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Epic Local Swimming Holes in the USA and Canada For Your Summer Travel Bucket List

Epic Local Swimming Holes in the USA and Canada For Your Summer Travel Bucket List

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Is there anything that screams summer adventure more than packing a cooler, heading out on a road trip and stopping for a refreshing dip at a local swimming hole under the hot sun?

If it’s some place hidden and off the beaten path, I don’t think there’s a better way to spend a scorcher of a day than doing just this! 

Road trips, camping adventures and hiking are some of the most popular ways both Americans and Canadians spend our summers and what better way to reward your travels with a splash surrounded by some epic scenery.

Summer vacations don’t have to be expensive; there are so many options for staycations these days, that you don’t have to go far to create some amazing summer memories. 

Luckily for us, North America has a range of incredible landscapes, and as a result, there are tons of hidden local swimming holes perfect for splashing around in.

So if you’re headed out on an outdoor adventure this summer, be sure to add some of these secret swimming holes to your itineraries!

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Best Local Swimming Holes in USA


South Yuba River State Park

This riverside local swimming hole is full of large smooth rocks that have created calm pools and half caves among the riverbed perfect for swimming. And when it’s too frigid to stay in the water, you’ve got your choice of smooth flat rocks to sunbathe on!

Or find a spot for some natural hydrotherapy by leaning up on some of the mini-waterfalls. The entire area is popular among local hikers as well, so it’s a great spot for some time outside even if you don’t want to dip your toes in the icy river water.

McWay Cove

If you’re cruising along the Pacific Coast Highway, this is a great spot to get those iconic Big Sur views and splash around in this quiet ocean cove. Plenty of trails, a sandy beach and a waterfall will produce perfect Californian summer vibes here. 


Devil’s Punchbowl

Not too far from Aspen and close to the highway you’ll find a neat local swimming hole in which the water has carved its way through massive rock.

As it’s become a popular spot for cliff jumpers, it gets pretty busy in the summer, but there’s plenty of room to spectate if watching from the sidelines is your style.

Paradise Cove Swimming Hole

A moderately difficult but short hike through the Guffey Gorge will lead you to this local swimming hole. There are some steep sections and a rocky trail that’s uneven at times, but at the end you’re rewarded with a well deserved spot to take a break and beat the heat.

As the water tends to be shallower than it looks here, cliff jumping is not recommended here.


Queen’s Bath

There’s a secret volcanic crater that has created a natural swimming hole that many tourists have discovered in recent years.

This gorgeous secluded spot is separated from the ocean by the ancient red lava rocks and is a bit of a trek to get to, but well worth it.

If you’re up for an adventure, proceed with caution and be aware of the massive waves that can arise out of nowhere and sweep you off the rocks without warning.


Wayfarers/Flathead Lake State Park

Just south of Bigfork, you will find a recreation area that’s truly a hidden gem in the summertime. Between camping, hiking, fishing and swimming, this is a perfect local swimming hole to keep the whole family busy for a weekend of fun in the outdoors. I

f cliff jumping isn’t on your summer bucket list, you can also rent stand up paddle boards on site, too. 

North Carolina

Sliding Rock

Ok this place is cool. It’s a natural waterslide! You have 2 slides to choose from, a smaller and slower rock or a steeper faster rock to slide down on.

This place is a popular summer attraction and you will encounter lineups for these natural waterslides, but there are lifeguards on duty who help move things along and keep everyone safe.

And not only is this a great spot to play in the summer, you will love the scenic drive and the twists and turns on Highway 276 to get there!

Looking Glass Falls

Beat the heat in a plunge pool at the basin of a waterfall…could you think of a better way to cool off in the summer than this?!

Not too far from Asheville and right off the highway makes this spot super accessible for the whole family, as you get to follow a paved and wooden boardwalk the entire way to the falls.

If you want to secure a spot for the day, try to arrive before 10am.


White Star Quarry

Often compared to warm and clear water in the Caribean, this local swimming hole is a hidden gem southwest of Lake Eerie.

It’s actually a hot spot for scuba diving! The nearby limestone hills are also an amazing natural feature of this area. 


Hamilton Pool Preserve 

 Located just 30 minutes away in Dripping Springs, the Hamilton pool is really unique as it is a collapsed grotto created thousands of years ago, complete with shell fossil impressions along the wall. It features a 50-foot waterfall and clear water with an otherworldly green hue.

The lush Hamilton Pool area is actually a designated nature preserve and endangered species habitat, and because of this, a reservation (plus fees) is required to enter it. There are two reservation periods: morning (9 am to 1 pm) and afternoon (2 to 6 pm).

Swimming is allowed all year long with the exception of those days when the bacteria count is too high. It’s imperative that you check the Travis County Parks website before heading that way.

Once in the preserve, you have to park your vehicle and then hike a relatively easy quarter mile to the pool. Another fantastic local swimming hole in the summer, especially on a hot Texas day.

Courtesy of Kit from Persnickety Living. Read her full post about the Hamilton Pool Reserve here and follow her adventures on Instagram!


Burraston Ponds

Rope swing alert! If you’re searching for a truly rustic local swimming hole, you’ll find it at the Burraston Ponds near Mona, Utah. While you won’t find crystal clear water here (because it’s a pond), it’s still clean and you’ll be sharing it with a few small fish.

Either way, it’s a great little spot where the locals come to cool down, go for a kayak or dip their toes and relax any worries away. And if you visit during the week, you’ll probably get it all to yourself!

