The Best Natural Swimming Pools in the United States
There's nothing like a good, old-fashioned swimming hole to beat the heat this summer. Here's where to find the best spots all across the country.
Madison Blue Spring, Florida
This naturally-fed spring lives up to its name: The water is crystal blue and oh-so-inviting. Now a state park, the 25-foot deep swimming hole is located inside a lovely woodland next to the Withlacoochee River in northern Florida. If you’re brave, you can even cave dive into the hole’s underwater caverns.
Santa Rosa Blue Hole, New Mexico
Like an oasis in the desert, this sapphire swimming hole maintains a perfect (if a bit chilly) temperature of 62 degrees. Visibility is so good you can see to the bottom, because the water, which is connected to an underwater cave system, renews itself every six hours. You can even cliff jump in from the rim of the collapsed sinkhole, located off famed highway Route 66 (now Interstate 40). You’ll be wowed by the most stunningly colorful natural wonders on Earth.
Switzer Falls, California
Get out of the city with a trip to the Bear Canyon area of Angeles National Forest near Los Angeles. Follow the stream to the 50-foot Switzer Falls, passing lots of natural pools before and after the waterfall—so you can take your pick! Getting there does require hiking a couple of miles out and back, but the refreshing water on a hot day in Cali is worth it. You’ll also want to add the most gorgeous waterfalls in every state to your bucket list.
Peekamoose Blue Hole, New York
Sometimes natural beauty can be nearly destroyed by its own fame, as is the case of the Peekamoose Blue Hole in the Catskills’ Sundown Wild Forest. As the swimming hole faced overuse, environmental damage, and litter, emergency regulations were put in place several years ago to protect the tranquil spot that had delighted generations of swimmers. In the future, a permit may be required to visit the pool to limit the number of visitors—for now, if you go, follow Leave No Trace principles to keep the area as clean and pristine as you found it.
Wimberley Blue Hole, Texas
Yet another “blue hole” is one of Texas’ best swimming spots, located in Hill Country between San Antonio and Austin. The town of Wimberley recently rescued the serene locale and created a community park to protect the area from development. Float under a canopy of trees in the clear water, or try your hand at the rope swing to splash into the pool. Grassy lawns, picnic areas, and a playground make it a lovely spot to spend a day with the family.
White Rock Park, Indiana
This awesome Midwest swimming hole is not for the faint of heart! Climb up and jump off four cliff-diving platforms—the highest is 30 feet! White Rock Park also boasts two zip lines that go right over the water for more thrills, plus a rope swing. But if you just want to relax, you can unwind on the multiple floating docks around the pool. Camping and fishing are also available in the park.
Firehole Swimming Area, Wyoming
There are only two swimming spots in all of Yellowstone National Park, and this is one of them (the other is the Boiling River). But contrary to its name, this calm, wide area of the Firehole River is just slightly warm, perfect for cooling off after a hot summer hike. Park on the side of the road and walk down the wooden steps to the swimming area. There is some faster-moving water upstream you can jump into from the banks to let the current carry you down, but use caution, and children should wear life vests just in case—but cliff diving is not permitted. Love touring our National Parks? Here are more practically secret national parks you’ll want to visit.
Robert H. Treman State Park, New York
It’s hard to imagine a more picture-perfect spot to cool off: A gorgeous, cascading waterfall and wide stone steps leading down to the water, all inside a beautiful gorge in the Finger Lakes. The park also boasts 11 other waterfalls along Enfield Creek and miles of hiking trails, so you can work up a sweat before jumping into this swimming hole.
Barton Springs Pool, Texas
Texas seems to have more than its fair share of swimming holes, and the second on our list from the state is the Barton Springs Pool in Austin. Fed from underground springs, the pool is a whopping three acres in size and feels refreshing all year long. Lifeguards make it an especially safe place to swim, and the pool is closed once a week for cleaning to protect the natural environment. The spot is also home to the endangered Barton Springs Salamander, so keep your eye out!
Queen’s Bath, Hawaii
The paradise on Earth that is Hawaii has no shortage of beautiful places to swim, but one unusual yet stunning spot is Queen’s Bath on Kauai. This natural tidal pool, rumored to once have been a royal place to bathe, overlooks the rugged coastline. Go on a calm summer day, though, and check the surf report before you visit, as the pounding sea can make the hole too rough to swim in. Also, don’t stand on the ledge near the ocean, as people have been known to get pulled over by waves. Discover the facts behind more of the world’s most dangerous tourist destinations.
Slide Rock State Park, Arizona
Carved into the red sandstone rock south of Flagstaff in Sedona is a natural, 80-foot long, gently sloping water chute that gives Slide Rock park its name. The water runs through the canyon into a calm, open spot along Oak Creek. Perfect for a day of relaxing, the swimming hole features flat rock beaches and an idyllic location inside a historic homestead and apple orchard.
Devil’s Bathtub, Virginia
Get in for a cool soak in this bathtub-shaped pool in Virginia’s Jefferson National Forest in the Appalachian Mountains. Hike several miles along the Devil’s Fork trail with several stream crossings to a larger swimming hole, then continue on to the bathtub, a plunge pool at the base of a small waterfall. The crystalline water beckons, especially after the grueling hike to get there. These are more of the best hikes across America.
Tallulah Gorge, Georgia
Tallulah Gorge winds for two miles through one of most impressive canyons in the eastern United States. Follow the rim trail to see the river and waterfalls from above or get there early to score one of the 100 free permits to hike 1,000 feet down to the gorge floor. Once at the bottom, follow Sliding Rock Trail to a refreshing swimming hole to beat the Southern heat, plus a “sliding” waterfall. Just save some energy to climb the hundreds of stairs back out of the canyon.
Krause Springs, Texas
Our third entry from the Lone Star State is the serene Krause Springs, a privately owned spot in central Texas. There’s a natural pool for cooling off, as well as a man-made one that’s also fed from cool spring water. Stand under the waterfall and explore the grotto. The 115-acre grounds also hold some trails for exploring, a butterfly garden, fountains, and picnic and camping spots.
Opal Creek, Oregon
Hike among massive ancient trees in Willamette National Forest along a sparkling, emerald-green river that features several waterfalls and swimming holes along the way. Located south of Portland, this lush spot is pure Pacific Northwest beauty. You can also check out nearby Three Pools—they get crowded, but recent rules aimed at reducing overuse and limiting visitors will help maintain the pristine environment and aquamarine waters. Next, check out more of the most beautiful natural pools in the world.