When it’s super hot out—say, mid-summer, AKA now—it can be more difficult than usual to rally for your regular run, hike, bike, or even favorite indoor boutique fitness class. This is when a good swim comes in, as it offers a reprieve from scorching temps while simultaneously serving as great exercise. (Just being in the water, period, “creates a cardiac benefit equivalent to a moderately low level of land-based aerobic exercise.”) Plus, spending time outdoors—as you’re bound to do when swimming in the summer—offers all kinds of health benefits, including the unexpected perk of improved self-esteem.
If you’ve been sweating hard since Memorial Day—like everyone in my hometown of Los Angeles, where temps exceeded 110 degrees this month—you may already know where the nearest swimming hole (e.g. pool, lake, river, stream, or, in desperate times, hose) is located—but are you aware of the best place for a dip in your state? What about in the other 49? Keep reading for a summer swim bucket list featuring the top places to make a splash in every state.
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Alabama: The Hippie Hole
In the Little River Canyon National Park, located just outside of Fort Payne, this popular swimming hole is situated at the base of Martha’s Falls, a small-but-pretty cascade. Its waters vary in depth, providing those who want to wade and those who want to swim equal opportunities to cool down on a hot day. Around the waterfall are positioned “cliffs” of varying heights (5 to 25 feet) from which those looking to make a splash can jump. Lay your beach towels and rest your coolers around the river banks and, possibly, make friends with the group that brought a small BBQ beside you. Parking is close by, though you can also opt to stop in a lot located at a greater distance and then take a moderate hike into the park.
Alaska: Chena State Recreation Area
Swimming in Alaska is a dodgy proposition if you’re not used to the chilly temps—even in summer months, most waters don’t exactly get cozy temperature-wise. For this reason, the Chena State Recreation Area, located about 30 miles north of Fairbanks, might be the ideal spot for taking a dip. For those willing to swim (kayak, fish, etc.) in air-heated, but still cool, water, there’s a lake and a river, the former boasts sandy beaches and both of which might involve moose sightings. Plus, the 347-square-mile park is replete with hiking trails should you want to work up a sweat prior to your dip. For everyone else—a bit further down the road from the park—there’s a hot springs resort.
Arizona: Havasu Falls
After a 10-mile hike (one way) in the scorching Arizona sun along a trail managed by the Havasupai tribe, you’ll have well-earned your cool dip in the waters below these gorgeous falls. In order to fully enjoy this swimming hole—and also check out the nearby Mooney and Beaver Falls—you’ll want to set up at the campground here (no day hiking is allowed without doing so). You must get a permit in order to visit—they’re released in February of each year, and you can find more details here.
Arkansas: Greers Ferry Lake
At the foot of the Ozarks lies this 40,000-acre lake that was created in the 1960s when a dam of the same name was built. Along its 460-mile-long shoreline, ideal swimming areas abound (including some quite-popular roped off areas). You can also rent a pontoon boat or take a boat shuttle to hike Sugarloaf Mountain (the Arkansas version, not its more-famous, Rio de Janeiro-based cousin). To avoid crowds, visit Greers Ferry Lake midweek.
California: Coronado Beach
Given that the California coast is 840 miles long, this is a tough one to call—there are over 400 individual stretches of sand lining it. Still, there’s a certain magic to this beach, with its white sands and the iconic Hotel del Coronado serving as its backdrop. Plus, the water here is incredibly swimmable, too—warm and mild, with lifeguards on duty. Watch for dolphins.
Colorado: Adrenaline Falls
Adrenaline Falls is the “A” in what’s known as the ABCs, a series of into-water jumps located in Durango, Colorado (the other two are Baker’s Bridge and Cascade). To get there, you’ll take a short hike to the top of the falls, which is surrounded by cliffs varying in height from 15 feet to 40 feet. (Go with a local, check with local authority figures, and know the water levels before jumping.) If you don’t feel like taking the plunge, you can dip in for a swim down below instead—of the three falls, this is the hardest to find and therefore is bound to be the most secluded.
Connecticut: Ocean Beach Park
While this half-mile-long stretch of sand can get pretty crowded in the summer, it’s for good reason; the 50-acre park offers a pretty boardwalk running alongside the beach, an Olympic-sized swimming pool, waterslides, a mini golf course, a gym, and more, all of which make for the perfect New England summer day.
Delaware: Rehoboth Beach
Known as “the nation’s summer capital,” Rehoboth Beach’s population swells from around 1,500 year-round residents to upwards of 25,000 inhabitants in warmer months (many of whom come from the D.C. area). A mile-long boardwalk lines the 1.5-mile-long beach, along which hotels, various summer-day-perfect eateries, and even a carnival. The water here can get deep, fast, so it’s an area recommended for strong swimmers; however, there are lifeguards on duty. For a quieter drip, try Lewes Beach—about 10 miles away—instead.
