The best natural swimming holes to visit this summer

swimming hole
When it feels like it’s 1,000 degrees outside, nothing is more satisfying than a dip in a swimming hole. Photo: Courtesy of Greg Epperson/Shutterstock

With summer well on its way, you’re probably beginning to daydream about being underwater. Early morning dips, after-work floats, midday vacation swims. A lake, or a beach, or even your local pool will do, but the best place for summer dips are hidden swimming holes. Trust us.

A little bit of a hike makes the plunge ever more worthwhile. Here are some of our favorites.

Bartlett Falls, Bristol, Vermont

swimming hole
Hopefully California has enough water to last through the summer so the Bartlett Falls swimming hole can remain open. Photo: Courtesy of Suzanne Lagasa/Flickr

New England streams, which cut through tough granite, hold tons of good swimming holes and jumping rocks, but Bartlett Falls, in Bristol, Vermont, which drops over a steep ledge into a huge pool, might be one of the best. It’s a short hike in, and there are plenty of rocks to picnic on, which makes it nice, but often crowded.

Great for swimming; not ideal for skinny dipping. If you want some privacy, you can slide into a hidden alcove behind the falls.

Mountain Dog, Sacramento, California

The deep, clear pools of the South Yuba River, a mile off a dirt road outside of Sacramento, form a swimming hole unofficially called “Mountain Dog.” A spring runs in to the river over a 25-foot cascade, so the water is cold.

There’s a sandy beach to sunbathe on, and locals take the swimsuit optional guideline very seriously.

Bridal Veil Falls, Tallulah Gorge State Park, Georgia

Bridal Veil Falls
The Bridal Veil Falls swimming hole looks slidable. Photo: Courtesy of Tallulah Gorge State Park

All of the two-mile-long, 1,000-feet-deep Tallulah Gorge, is, um, gorgeous. There are five big waterfalls in the park, and the smallest one, Bridal Veil, is more of a rockslide than an actual cascade, so you can slip down it into the pools below.

Make sure to check out the suspension bridge while you’re there.

Sliding Rock, Brevard, North Carolina

swimming hole
A rare crowd-free moment at Sliding Rock swimming hole. Photo: Courtesy of Megan Wood/Flickr

The aptly named sliding rock is just that: A huge slanted rock face that drops into a deep pool at the bottom. This one isn’t exactly a secret — it’s the most popular natural water slide in North Carolina, and maybe the world.

There are lifeguards on duty through the summer and you have to pay a $2 fee, but it’s worth it to slide 60 feet down into a pool.

Johnson Shut-Ins, Lesterville, Missouri

swimming hole
This swimming hole is Nature’s water park. Thanks, geology. Photo: Courtesy of Keith Yahl/Flickr

A lucky geologic oddity, the shut-ins, in Johnson Shut-Ins State Park, were formed where the Black River was stopped by erosion-resistant volcanic rock. That created small pools, channels, and slides in the slick rock, kind of like a natural water park. The park is 100 miles south of St. Louis and you can camp there.

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