By Lindsay Seventko, Communications Intern
This summer, forget the pool membership and take a dip in nature’s swimming holes preserved within our National Forests. These locations are shaded by massive trees, fed by mountain springs and cut out of the hillside by rushing waterfalls. Pack your swim suit and get ready for a day of summer fun by one of these incredible swimming spots.
Juniper Springs, Ocala National Forest, Florida
Ocala National Forest boasts the southernmost forest in the continental U.S., with four wilderness areas that are home to extraordinary amounts of wildlife. At Juniper Springs, massive springs gush out of the earth, feeding crystal clear streams that catch in fresh pools. Navigating the area offers countless streams to wade in and pools to dive in, with crisp water perfect for snorkeling. Big, desert-like shrub, palms and oaks shade the pools. The area is uniquely open year-round for swimming, since the water temperature barely changes through the seasons.
Looking Glass Falls, Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
Just off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Pisgah National Forest are the dramatic Looking Glass Falls that plunge 60 feet into a deep swimming hole. With steps leading down to the water and large flat rocks for picnicking, it’s easy to spend all day relaxing by the water, being showered by the falls or exploring the nearby trails through the forest.
Aztec Falls, San Bernardino National Forest, California
Off the Pacific Crest Trial in San Bernardino National Forest lies the adrenaline junkie’s ultimate swimming hole. Cliffs overlooking the water range from 5-60 feet offering plenty of opportunities to test your daring spirit and jump into the pool below. Always be sure to test the water for depth and debris before jumping. For the less adventurous, plenty of flat rocks and sand bars line the pool, offering the perfect place to sunbathe, picnic and relax.
Opal Pool, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Opal Pool truly lives up to its name. Crystal water rushes down the stream to collect in a calm, gem-colored wading pool. Located down an old scenic road, the trail to the pool winds through breathtaking old-growth forest, crossing the mountain stream via a footbridge to look down on the crystal-clear pool, reflecting the green of the trees, blue of the sky and shine of the sunlight. Wade the clear waters and venture downstream to see the waterfalls tumbling out of it.
Devil’s Punchbowl, White River National Forest, Colorado
The Devil’s Punchbowl is one of Colorado’s best kept secrets, despite having a more well-known namesake. Framed by vertical granite cliffs, the swimming hole is fed by an ice-cold mountain river that plunges into the pool on one side and cascades out on the other. The crisp water is a refreshing wakeup after the steep hike up from the road. Be sure to check out the layout of submerged rocks before attempting any jumps from the edges!