Florida: Pensacola Beach
If you’ve got a new swimsuit and a healthy dose of body positivity to flaunt, you may want to opt for scene-y South or Mid-Beach; however, if you’re just looking for a beautiful place to swim, Pensacola Beach is the ticket. Here, clean, white sands sink into emerald green and cobalt blue waters where manta rays, dolphins, and schools of fish will appear around, beside, and beyond you, as you swim.
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Georgia: Cumberland Island
Cumberland Island, reachable only by ferry or kayak, is home to just one small inn and allows only 300 visitors on its shores each day. As such, its white beaches remain unspoiled and in some places secluded—you can opt to camp out on the sand should you so choose, too. In the water, look for manatees, dolphins, blue crabs, etc., while onshore, you’ll surely spot the island’s roaming packs of wild horses, boars, turkeys, armadillos, and more.
Hawaii: Makalawena Beach
Trying to pick the best place to swim in Hawaii is like trying to pick the best place to have an avocado toast for brunch in 2018—nearly impossible. Still, this Big Island beach tops the list due to the fact that you’ll often find yourself relatively secluded with its soft, white sands, turquoise waters, and frequent sea turtle visitors (spinner dolphins have been known to make an appearance in the area, too). Snorkel gear is advised—even if it must be carried along the 30-minute hike to the beach—as there is an abundant reef located near the shore.
Idaho: Redfish Lake
Located at the base of the Sawtooth Mountains, this popular swimming hole is not exactly the warmest on the list; still, on a hot summer day, the snowmelt can feel quite nice. Arrive early to secure a prime spot on the white-sand beach to sun yourself before and after your dip or rent a boat to dive in and out of the crystal-clear waters.
Illinois: Oak Street Beach
Want to set your next swim against the Chicago skyline? Here’s your chance—Oak Street Beach is located on Lake Michigan just steps away from the city’s downtown. On hot and humid summer days, its temps—generally cool until August, when they heat up a bit—offer a refreshing reprieve from the sun, which locals soak in from the shore while they’ve got the chance.
Indiana: White Rock Park
This swimming hole at the center of a quarry offers so many options for those who get tired of just paddling around that you won’t even miss the beach (spoiler alert: there isn’t one here). Cliffs are equipped for diving, plus there are zip lines and rope swings that drop you into the water, too. Plus, scuba diving is allowed. Once you’ve exhausted adventure, BYO floatation device to relax in the crystal clear waters and watch the shenanigans happening around you.
Iowa: Lake Red Rock
This, the largest lake in Iowa, is actually a 15,000-acre reservoir formed by a dam on the Des Moines River. Here, you can swim as well as bike, hike, boat, kayak, and camp at various official sites.
Kansas: Lake Scott
National Geographic once listed the state park in which this lake is located as one of the 50 must-see parks in the country. Here, you’ll find the closest thing to a proper beach Kansas has to offer, where there’s plenty of space for swimming, boating, fishing, and more. Plus, several historical sights are located in the area, including the site of the last Native American battle in the state.
Kentucky: Barren River Lake
South-central Kentucky’s Barren River Lake offers a welcome respite from the state’s summer heat. Swimmers can dry off on the lake’s beach-y shores or hop aboard a boat to tan on the water. Camping, fishing, hiking, horseback riding, and more are also activity options within the park.
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Louisiana: The Country Club
With a city as special as New Orleans located within its borders, it’s difficult to recommend you visit anywhere else in Louisiana. For a dip in the Crescent City, try The Country Club’s saltwater pool, which is no longer clothing optional but still fun. As an added bonus, snacks and cocktails are served poolside, so you don’t have to stray far before or after your swim to indulge in smoothies, burrata strawberry salads, and more.
Maine: Crescent Beach State Park
This white-sand beach is located just 20 minutes south of Portland. Here, you can enjoy calm waters for a swim, get your fill of vitamin D on the beach’s wide swath of sand and, as the day winds down, try a lobster roll at Cape Elizabeth’s oceanfront Inn by the Sea.
Maryland: Ocean City Beach
Ocean City Beach was one of Tripadvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Top 10 beaches last year, and the influx of positive reviews haven’t let up since. This well-maintained, 10-mile stretch of sand is touched by waves that are frequented by swimmers, surfers, and kayakers, all of whom are overseen by diligent lifeguards. Plus, there’s an excellent 3-mile boardwalk nearby stacked with beach-typical restaurants, shops, and rides.
Massachusetts: Katama Beach
There are so many great beaches in Massachusetts between Cape Cod, Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, and beyond. At the risk of being arbitrary, I’m going to pick Katama, AKA South Beach on Martha’s Vineyard, for the purpose of this piece. It’s a white-sand gem stretching for three miles, which offers unobstructed views of the sea with strong waves best suited for seasoned swimmers who want to get a real workout in.
