Wherever there is water, there are swimming holes, and wherever there is sun and heat and summer afternoons, there are people swimmin’ in them. A truly comprehensive list of American swimming holes would fill the internet and blow more than a few secret stashes — with just five, our list is designed mostly to inspire. Enjoy!
1. Havasu Falls, Havasupai, Arizona
This not-so-secret oasis in the middle of the Arizona desert is far and away the most enjoyable hike on the list. Located a stout 11 miles from civilization, there are only two ways to reach the falls — by helicopter or a long desert slog. Take the slog so you can earn your dive into the pristine turquoise water.
Getting There: Park at the lot at Hualapai Hilltop, about 100 miles from the closest town, Seligman, Arizona.
2. Aztec Falls, San Bernardino, California
If you’ve watched clips from the Red Bull world diving championships, you already know this is one of the best diving spots in Southern California. Jumps vary from 5 feet to 60 feet. It’s a short half-mile hike to the Aztec swimming hole along the Pacific Crest Trail.
Getting There: From San Bernardino, take State Road 18 for 18 miles to Crest Park. Drive 3.1 miles north on State Road 173 through Lake Arrowhead to Hook Creek Road. Travel three miles east on Hook Creek, then bear left a short distance on Squint Ranch Road to a right-hand descent that leads .45 miles to Splinter’s Cabin and access to the Pacific Crest Trail. Hike .4 miles north on the PCT to Aztec.
3. Peekamoose Blue Hole, Catskills, New York
This swimming hole located in the Catskills in New York is the ideal summer escape when the East Coast gets hot and ugly.
Getting There: Once in Sundown, New York, go 10 miles on RT 42 until you see a large parking area on the right with a sign for the Peekamoose Mountain area. Park there and follow the signs to the creek.
4. Makapipi Falls, Maui, Hawaii
This is why you come to Hawaii. Makapipi depends heavily on rainfall, but luckily Hawaii’s tropical climate provides consistent water that’s needed. The swimming hole is easily visible as the Hana Highway crosses over the Makapipi Stream at the point it drops into the lagoon. The hike to the pool is steep and a bit dangerous but well worth it.
Getting There: Take the main Hana Highway east toward Hana. Just past Mile Marker 25 is the bridge that crosses Makapipi Stream.
5. Carlon Falls, Yosemite, California
Year-round cold water from the Sierra’s may scare some away, but this 4.5-mile journey up the South Fork of Tuolumne River is well worth it in the summertime. The 15-foot waterfall that feeds the swimming hole provides the perfect ambiance on a summer day, and the cold water is a refreshing escape from the Yosemite heat during the summer months.
Getting There: From highway 120 look for the turnoff to Mather and Hetchy Hetchy on Evergreen Road. About a mile along Evergreen Road, look for a pullout on the north side of the bridge near the “Carlon Day Use Area” sign. This pullout is where the Carlon Falls Trail begins.