1. Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Reynolds County, MO
The East Fork of the Black River churns through a furrowed channel of rock at Johnson’s Shut-Ins State Park in the Ozark Mountains. The “shut-ins” are areas where the river is blocked by smooth volcanic stone (formed eons ago) strewn throughout the stream, creating a series of small pools. Beautiful and kind of dangerous, so awesome.
2. Carlon Falls, Yosemite National Park CA
En route to Hetch Hetchy, pull off winding Evergreen Road at the South Fork Tuolumne River for a mostly flat, two-mile hike to this rare year-round waterfall. The 35-foot falls cascades over wide granite ledges into a boulder-strewn pool. You’ll feel like you’re Samantha Mathis in Cocktails I promise.
3. Peakamoose “Blue Hole”, Sundown, NY
Located on the Rondout Creek, locals call this just plain “Blue Hole” because the water’s so frigid it can make one blue. However, in actuality, it is called “blue” by reason of its unpolluted clarity, when standing on rocks above, the hole appears a hue of true blue as the purity reflects the sky above. Park at large parking area with sign for the Peekamoose Mountain area, then cross the road and down a short path to the creek.
4. Sliding Rock, Brevard, NC
Nature’s original slip ‘n’ slide. Smoothed by centuries of flowing water, the 60-foot boulder shoots bathers into the frigid Carolina mountain waters like they have buttered backsides. Word to the wise, this is still a rock and thus may have a few snags that will rough up your butt if you’re not careful.
5. Havasu Falls, Supai, AZ
There’s off the beaten path. And then there’s Havasu Falls—located a mile and a half outside the Havasupai Indian village of Supai, on the bottom of the Grand Canyon. The only way to get here is to charter a helicopter, hike a steep 10 miles, or hire a pack animal, but it’s totally worth it when you do. Idilic in every sense of the word, the beach in “The Beach” has nothing on this place.
6. Cummins Falls, Cookeville, TN
About halfway between Nashville and Knoxville, Cummins Falls cascades 75 feet over wide stair-stepped rocks into a deep cold-water pool. It is located in nine miles north of Cookeville in Jackson County close to the Putnam County line off Cummins Mill Rd. on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River. For the sure-footed only as the path to this gorgeous hole is mostly water-covered.
7. Meadow Run Natural Waterslide, Ohiopyle, PA
Now for nature’s original water slide! Once you’ve ensured water levels are safe for swimming, hop on the sandstone slide and let the current whisk you down to the deeper pool below. To access the hole, first look for the Meadow Run Natural Waterslide parking lot alongside Route 381, and then follow Meadow Run Trail to the rushing water.
8. Firehole River Swimming Area, Yellowstone National Park, WY
Fed by Yellowstone’s famous geothermal springs, water in Firehole River lives up to its name. Warm, but not scalding, currents can reach up to 86 degrees. Warning: cliff-diving is not only unsafe here, it is illegal, so jump wisely.
9. Diana’s Baths, Bartlett, NH
This series of small waterfalls and granite-basin pools in the shadow of Big Attitash Mountain once powered a 19th-century sawmill. At just over half a mile from the parking lot, this hole is super accessible, which unfortunately makes it a crowded spot on weekends and in the summertime.
10. The Homestead Caldera, Midway, UT
Known locally as “the crater,” Midway’s 10,000-year-old geothermal spring offers tourists a respite from Utah’s brutal winter with waters that reach up to 90 degrees. Comfort comes at a price though - you can only swim in the mineral-rich waters if you pay a small fee. While the Homestead Resort has carved a ground-level passageway for easy access to this hole, visitors used to have to climb a 55-foot limestone dome to enjoy it’s splendors.
11. The Blue Hole, Wimberly, TX
Another Blue Hole! This time in Texas! The cool spring-fed pool hosts a veritable parade of inner tubes on the weekends, when Austinites flock to the hole for an afternoon of lazy floating. There are also not one but two rope swings for added excitement.
12. Enfield Falls, Ithaca, NY
If you’re looking for that best-kept secret swimming hole, this is not it. Just below Enfield Falls lies one of the Finger Lakes’ worst-kept secrets: the Robert Treman State Park swimming hole. It boasts a diving board, several pools of differing depths, and it’s even wheelchair accessible. Well, at least the elderly can enjoy it.
13. Little River Canyon, AL
In northeastern Alabama, the Little River snakes across the top of Lookout Mountain before plummeting into the 12-mile-long Little River Canyon. Just downstream from the Alabama Highway 35 bridge, follow the boardwalk to the bottom of Little River Falls for an easy-access dunk when water levels are low. Or start at Eberhart Point and hike 0.75 miles to the canyon floor to Hippy Hole, where a series of cliffs serve as springboards for the daring.
14. Slide Rock, Arizona
On hot summer days, Sedona’s Slide Rock transforms into a literal sea of people, some vying for turns down the sloping 80-foot-long sandstone-carved waterway, others cooling off in the creek’s shallow stretches or boulder jumping into its deeper pools. Hey, at least you can get to this one without a pack mule.
15. Kaaterskill Falls, Catskill Mountains, NY
A two-drop waterfall located in the eastern Catskill Mountains of New York, on the north side of Kaaterskill Clove, between the hamlets of Haines Falls and Palenville in Greene County’s Town of Hunter. The dual cascades total 260 feet (79 m) in height, making it the tallest two-tier waterfall in New York State. You have to hike about 1 and 1/2 miles from the main road to find this one, but the site inspired many a painter from the Hudson River School at the turn of the century, so it’s worth it.