Michigan: Mackinac Island
Michigan has a lot of great beaches thanks to all the lake action the state sees. As such, it’s hard to pick a “best of” when there are so many spots to swim; however, Mackinac Island’s beaches are pretty special. Veteran visitors recommend biking around the island’s perimeter—no motorized vehicles are allowed, by the way—stopping for a dip in the dreamy Great Lakes whenever suits.
Minnesota: Lake Nokomis Beach
This beach, located in South Minneapolis, offers paddleboard and kayak rentals if you get bored of old-school swimming with the lake’s abundant fish population. Apparently, kimchi-topped hot dogs are a thing here, which is proof-positive that pairing the term “healthy” with this summertime snack does not always make for an oxymoron.
Mississippi: Deer Island
Okay, so you need to find your own transportation to the Deer Island (e.g., a kayak or a paddleboard), which is located off the coast of Biloxi. Your little journey will be worth it, however, as at its end you’ll find an unspoiled, uncrowded beach on which to sun yourself between swims.
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Missouri: Johnson’s Shut-Ins
Located in the Ozark Mountains about two hours south of St. Louis, this part of the Black River features a series of small pools caused by what are called shut-ins, or areas in which the river is partially blocked by large volcanic rocks. It’s a popular spot for those looking to play as much as swim. Bopping from pool to pool is part of the appeal, as is cliff jumping.
Montana: Whitefish City Beach
One of the most fun ways to access Whitefish City Beach is to take a kayak down Whitefish River directly to the glacial lake. You can also, of course, access the warmer-than-you’d-expect waters straight from the beach, where you’ll also find paddleboard rentals, concessions, and lifeguards on duty.
Nebraska: Lake McConaughy
Lake McConaughy is Nebraska’s biggest lake, and it—along with its white-sand shores—is a popular attraction. As you swim here, you’ll see all kinds of other activities in motion, from sailboating to water skiing to scuba diving to fishing, and more. Camping on the beach is encouraged.
Nevada: The Mandarin Oriental
There may be plenty of places to swim in Nevada outside of Las Vegas, but for the purpose of this piece, let’s just assume you’re looking to take a dip in sin city. Within its next-level pool scene, “best” is really a matter of preference—do you want to swim amidst those attending drunken bachelor parties…or not? I’m going to go with the latter, for reasons pertaining to both sanity and hygiene, and recommend the eighth-floor pool deck at the Mandarin Oriental. It tends to be on the quieter side and features two lap pools for actual swimming (as opposed to stewing in germs while chugging sugary cocktails).
New Hampshire: Diana’s Baths
This small series of petite waterfalls, located in White Mountain National Forest, is a popular splash zone in the summer. A half-mile walk gets you to the water, where you can play in pools of various sizes gathered at the feet of the falls.
New Jersey: Highland Natural Pool
This is a man-made, Olympic-sized swimming hole filled with natural spring water (and all that entails, e.g. it’s not cleaned or chlorinated). There is a shallow end, which is normally packed, and a less crowded deep end perfect for tiring out your limbs or floating on a noodle. Goat yoga is offered nearby at the New Weis Center if you’re looking for a post-swim stretch.
New Mexico: The Blue Hole
In the middle of a New Mexico summer, you may mistake this cold spring for a mirage. It’s 80-feet deep with several spots from which to jump located above its surface. Actual divers—scuba divers, that is—come here, too. It’s located in Santa Rosa.
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New York: Canopus Lake
If you live in New York City, the quickest answer to the question of where to swim is generally “anywhere there’s a pool you’re allowed to swim in.” If you’re willing to take a train up north, however, you can find less densely populated (and chlorinated) places for a dip, like Lake Canopus in Fahnestock State Park. It’s about 75 minutes from midtown Manhattan and offers 1.5 miles-worth of water in which to swim, boat, or fish. Work up a sweat first by hiking some small portion of the park’s 14,00+ acres.
North Carolina: Sliding Rock
At Sliding Rock, located near trendy Asheville, visitors line up for their chance to barrel down this natural waterslide one at a time, propelled by a forceful flow of 11,000 gallons of water per minute. At the bottom, you’ll be deposited into an 8-foot-deep pool of very cold mountain water, at which point you’ll swim to shore in order to do it all over again.
North Dakota: Lake Renwick
After hiking through Icelandic State Park, stop for a swim at Lake Renwick. Here, you’ll find a slip of sand to stretch out on, as well as boating, fishing, and other activities if you get restless. Beyond the water, things are pretty minimal here—don’t expect a bar (unless it’s made of sand).
Located on Lake Erie, about 30 miles south of Cleveland, this mile-long beach is clean and well-kept, with both bathrooms and concessions on site. To work up a sweat before your swim, hike to the nearby Fairport Harbor West Breakwater Lighthouse (where some lucky human actually lives).
