Rec pools are so last summer. This year, we’re all about natural swimming holes that will not only cool you down, they’ll entice you to spots across the country you might otherwise overlook. From thermal baths in caves to waterfalls to brilliant blue grottos, scroll down to see discover aquatic spots the whole family will love.
Little River Falls & Martha Falls - Fort Payne, AL
There are almost 12 miles of swimming holes to explore in Little River Canyon Preserve, and one of the most popular is Martha Falls. It's an easy trek from the road (free parking!), which means you can carry your cooler and chairs to make a day out of it. If you prefer more privacy, keep hiking and set up camp at one of the other, more secluded swimming holes on the trail. Another popular spot in the preserve is Little River Falls. Note: Be sure to check the water before you head out though, as it can be dangerous at high levels.
4322 Little River Trail NE #100
Fort Payne, AL
Battle Ground Lake State Park - Battle Ground, WA
Named for a 19th century battle between U.S. Army soldiers and Klickitat Indians that was expected but never occurred, Battle Ground Lake State Park is a favorite among boaters, anglers, equestrians and, of course, swimmers. At the center of this 280-acre forest park is a spring-fed volcanic lake (sometimes referred to as a miniature Crater Lake) that has a ramp for non-motorized boats, 60 feet of dock space and a thriving trout population. Add in horseshoe pits, badminton and volleyball courts, a baseball field and 10 miles of hiking trails, and you have the makings of a memorable afternoon.
18002 N.E. 249th St.
Battle Ground, WA
Beaver Dam Swimming Club - Cockeysville, MD
This old marble quarry was flooded and turned into a swimming destination in the 1930s. The 40-feet deep waters still offer the type of old-timey fun you see in movies (think rope swing, rolling logs and floating platforms). The thirty-acre park also has two swimming pools, a volley ball park and picnic tables.
Cost: Starting at $15 for adults; $12 for kids
10820 Beaver Dam Drive
Homestead Crater - Midway, UT
A geothermal spring located inside a 55-foot-tall, beehive-shaped rock, you won’t find a more unique spot to dive, float, snorkel or splash about in the mineral waters. You can even take a paddleboard yoga class. With a constant temperature of 90-96 degrees, there’s just enough sunlight to illuminate the bright blue water through a hole at the top of the dome. But don’t worry, you won’t have to rappel into the pool, there’s side cave access. Located on the grounds of the Homestead Resort, anyone can visit during open hours for a $6 fee. Reservations are recommended.
700 North Homestead Dr.
Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park—Lesterville, MO
A reader’s tip led us to discover this gorgeous gem about two hours south of St. Louis, Missouri. From this park you can access the East Fork of the Black River, and you’ll find plenty of swimming spots along with pedestrian trails, picnic sites and interpretive shelters. The main valley of the park has amenities including a retail store and park center. While you’re in the area, take a day trip over to nearby Elephant Rocks State Park to see the elephant-shaped granite rock structures!
148 Taum Sauk Trail
Jacob’s Well - Wimberly, TX
Artesian spring water you can swim in? Yes, please! This refreshing beautiful spot in the Texas Hill Country will beckon you with its average temp of 68 degrees and plenty of shady grottos. The “well” is a deep hole in the middle of the swimming hole that invites adventurous divers, but there are plenty of shallower splash spots for the kids, too. The site is maintained by the county park’s system and charges a modest entry fee (kids 4 and under are free). You can make a reservation in advance to be sure you gain entry.
1699 Mount Sharp Rd.
Rock Pool at Malibu Creek State Park - Agoura, CA
Pack a lunch, swimsuits and sunscreen and head out for a leisurely stroll down an oak-lined lane (3.5-mile round trip) to this sparkling pool, one of the L.A. area’s best. Lined with volcanic rock, you may recognize the setting from the Planet of the Apes. Be warned: the water is cold so make sure it's a hot day. If you don't want to swim, it's a great spot for a picnic, skipping rocks and marveling over the bravery of the cliff jumpers and rock climbers. There's also another lake with a slightly longer hike that veers off to the right. Just ask the Ranger for directions when you pay for parking ($12). And when you realize you can't stand to leave, you can come back the next weekend and camp here.
1925 Las Virgenes Rd.
Queen’s Bath - Princeville, Kauaʻi, HI
For those times you want to feel like a bonafide mermaid, there is nothing quite like swimming in a giant tidepool. While high tide can bring crashing ocean waves, at low tide this pool makes the perfect swim spot and is teeming with natural wonders. Just exercise caution with the tide tables: you are still dealing with the ocean, after all, and wear sturdy shoes for the rocky descent. Not an ideal climb for kids under 6. Nearby you’ll also find the pristine Hideaways Beach.
