonous, and jockeying for your spot in the water with fellow swimmers yearning to escape the scorching heat can swiftly turn from relaxing to stress-inducing. That’s exactly why you should consider cooling off at a lesser-known swimming hole this summer. If you're ready to soak in cool waters and enjoy captivating scenery, head to these alluring spots.

Swimmers at Barton Springs Pool in Austin, Texas.
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(Getty Images)

Barton Springs Pool

Austin, Texas

An ideal swimming hole for R & R-seekers looking for a cool city retreat, Austin's Barton Springs Pool is a crystal-clear, 3-acre pool that's kept at an ideal 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The pool is conveniently located within Zilker Metropolitan Park, making it the perfect place to enjoy swimming along with other outdoor pursuits, such as kayaking and admiring the gorgeous blooms at the Zilker Botanical Garden. Admission to the pool is $4 for adults.

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Take a dip in these beautiful natural oases.

During sweltering summer days, nothing beats cooling down by jumping into a pool. But here's the thing: Heading to the pool every day after work can get monotonous, and jockeying for your spot in the water with fellow swimmers yearning to escape the scorching heat can swiftly turn from relaxing to stress-inducing. That’s exactly why you should consider cooling off at a lesser-known swimming hole this summer. If you're ready to soak in cool waters and enjoy captivating scenery, head to these alluring spots.

Barton Springs Pool

Austin, Texas

An ideal swimming hole for R & R-seekers looking for a cool city retreat, Austin's Barton Springs Pool is a crystal-clear, 3-acre pool that's kept at an ideal 68 to 70 degrees Fahrenheit. The pool is conveniently located within Zilker Metropolitan Park, making it the perfect place to enjoy swimming along with other outdoor pursuits, such as kayaking and admiring the gorgeous blooms at the Zilker Botanical Garden. Admission to the pool is $4 for adults.

Santa Rosa Blue Hole

Santa Rosa, New Mexico

The deep, clear blue waters of this natural swimming hole attracts road-trippers off of Route 66 in New Mexico. Here, you can explore underwater caves, jump in from the surrounding rocks or simply dip your toes in the water. Best of all, you can scuba dive in pristine waters in the middle of New Mexico without breaking the bank. Dive permits start at $8, and the blue hole is open daily to divers from 8 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.

Queen's Bath

Kauai, Hawaii

There’s a reason this swimming hole was once reserved for royals. The pristine waters and remote location in Princeville, along Kauai's North Shore, offers an escape-it-all appeal. Formed by lava, the tidal pool features an ideal place for snorkeling and catching sight of turtles. Best of all, the natural oasis is free of charge. Just be forewarned, rogue waves are present, especially during the winter season, so check the current conditions before heading out and consider going elsewhere if you're traveling with kids in tow.

Paradise Forks

Williams, Arizona

If you like to rock climb, this free, albeit hard-to-reach area, offers excellent canyon vistas and a scenic swimming hole. Practice scaling the basaltic cliffs around the Paradise Forks and take a dip whenever you need to cool off. To reach the water, you'll need to rappel into the swimming hole inside Sycamore Canyon. Bear in mind this secluded spot is best-suited for expert rock climbers. If you're a novice, or you're in search of a respite that's a little less strenuous, consider checking out another natural spot to cool off.

The Homestead Crater

Midway, Utah

As the only warm swimming hole that’s deep enough for diving in the U.S., the Homestead Crater is a must-see if you live nearby. Bring or rent some scuba gear and kick your way down into mineral-filled waters. Or, if you would rather partake in less extreme recreational pursuits, you can tag along on a yoga or paddleboard lesson. During your visit, make sure to take in the crater's limestone surroundings. Adult admission for a soak costs $16.

Boiling River

Yellowstone National Park

Aptly named Boiling River, this natural oasis near Yellowstone National Park's North Entrance features warm thermal waters. An ideal detour before making your way to Mammoth Hot Springs, this underrated area offers a variety of hydrothermal features. There is no lifeguard on staff and the current can move quickly, so be careful while enjoying a soak. For fewer crowds (and more parking), aim to visit Boiling River earlier or later in the day. The free area is open to the public from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. in the summer season.

Warren Falls

Warren, Vermont

Once a secret retreat, Warren Falls has emerged as a top swimming hot spot in Vermont. The picturesque swimming holes on the Mad River feature unique aquamarine waters. Plus, if you're feeling adventurous, you can leap from a variety of cliff jumping locations, but exercise caution and check current currents and weather conditions to ensure your safety. If you're feeling less intrepid, there are also plenty of serene and shallow spots along the free swimming holes to relax and dip your toes in the water.

Madison Blue Spring

Madison Blue Spring State Park, Florida

In this popular respite, you can swim across a limestone basin with rustic wood ladders and feel like you’ve stepped back in time. This peaceful state park swimming hole is less than 100 feet wide, yet it boasts crystal-clear waters, scenic hardwood and pine trees and an idyllic setting for wildlife-watching and picnicking. Plus, after taking a dip, you can enjoy other pursuits such as canoeing, kayaking and fishing.