Best Local Swimming Holes in Canada

British Columbia

Bottomless Lake

This hidden gem is a perfect getaway only 15 minutes from the town of Invermere. After driving down a logging road, you’ll find a small trail entrance near a parking area on the side of the road.

After you walk 5 minutes through the forest, you’re confronted with a perfectly round swimming hole surrounded by cliffs on 3 sides. The cloudy blue water is chilly, but emanates Iceland’s Blue Lagoon vibes just the same.

There’s a rope swing and lots of jumping points for the adrenaline junkies. I’ve written a detailed guide about more hidden gems in the East Kootenays if you’re in the area!

man standing on a cliff looking at the turquoise water below

Alces Lake at Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park

If you’re searching for a local swimming hole with crystal clear waters that remind you of somewhere in the Philippines, look no further than this small lake.

Surrounded by a small campground that’s never busy, you could easily spend a week here kayaking, soaking up some rays on your flamingo floatie or jumping off the massive dock.

Lussier Hot Springs

As you make your way to Alces Lake, you might as well stop for a dip in the Lussier Hot Springs which are also located in Whiteswan Lake Provincial Park.

Here you’ll find 3 natural rock pools in which perfectly hot mineral water pours in from underground. Soaking in these natural hot springs make you feel like you’ve discovered the fountain of youth!

a girl looking into the distance from a natural hot spring

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Horseshoe Lake

Horseshoe Lake is located in Jasper National Park. The trailhead is about 20 miles south of the town of Jasper, on the Icefields Parkway road. The easy trail is about 1.5km, and it only takes 25 minutes to hike the Horseshoe Lake circuit. Shaped like a ‘U’, the reason for the name “Horseshoe” is pretty obvious.

When you walk to the open area, you have the option to walk left or right. The right side contains the taller cliffs where many people go cliff jumping during the summer. Parks Canada is trying to discourage this as there have been many accidents because of cliff jumping. Even if you are a thrill seeker I recommend checking out this hike as Horseshoe Lake has a reputation as the best local swimming hole in the area. Many People flock to Horseshoe Lake to get a swim in on a hot summer day. 

The lake is well known for its glass-like, clear blue-green waters. The water is so spectacularly clear that you can see every rock hidden at the bottom. This underrated lake is a great spot for enjoying a beautiful summer day!

Courtesy of Michelle from the Wandering Queen. You can also follow her on Instagram!

Abraham Lake

While this is a massive man made reservoir, there are a few coves that make for perfect swimming holes on a hot summer day. This is one of the most vibrant colored turquoise lakes that you’ll find in Alberta.

And depending on the day, it’s even more colorful than Lake Louise. As this lake is over 12 miles long, you can hunt for the perfect spot all to yourself.

Annette Lake

Another great Jasper National Park swimming spot is Annette Lake. When you arrive here, you’ll feel as if you’ve walked into a painting.

The small turquoise lake is enclosed by mountains and there’s a wooden boardwalk perfect for cannonballs into the freezing refreshing water below!

Cascade Ponds

Located only a few minutes from the Banff townsite is a picturesque day use area complete with picnic tables, fire pits and trails. Here you can spend all day hiking the trails and jumping in the water.

A great choice for escaping the summer crowds in Banff or at the more popular lakes nearby, like Lake Minnewanka and Two Jack Lake.


Old Town Beach

Skip over to Parry Sound, the hub of the 30,000 islands, and you will find the Old Town Beach, a swimming spot abandoned in the 1980s after the opening of the New Town Beach: Waubuno Park.

With soft sand, clear waters and only the locals who visit, the Old Town Beach offers the perfect tranquil spot to spend a relaxing day by the water. It is sure to be a hit with both kids and teens alike – the granite rocks are a great spot to jump off into the deep end.

The Old Town Beach is hidden at the bottom of Waubuno Road. After cruising through downtown Parry Sound, take a left onto Waubeek and again onto Waubuno, and keep driving until you think you can go no further. It is a single lane going in, but there will be a small parking lot just after the old train bridge.

With classic Canadian Shield formations and views of windswept pine,  the Old Town Beach is the epitome of a Georgian Bay swimming hole experience.

Courtesy of Lynn from Be Your Own Travel Guide–be sure to read her full guide about Summer getaways in Ontario and follow her on Facebook!


Morrison’s Quarry

About 30 minutes outside of Ottawa is a natural blue pool that’s become a popular local swimming hole.

It’s a popular spot among locals, so if you can manage a visit during a weekday (and avoid the weekends) you’ll have a much better time as you’ll have less people to share it with!

And Canada’s highest bungee jump spot is also located here if you’re brave enough!

A Few Things to Keep in Mind When You’re Visiting a Local Swimming Hole

To ensure we keep these beautiful spots thriving for years to come, please remember to leave no trace behind. Always dispose of your garbage if there are bins close by or pack it with you to dispose of later. And if you come across litter that isn’t yours, do you part and pick it and keep these places pristine! 

As far as safety goes, cliff jumping is a very dangerous activity and you should only do it if you know exactly where to jump and how deep the water is below.

And in many of the places mentioned above, there is usually moving water that can create a strong undertow, so please ensure you’re a strong swimmer before you jump in.

Swimmer’s itch can also be prevalent in natural swimming holes and lakes, so be sure to towel off as soon as you leave the water.

I always use a natural body bar before I enter the water which has never left me with swimmer’s itch, even when others in my party have entered the same body of water where I was swimming! 

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