Oklahoma: Grand Lake
This massive lake is located at the base of the Ozark Mountains, with five state parks stretched across its shoreline. The area is popular for bass fishing and sailboating, but there are designated swimming beaches as well.
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Oregon: Sauvie Island
Not a fan of tan lines? No problem on this little farm-filled island, where clothing on parts of the beach is optional. Beforehand taking a dip, pick your own fruits and vegetables, go mushroom hunting, or take a long, scenic bike ride.
Pennsylvania: Meadow Run Natural Waterslide
This natural waterslide is a lot like Sliding Rock in North Carolina; however, it’s longer, more intense, and less supervised, so locals recommend checking with park officials to ensure its safe before attempting. It’s located in Ohiopyle.
Rhode Island: Misquamicut State Beach
This half-mile-long stretch of sand can get crowded, but for good reason—the beach is clean and the water easily swimmable. Plus, there are concessions, restrooms, changing areas, and lifeguards on duty. Try mid-week to share the surf with a smaller crowd.
South Carolina: Kiawah Beachwalker Park
This beach is located on Kiawah Island, 45 minutes south of Charleston. It’s noted for its cleanliness and is usually relatively uncrowded. If you’re lucky, you may get to see the island’s bottleneck dolphins strand-feeding, wherein they herd fish onto the beach and then hurl themselves out of the water (en masse, usually) to feed. Casual.
South Dakota: Sylvan Lake
Sylvan Lake is located in Custer State Park, set among the sky-piercing granite needles and lush forests of pine and spruce. Here, you can swim, fish, canoe, kayak, and more. After a day on the water, head to the Sylvan Lake Lodge, which is situated in a spot suggested by architect Frank Lloyd Wright, to take in sweeping views as you enjoy a cocktail or a bite to eat.
Tennessee: Percy Priest Lake
Located just 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, Percy Priest Lake offers 14,000 acres of water for swimming, boating, wakeboarding, water skiing, cliff diving, and more.
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Texas: The Blue Hole
Unlike many swimming holes in the summer, this spring-fed pool in Wimberly, near Austin, doesn’t get crowded due to its reservation system (as in, you have to make one in order to enjoy a swim). If you’re able to grab a spot, you’ll get to enjoy cool water made even cooler by the large cypress trees shading it from the broiling South Texas sun. You can jump in via a Tarzan-like rope swing, too.
Utah: Calf Creek Falls
Okay, so the best part of this swim may just be the work you did to get to it—the hike in is three miles long and gets very hot in the summer. For this reason, it’s advisable to start early in the day so you can hike in before it gets too hot, swim beneath the waterfall when the sun’s at it’s highest, and then make your way out of the park before nightfall.
Vermont: Warren Falls
This spot—located on the Mad River just south of Warren—boasts three waterfalls (er, cascades), numerous natural pools, cliffs of varying heights for jumping, and a natural waterslide. It’s a popular spot, which means you may have to wait your turn for a jump but also that the people-watching is top notch.
Virginia: Fairy Stone State Park
Admittedly, I might be biased on this one due to the fact that in addition to swimming, you can also mine your own crystals here. Fairy Stones are relatively rare crystals, too, with a legend attached to them that improbably involves fairies, elves, and the crucifixion of Jesus Christ.
Washington: Madison Park Beach
Located just 15 minutes from downtown Seattle, this grass-covered beach is perfect for those looking for a social swimming hole. Here, you can dive into Lake Washington from the boards docked offshore and paddle around to your heart’s content. Lifeguards are on duty in the summer.
West Virginia: Summersville Lake
Summersville Lake is sometimes referred to as “a little Bahamas,” or “the Bahamas of West Virginia.” In its clear waters, you can do more than just swim—you can also boat, kayak, stand-up paddleboard, scuba dive, and jump off its famously beautiful cliffs. To dive right in with all of the above activities, so to speak, check out this Half-Day Summersville Lake Adventure offered by Adventures on the Gorge.
Wisconsin: Big Bay Beach
This two-mile-long beach is located on Lake Superior’s Madeline Island, the largest of the state’s Apostle islands. A boardwalk runs along its length, but the area is otherwise mellow in terms of development. The water here is cold, but you’ll be ready for it after taking a hike on one of the island’s many trails.
Wyoming: Granite Hot Springs
You might not think to visit a hot springs in the summertime, but the water in many parts of Wyoming remains so chilly this time of year—due to cold temps at night—that you’re likely better off with a dip in this naturally-heated pool located near Jackson Hole than you are diving into any air-heated waters. Fun fact: In the winter, this mountain-view hot spring is only accessible by cross-country skiing, snowmobiling, or dog sledding.
Looking for a suit in which you can actually swim? Here are 16. (Ladies with D+ cups, we’ve got you, too.) Plus, these beach towels will cause major shoreline envy.
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