Sliding Rock

Brevard, North Carolina

Sliding Rock features a 60-foot-long, all-natural waterslide to plunge down during blazing hot summer days. After gliding down the rocky cascade, you'll land in a cool 50- to 60-degree pool that's sure to cool you down. Set in Pisgah National Forest, the area is easily accessible from U.S. Route 276. Even better, during the summer months, lifeguards are on duty. Admission costs $2 per person.

Falling Water Falls

Hamilton County, Tennessee

The 136-acre area is well-known for its impressive waterfall and the Falling Water Gorge. Aside from its swimming spots, the area offers a variety of fascinating flora and fauna and is surrounded by an oak-hickory forest. Just keep in mind the natural area is hard to reach, so you'll want to bring along sturdy hiking boots.

Juniper Springs

Ocala National Forest, Florida

Tucked between Ocala and Ormond Beach, this sprawling swimming and picnic area offers a tranquil summer respite. It also features one of the oldest recreation areas on the East Coast. What's more, this gorgeous spring not only affords postcard-worthy views, but it also offers top-notch amenities for families, including restrooms, a picnic area and a campground.

Fall Creek Falls

Spencer, Tennessee

This waterfall is the largest in Tennessee, reaching a staggering 256 feet. Set in Tennessee's most-visited state park, Fall Creeks also boasts plenty of nearby gorges and waterfalls, including Cane Creek Cascades and Piney Creek Falls. What's more, you can dive into the water off a bridge before immersing yourself in nature.

Slide Rock State Park

Arizona

Locals and visitors alike love to come swim in this state park to cool down. You can glide down a natural chute or enjoy cliff jumping. Best of all, there are plenty of campgrounds nearby, and the natural pool is easy to reach from Phoenix and Flagstaff and is just about 7 miles from Sedona, Arizona. Admission from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day costs $20.

Chena Hot Springs

Fairbanks, Alaska

Set in Chena Hot Springs Resort, these mineral-filled waters stay warm year-round, so even if you take a winter vacation in Alaska, it's easy to heat up with a soothing soak. The natural springs are designed to restore circulation and relieve ailments such as arthritis and muscle pains. The springs are open from 7 a.m. to midnight, and the average temperature stays at around 106 degrees Fahrenheit throughout the year. Admission costs $15 for adults.

Aztec Falls Swimming Hole

San Bernardino National Forest, California

Sandy beaches and craggy cliffs line this deep swimming pool set in California's San Bernardino Mountains. To reach the falls, you'll need to hike along a 6-mile route, but your efforts are rewarded with few crowds and free admission to the spectacular waters. If you're feeling adventurous, you can plunge into the water from a 40-foot platform.

Hali'i Falls

Kauai, Hawaii

These falls on Kauai are not only fantastic for swimming, but they're also perfect for zip lining. You can soar above streams and verdant valleys to take in staggering views of the falls before relaxing in swimming pools and enjoying a picnic. A variety of adventure tour operators offer excursions that cross through Lihue Plantation along with the falls.

Mooney Falls

Supai, Arizona

Beyond Arizona's legendary (and worthwhile) Havasupai Falls, you'll find other magnificent falls, including Mooney Falls, which cascades 200 feet into a dreamy swimming pool. Make a point this summer to swim in its emerald waters surrounded by ocher-tinted rocks. Afterward, explore other natural wonders in Supai Village within the Havasu Canyon, or make your way to other top attractions within the Grand Canyon. Just bear in mind a fee and permit are required to visit the Havasupai Reservation; a $50 per person fee (plus tax) is required to enter or cross any part of the reservation and additional camping fees apply.

Wekiwa Springs

Apopka, Florida

Once you get to this Florida spring, situated at the headwaters of the Wekiva River, you may never want to leave. Because it's shallow, Wekiwa Springs offers perfect conditions for a leisurely dip or relaxing swim. What's more, the state park offers plenty of recreational diversions, from horseback riding to hiking to cycling. If you can't get there this summer, don't worry – it's open year-round and free to the public.

Blanchard Springs Caverns

Stone County, Arkansas

If you're itching to go swimming to beat the heat, why not visit a cavern that takes you out of the sun? For a once-in-a-lifetime experience, swim in crystal clear streams in Blanchard Springs Caverns. Conveniently located off state Highway 14, the caverns offer a variety of natural wonders, including flowstones and stalactites. Plus, you can enjoy activities such as canoeing, hiking or fishing during your visit. There are a variety of scenic trails to explore. Don't miss checking out the splendors on Discovery Trail. Discovery Tours cost $10 for adults and $5 for visitors ages 6 to 15.

Bridal Veil Falls

Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia

If you want to plunge down cascading white waters, set your sights on Bridal Veil Falls in Tallulah Gorge. The swimming pool uniquely features falls along its sides. If you want to join a ranger-led whitewater rafting expedition to the falls, you can register for $15. Other enticing summer activities in the park include a twilight paddle, a sunset hike and a solar eclipse festival on Aug. 21.

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Kacey Mya, Contributor

Kacey Mya is a travel and lifestyle blogger for The Drifter Collective, an eclectic lifestyle ...  Read more

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