Take a dip in the watering holes nature has carved out. 

By Talia Avakian
August 07, 2019
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Summer often means days spent cooling off in the water, and nature offers plenty of locations where you can take a dip in the midst of spectacular scenery.

America’s natural swimming spots range from magnificent waterfalls that form your very own natural waterslide to creeks that provide crystal-clear waters and even geothermal pools that you can dip into when you’re looking for some warmth.

We’ve put together a list of some of the country’s top natural watering holes to enjoy, whether you’re looking to relive your days jumping off of rope swings or to simply indulge in a relaxing swim.

Since many of these magnificent locations reside within national parks and state forests, visitors should be sure to follow each park and forest's regulations regarding when they can enter the water and what items are allowed in or near each location to maintain the area’s pristine natural beauty and your safety.

Firehole River Swimming Area

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Yellowstone National Park, the world’s first national park, is famous for its geothermal springs, and if you’re looking to get a taste of what swimming in one might be like, you can get close at the swimming area located along the Firehole River.

The swimming area is fed by thermal activity below the surface and is a popular location for swimmers in the summer, but there are no lifeguards so visitors will want to keep that in mind for safety.

To reach the location, head to Firehole Canyon Drive, located south of Madison Junction, and follow the route to reach the swimming location. While it might be tempting, avoid cliff jumping in the area, as it is not only dangerous, but also forbidden.

Diana’s Baths

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This series of small pools and cascades on New Hampshire's Lucy Brook in Bartlett is a popular spot for families in the summer thanks to their easy accessibility through a short trail.

When the water levels reach peak flows, which vary throughout the year, the setting puts on a fantastic natural show to enjoy.

Blue Hole 

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Santa Rosa, New Mexico's Blue Hole gets its name from the sapphire-blue waters that line its terrain, staying at a constant temperature of about 62 degrees Fahrenheit.

The swimming hole is a popular one among scuba divers and cliff jumpers and is open year-round, giving you a chance to explore its underwater corridors even after summer ends.

Blanchard Springs

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You’ll find a couple of swimming areas to explore at the Blanchard Springs Recreation Area in Arkansas.

The first of the two, both of which are fed by the waters of the North Sylamore Creek, provides a wider and more shallow swimming experience, while the second swimming area sits adjacent to the campgrounds and can reach depths of up to 12 feet with a bluff line that runs through it.

Travelers will want to note that the swimming areas recently lost their official designation as swimming holes, meaning they are no longer water tested and there are no lifeguards, making it swim at your own risk. That being said, the areas still draw in a large number of visitors who come to take a dip. 

Chena Hot Springs

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For a hot dip, the Chena Hot Springs resort in Fairbanks, Alaska offers an outdoor natural hot-spring-fed lake that stays around 106 degrees Fahrenheit year-round. The outdoor setting, which can come complete with views of the aurora borealis, can make for an ultra-romantic getaway, though you don’t need to be staying overnight at the hotel in order to use it.

Once you’ve had a swim, make sure to visit the resort’s Aurora Ice Museum, which is the world’s largest year-round ice environment and features more than 1,000 tons of ice and snow and ice-made features that range from rooms and observatory towers to an ice bar and staircase.

Havasu Falls

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These falls, located within the Havasupai Reservation of Coconino County in the southwest corner of Grand Canyon National Park, attract visitors thanks to the bright blue and green waters they provide and their surrounding of travertine rock formations. 

While the path to reach the falls requires both a permit and more than an eight-mile-hike, that hasn't stopped the tons of tourists — and Beyoncé — who travel here to admire the location's beauty, meaning you'll need to reserve well in advance as visiting the location can get difficult for those who don't plan ahead. 

The Homestead Caldera

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Head to the Midway Utah Resort and you can take a dip in the only warm water scuba diving destination that resides in the continental U.S.

The Homestead Caldera, formed 10,000 years ago when melting snow from the nearby Wasatch Mountains seeped into the ground, now offers swimmers, divers, and snorkelers alike warm and mineral-rich waters that stay at a constant of 90 to 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

While the swimming hole is located within a 55-foot-tall limestone rock formation, the resort has created a tunnel that carves through the rock at ground level, giving you an easier way to access its waters.

