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Trip Ideas

America’s 10 Best Swimming Holes

Summer after summer dodgy air conditioners and crowded gym pools leave us looking for creative ways beat the oppressive heat. In advance of needing an instant cool-down, we've done the necessary legwork to find the 10 best swimming holes in every neck of the great American woods.

A Brooklyn-based writer and editor, Chelsea's work has appeared in Matador Network, The Huffington Post, the TripAdvisor blog, and more. When not planning her next trip, you'll usually find her drinking way too much iced coffee (always iced—she’s from New England) or bingeing a Netflix original series.

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Slide Rock State Park, Arizona

Just 15 minutes north of Sedona this ½ mile stretch of Oak Creek gathers its name from its most alluring feature: an 80-foot-long natural slip n’ slide. The waterslide—comprised of worn sandstone slick with algae—slopes gently into the creek below at just a 7 percent decline, so it’s suitable for swimmers of all ages.

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Barton Springs Pool, Texas

Down in Austin, the three-acre Barton Springs Pool is a perfect testament to Texas' claim that they do everything "bigger and better." Tucked away in Ziker Park, the mammoth year-round swimming hole (which maintains a steady temp of 70 degrees) has been drawing swimmers and sunbathers for decades—no surprise given daily adult passes run at $3 and $8 (for resident and non-resident, respectively).

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Havasu Falls, Arizona

Located within Havasupai tribal lands deep within the Grand Canyon, the idyllic Havasu Falls garners only a couple thousand visitors each year. Why so? The spot is a tad hard to reach given that it’s not accessible by road, but only by foot on a daunting 8-mile-plus hike. Rest assured should you make it in your hard work will be rewarded with an awe-inspiring sight: a dramatic waterfall that drops more than 100 feet over the side of a red, travertine rock face, collecting in a handful of impossibly turquoise pools below.

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Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park, Missouri

Out in the Ozarks—roughly 2 hours from St. Louis— this waterslide-filled state park follows along the east fork of Missouri’s Black River for more than 8,000 acres. Pink granite, blueish-gray rhyolite, and dolomite bedrock form the feature for which the park is named: shut-ins. The erosion-resistant rocks converge creating cascades and narrow channels that are ideal for cooling off in.

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Firehole River Swimming Area, Yellowstone National Park, Wyoming

Despite its temperature-touting moniker, Firehole—located near Yellowstone’s western entrance, just off of Grand Loop Road—is a bit of a misnomer. Though the swimming area consists of distant runoff from some of Yellowstone’s toastiest geysers and hot springs, by the time they make it here, they’re no warmer than your average lake or river. Tepid waters aside, the area does make for a great swimming spot with a rocky beach, strong currents to float on, and plenty of ideal park views.

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People jumping into a springs in Austin, TX

Hamilton Pool Preserve, Texas

Hoping to spend some QT in Austin's great outdoors? Just 23 miles west of the city, the all-natural Hamilton Pool Preserve ups the ante on regular ol’ swimming with an emerald grotto fed by a stalactite rimmed 50-foot waterfall. The natural pool is part of the Balcones Canyonlands Preserve—a 30,428-acre expanse of protected endangered species habitat—so you'll likely also catch sight of some rare plant and animal species while you're in the neighborhood.

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Blue Hole of Santa Rosa, New Mexico

Halfway between Albuquerque and Amarillo—off of Route 66, the Blue Hole is the gem in Santa Rosa’s “Scuba Diving Capital of the Southwest” crown. When we say the cavernous pool is crystal clear, we mean it; the perpetually 62-degree water maintains 100 percent visibility. At 80-feet deep, the spot is also one of the most popular dive spots in the US, but should you be lacking PADI certification, oxygen tanks, and dive permits, don't worry—regular ol’ public swimming (and cliff jumping!) is also allowed.

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Diana's Baths, New Hampshire

Summertime means one thing for certain in New England: hair-raising humidity. And in an effort to seek refuge from the heat, you’ll find Granite Staters schlepping en masse to Diana’s Baths in Bartlett. The combination of cool-er White Mountain air and chilly waterfalls, brooks, and cascades makes it an especially popular spot for those vacationing in nearby North Conway Village.

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Sliding Rock State Park, North Carolina

More than 11,000 gallons of water pulse along this waterslide every minute making for one epic descent into the chilly 8-foot-deep pool below. Follow the crowds—thousands and thousands come out each summer—to the Pisgah National Forest boulder (just between Brevard and Asheville) for the 60-foot slide and get ready for a real cool-down as waters typically hover between 50 and 60 degrees.

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Opal Creek Wilderness Pools, Willamette National Forest, Oregon

Head out into the old-growth Willamette National Forest—thick with ancient Douglas firs, Pacific silver firs, and western hemlocks—among Opal Creek Wilderness's 20,454 rugged acres, and you’ll be treated to a wealth of refreshing emerald, basalt pools. While you’re following the scenic Santiam River, also be sure to stop by the Three Pools—just 20 or so minutes west—a popular spot known for its exceptionally clear water and some of Oregon’s best cliff-jumping vantage points.

Swimsuit Essentials for a Day at a Swimming Hole

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