Panther Falls - Suches, GA
Panther Falls is about seven miles total, so it’s more ideal for more experienced hikers ages 7 and up. Kids will enjoy spotting wildflowers and ferns by streams perfect for fishing. The main swimming hole for families is a large, shallow sand bottom pool where shorter legged swimmers can wade and get their head under the delicate falls. We promise they will sleep like babies after a trek here.
Chattahoochee-Oconee National Forests
Moulton Falls Regional Park - Yacolt, WA
If Moulton Falls Regional Park looks familiar, you probably recognize its gorgeous waterfalls and three-story arch bridge from your Instagram feed. But this heavily forested 387-acre park is an ideal place to swim as well, thanks to its position at the confluence of Big Tree Creek and the East Fork of the Lewis River. Your kids will also delight in a swing bridge over the creek, volcanic rock formations, nine picnic areas and glimpses of the passing trains on the Chelatchie Prairie Railroad.
27781 N.E. Lucia Falls Rd.
The Blue Hole - Santa Rosa, NM
It’s no wonder The Blue Hole is called “Nature’s Jewel.” A natural wonder along Route 66, this bell-shaped pool of aquamarine water is a hot spot for diving enthusiasts. If it’s too deep for your young swimmers, just dip your toes into the water and snap photos to prove how blue the water is. Then head to the nearby Park Lake has a water obstacle course for the kiddos. 1085 Blue Hole Rd. Santa Rosa, NM Online: santarosabluehole.com
Krause Springs - Spicewood, Tx
With water running at a constant 68 degrees, the gorgeous Krause Springs is 30 mins outside Austin. Families come to this privately-owned park to gaze at the butterfly garden before trekking over to the spring area where kids can drift on floaties. While it does get extremely crowded on the weekends, the greenery and clean facilities add to the experience.
404 Krause Spring Rd.
Madison Blue Springs State Park - Lee, FL
Florida locals and visitors love spending their entire day at Madison Blue Springs. The water at this huge (82 ft wide, 25 ft deep) limestone basin is extremely crystal clear and a quintessential spot for swimming, scuba diving, kayaking, canoeing ... and underwater caves! Of course, that is just a magnificently cool perk the littles will have to wait to explore, but for now, they’ll love splashing around the shallow ends and catching glimpses of wildlife. You can actually descend into the water down a set of wooden steps, too.
White Rock Park - St. Paul, IN
Known to be a family favorite for generations, White Rock Park's three quarry watering holes make for an epic family time of swimming, fishing, camping and diving. There are docks for easy entry, and many budding swimmers are known to don lifejackets before wading into the water. Psst—there’s ziplining for the most adventurous member of the fam!
7080 S 750 E
St Paul, IN
Firehole River—Yellowstone National Park, WY
Roadtrippers crossing through Yellowstone National Park must make a stop along Firehole River. It’s approximately 21 miles long, with amazing sights like geyser basins, waterfalls and two swimming areas. Kids will enjoy jumping in a little way downstream or simply wading in the shallow waters of the main pool.
Yellowstone Natl. Park, WY
Falling Water Falls - Ozarks, AR
Forget the strollers and baby carriers. Not having to hike in with kids may be the most attractive part of this spectacular waterfall spot. It’s an excellent place to dip your toes during the family drive along Buffalo National River, which also has many other swimming holes. Just beware: There are many canoers who find the falls thrilling to rush over.
Smyrna Township, AR
Cunningham Falls State Park - Thurmont, MD
Trek into the park for cascading falls over seventy feet high and dipping pools. These swimming holes are the real deal and will make your family members feel like they are a part of Tom Sawyer’s adventures. If those tiny feet haven't quite mastered the balancing act needed to get there, take them to splash around Hunting Creek and participate in local events like a pancake breakfast!
12698 Catoctin Hollow Rd.
Treman State Park - Ithaca, NY
Known for its gorges, Ithaca’s watering hole at Treman State Park is on The Weather Channel's list of “Best Swimming Spots in Every State.” Kids can dive from a supervised diving board or navigate the rock shelf underneath gushing water. This area is also so popular that there’s an ice cream truck around the area. This all-natural location is a definite winner!
105 Enfield Falls Rd.
Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon - Tujunga, CA
There’s nothing like dipping into a pool of cool water after a hike with the kids. A fave spot with our L.A. families, Switzer Falls/Bear Canyon has plenty of mountain-fed water and stream spots to splash in. Families like to settle by the entrance for picnic time as well. Psst! Find other amazing swimming holes near L.A by clicking here.
Angeles National Forest
Tenino Sandstone Quarry Pool - Tenino, WA
This swimming spot is a little different from your average watering hole. The sandstone pool is man-made, but after it was abandoned, nature took over, feeding spring water into the beautiful pool. Now moss and trees grow all around, adding a unique touch to the atmosphere of diving boards, kiddie pools and waterfalls.
149 Hodgden St, S
— Amber Guetebier & Christal Yuen with Meghan Meyers and Maura O’Brien