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
L.A. Nature Graphics/Shutterstock
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
Colin D. Young/Shutterstock
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
courtesy Blue Hole Regional Park volunteer
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
Courtesy Derek Gahimer
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. Check out more of the craziest zip lines around the world.
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.