Little River Canyon

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Flowing for most of its length against the top of Lookout Mountain, northeastern Alabama’s Little River provides plenty of swimming holes for visitors.

At the Little River Falls, you’ll spot a 45-foot waterfall that leads down the swimming portion, with the river itself often serving as a popular destination for expert-level kayakers.

You’ll need to use caution here, as the water can carry you over the fall in seconds when it is high and swift. A nearby picnic area provides barbeque grills, while you can also take the secondary trail on the boardwalk to reach the Little Falls section, where you may spot swimmers jumping into the water.

Johnson's Shut-Ins State Park

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At Missouri's Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park visitors can find a series of natural pools to explore. The pools, referred to as “shut-ins,” are named so due to the portions where the water collides with its surrounding rocks to create closed-off swimming areas you can navigate to throughout.

Look around while taking a dip and you’ll find yourself surrounded by the more than a billion-year-old rocks that remain in the area after volcanic activity created the shallow pools.

The park is also home to a series of hiking and equestrian trails that make for a memorable day of exploration after your swim.

Madison Blue Spring

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Located in Florida's Madison Blue Spring State Park, this 83-foot-wide and 25-foot-deep spring is filled with crystal-clear waters that flow over limestone boulders before eventually merging into the river.

Take a dip in the water, where you can enjoy everything from scuba diving and tubing to paddling, and be sure to set some time aside for a relaxing picnic along its surrounding setting of hardwoods and pines, where you can admire the park’s many birds.

Sliding Rock

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This natural waterslide is located in the Pisgah National Forest, just north of Brevard in North Carolina. The 60-foot mountain waterslide takes you down into a pool at the bottom, giving you the thrill of heading down with its close to 11,000 gallons of water that flow per minute.

From Memorial Day to Labor Day, the sliding rock area is open seven days a week and is patrolled by lifeguards, though it’s heavily crowded between noon and 4 p.m.

While the natural slide is slippery, you’ll still want to wear old shorts and sneakers to keep yourself protected.

Bridal Veil Falls at Tallulah Gorge State Park 

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Visitors flock to Bridal Veil Falls at Georgia’s Tallulah Gorge State Park in the summertime to experience the natural sliding rock that forms at the location.

The falls host an eight-foot-deep swimming hole with water that cascades over a portion of the rocks to create the natural slide.

You'll need a permit to be able to get to the area and will want to head to the park early as the free permits are limited to 100 per day and typically run out early in the morning. The gorge itself stretches two miles in length and reaches a depth of close to 1,000 feet.

Carlon Falls

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To get to California's Carlon Falls, you’ll take a trail along the south fork of the Tuolumne River. 

The trail leads you to a waterfall with an accompanying swimming area that is open year-round, except for times of drought. The falls flow into a pool that sits surrounded by soaring ponderosa pines and meadows of purple lupine and sunflowers to make for a tranquil swim.

Meadow Run Natural Waterslide

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This natural waterslide is one of several you’ll find at Pennsylvania's Ohiopyle State Park, which is composed of 20,500 acres and offers a gateway to visitors headed to the Laurel Highlands.

Those looking for a thrilling ride can sit in the creek bed and ride the water through the two natural waterslides in Meadow Run, though officials recommend using caution when looking to head to the area as natural hazards can exist.

You’ll find the spot by following the signs to the Meadow Run Trail, which will lead you to the water.

Blue Hole

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Texas has no shortage of stunning swimming holes, with Wimberley’s Blue Hole swimming area standing as a prime example.

Old growth cypresses that provide ample spots of shade for when you need to cool down surround the natural pool, while rope swings you can use ensure plenty of adventure.

The swimming location is a popular one, which is why representatives from the City of Wimberley recommend you book a reservation through their website, with the swimming season running from May through Sept. 30. Blue Hole is located within the Blue Hole Regional Park, which also includes 4.5 miles of trails, picnic areas, an amphitheater, and basketball and volleyball courts. 

Brandywine River

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Located near both New York and Washington, D.C., Delaware's Brandywine River offers an array of activities for those looking to explore its waters.

For the ultimate day in relaxation, you can book a tubing ride along its tree-lined paths, while outfitters also offer canoe and kayak trips, with everything from equipment to transportation taken care of for you.

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