11 Best Swimming Holes in North America

May 19, 2018

With summer (basically) here, our minds are starting to drift toward bathing suit shopping, vacation planning and putting together a top-notch summer reading list. One of our favorite things to do in the summer is explore swimming holes -- both those in our neighborhood and those we might be able to work into our summer trips.

Swimming holes often offer a unique opportunity to blend adventure travel with leisure travel – what better way to explore a forest, beach or even desert than to end with a plunge into a swimming hole? We’ve rounded up 11 of our favorites in North America to help you get these into your summer plans. Happy swimming!

1.       The Grotto, Ontario

The Grotto is inside the Bruce Peninsula National Park in Ontario, nearly four hours northwest of downtown Toronto. This enclave was carved out by the waves of the Georgian Bay, and its stunning turquoise waters are a favorite among hikers and climbers.

2.       Sliding Rock, North Carolina

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Jared

Seriously, what could possibly be more fun than a natural waterslide? The 50-foot rock slide ends in a 7-foot-deep plunge pool, and pretty much looks like the most fun summer activity ever. Find this local favorite just down the road from downtown Asheville.

3.   Havasu Falls, Arizona

The red rocks of Arizona are made even more breathtaking by the crystal-blue waters of Havasu Falls. This spot is one of our favorites in the Grand Canyon, a bit more secluded than some of the more popular tourist spots, and is located within the Havasupai Indian Reservation.

4.       Falling Water Falls, Arkansas

This Ozark National Forest spot is one of the most gorgeous waterfalls in the area, and, just off the road, is easily accessible even if you’re not looking to explore the rest of the area (although we recommend it).

5.       Hamilton Pool, Texas

This gorgeous grotto is about 30 miles west of Austin, and doubles as a preserve offering environmental protection, restoration and education. The natural pool is in a canyon and below a 50-foot waterfall, accessible via a well-marked hike.

6.       Queen’s Bath, Hawaii

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Jeremyparr

This pool is a sinkhole and tide pool surrounded by lava, and is on the North Coast of Kauai Island.  Although the pool is one of the most beautiful on this list, it is also one of the most potentially dangerous – the government has closed the site during the winter months to avoid injuries from rough surf, but the pool should only be entered during calm waters in the other months as well.

7.       Cummins Falls, Tennessee

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Brenton Rogers

These falls are home to one of Tennessee’s largest waterfalls, at 75 feet high. This swimming spot is along the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River in southern Jackson County, just over 80 miles from Nashville. The unique layers of rock make it a favorite swimming spot by visitors and locals alike.

8.       Dorset Quarry, Vermont

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Doug Kerr

This swimming hole is located within the country’s first commercial marble quarry, making for a uniquely scenic experience. Lucky for us, the quarry is no longer being mined and instead offers a stunning spot for summer swims. It’s located in the southwest corner of the state, near Emerald Lake State Park and Bromley Mountain.

9.       Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Missouri

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Keith Yahl

The Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park has it all: camping, hiking and, our favorite, swimming. The term “shut-in” itself refers to the small enclaves surrounded by hard rock, and the abundance of these in the state park lead to it often being referred to as a “natural water park.” The state park is more than 8500 acres, and is located just under a two-hour drive from St. Louis.

10.       Opal Pool, Oregon

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Christopher Somes

In 1998, the Opal Creek Wilderness and the Opal Creek Scenic Recreation Area were established to protect this special area of the Willamette National Forest. The reserve urges visitors to unplug, and there’s no arguing that that’s the best way to experience the blue waters of Opal Pool. The Opal Pool is equidistant – about a two-and-a-half-to-three-hour drive – from Bend, Eugene and Portland.

11.   Sooke Potholes, British Columbia

Photo courtesy of Flickr: Kyle Pearce

The clean, clear waters of the Sooke Potholes Provincial Park make it a favorite swimming hole in the area. The waters have polished deep, smooth rock pools into the Sooke River bedrock, making it the ideal spot to soak up some summer sun. The park is a 15-minute drive from the main drag of Sooke and an hour drive from Victoria.

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