Our Favorite Swimming Holes
Heading out the door? Read this article on the new Outside+ app available now on iOS devices for members! Download the app.
1. Havasu Falls, Supai, Arizona Hike two miles to this perfect turquoise pool, with year-round 72-degree water, in Havasu Canyon.
All About H2OThe wet stuff is always there for us—it grows our food, puts splash and spirit in our adventure, and (by the way) keeps us alive.
2. Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Reynolds County, Missouri Rock towers create dozens of small pools on the East Fork of the Black River.
3. Bass Lake, Point Reyes National Seashore, California Follow the Coast Trail two and a half miles to a freshwater dunk hole that stays sunny even on the foggiest days.
4. Calf Creek Falls, Utah The perfect desert oasis: a perennial waterfall and round, shaded pool.
5. Redfish Lake, Stanley, Idaho Laze on the south-shore beach and enjoy huge views of the Sawtooth Range.
6. Barton Springs, Austin, Texas A chilly 1,000-foot-long spring-fed pool in Austin’s Zilker Park.
7. Walden Pond, Concord, Massachusetts After an impressive preservation effort, our most literary pond is definitely worth a dip.
8. Big Bend, Petersburg, West Virginia Try a lazy float on this hour-long river loop, on the South Branch of the Potomac.
9. Oregon Creek, California A stair-stepping series of pools in the Sierra, north of Nevada City, with plenty of natural, water-carved Jacuzzis.
10. Peekamoose Blue Hole, Sundown, New York Rondout Creek rushes through a gap in the rock to form this refreshing forest pond.
The Wild-Water Life List
We know you want your fair share of life’s peak moments—and you want to get good and wet along the way—so we’ve thoughtfully prioritized our ten favorite liquid adventures in the United States
Hot Commodity: DropletsAmount of earth’s surface covered in water: 80%
97% of the earth’s water is saline
Water that is frozen in glacial ice: two percent
Only 1% of the earth’s water is fresh and available for human use
153 GALLONS (water used daily per capita in the USA)
88 in the UK // 23 in Asia // 12 in Africa
Sources: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; National Wildlife Federation
1. Raft the Colorado River through the Grand Canyon, Arizona Plunge into 277 miles of Class I-V whitewater and spectacular red rocks. Get on the 12-year waiting list for individual permits (800-959-9164, www.nps.gov/grca) or sign up with an outfitter like Canyoneers Inc. (800-525-0924, www.canyoneers.com).
2. Paddle the Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness, Minnesota Nearly a thousand interconnected lakes and streams dot this million-acre north-woods wilderness. For maps and permits, contact the BWCAW (877-550-6777, www.bwcaw.org).
3. Snorkel in Dry Tortugas National Park, Florida Set sail for seven white-sand islets and miles of coral reefs in the Gulf of Mexico. Go with Ocean Voyages (800-299-4444, www.oceanvoyages.com).
4. Learn to Surf at Waikiki Beach, Hawaii It’s a kitschy and overdeveloped beach, yes, but punch your surf ticket on the slow rollers off Oahu’s leeward shore before braving Pipeline. Check out Hans Hedemann Surf School (808-924-7778, www.hhsurf.com).
5. Sea-kayak the San Juan Islands, Washington Island-hop among the orcas. Call Outdoor Odysseys (800-647-4621, www.outdoorodysseys.com).
6. Paddle the Middle Fork of the Salmon River, Idaho Float 100 miles through the Frank Church-River of No Return Wilderness. Check out Middle Fork Wilderness Outfitters (800-726-0575, www.idahorapids.com).
7. Sail the Maine Island Trail, Maine Explore spruce-shaded islands and craggy coastline on this 325-mile route from Portland to the Canadian border. For details, contact the Maine Windjammer Association (800-807-9463, www.sailmainecoast.com).
8. Raft and Fly-fish the Talkeetna River, Alaska Fish for king salmon, then hunker down for a 14-mile Class IV ride. Go with Keystone Raft and Kayak Adventures (907-835-2606, www.alaskawhitewater.com).
9. Canoe the Okefenokee Swamp, Georgia Float between gators in southeastern Georgia’s lush 400,000-acre wilderness. The Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge (912-496-7836, www.fws.gov) can provide details.
10. Kayak the Apostle Islands, Wisconsin Paddle around 21 unspoiled Lake Superior islands. Try Piragis Northwoods Outfitting (800-223-6565, www.piragis.com).
The Sweetest Beaches
1. Shi Shi Beach, Olympic National Park, Washington One of the most remote wilderness beaches in the lower 48—it’s a 13-mile hike from Olympic’s Ozette River trailhead—these two miles of sand are studded with sea stacks, giant driftwood, and tidepools teeming with starfish.
2. Coronado Beach, San Diego, California Running along Ocean Boulevard, this wide, palm-lined strand is a great spot to set up a lawn chair, pop a lime in your Pacifico, and watch the pink-and-purple sun sink slowly into the sea.
3. Sanibel Island, Florida Periwinkles, whelks, calico scallops, and cockles abound on Sanibel, one of the best shelling grounds in the world.
4. Poipu Beach, Kauai, Hawaii Watch for monk seals, sea turtles, and loads of flashy fish at Hawaii’s premier snorkeling spot.
5. Cape Hatteras, North Carolina Some of the best windsurfing, fishing, crabbing, clamming, and sand dunes on the East Coast can be found here.
6. Jasper Beach, Machiasport, Maine You’ll find bald eagles, sandpipers, and puffins at this bird-watching hot spot. 7. Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, Michigan Enormous sand dunes hundreds of feet high provide spectacular views across Lake Michigan.
8. Agate Beach, Patrick’s Point State Park, California Search for petrified wood, agates, coastal jade, and other semiprecious stones.
9. Bandon Beach, Oregon Rent a cabin for the night and watch the clouds gather at the storm-watching capital of the United States.
10. Barking Sands Beach, Kauai, Hawaii Welcome to the world’s noisiest beach, where the sand squeaks with every step you take.
Trying to determine which U.S. lake is the cleanest is a nearly impossible task—there are hundreds of variables and no official databases. But we decided to give it a shot. And the crown goes to Oregon’s CRATER LAKE. Our reasons? For one thing, there’s the water clarity. On its best days, 1,943-foot-deep Crater is as clear as a shot of Tanqueray: You can peer down 142 feet into its blue depths. And since there are no tributaries flowing into or out of the 13,760-acre basin—which is fed almost exclusively by the 533 inches of snow caught by its namesake crater each year—little sediment or contamination gets in. Added bonus: The lake’s remote location, in southwest Oregon, keeps weekend warriors away from this national park. You won’t find jet skis here; only six boats—four tour ferries and two research vessels—are allowed on the water. Visitors can hike down from the crater rim to the shore for an icy dip (the lake hovers around 50 degrees in the summer), but the best way to experience the lake is to find a warm rock overlooking the water and let the view clear your mind.