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7 of our favorite 'secret' swimming holes in the US

May 27, 2020
8 min read
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There's no doubt that, for people who decide to travel this summer, there's going to be a back-to-basics trend in the quest for fun. Road trips, RV rentals, national parks and the great outdoors are poised to be the destinations and trips of choice for many Americans who are ready to leave the confines of their homes over the next few months.

Related: National parks slowly reopen — Here’s everything you need to know

For those who want to cool down, but are looking for an alternative to major water parks and man-made lazy rivers, nature has some fun alternatives in the form of these seven Instagram-worthy natural swimming holes that locals love and visitors surely will, too.

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Related: The joy of booking new, realistic summer getaways

The Blue Hole in Texas

Blue Hole Regional Park, Wimberley Texas (Photo courtesy of Christy Pohler / Getty Images)
Blue Hole Regional Park, Wimberley Texas (Photo courtesy of Christy Pohler / Getty Images)

Among the Cypress trees in Central Texas, you'll find a 126-acre park that includes several acres of swimming in the shade and rope swings. You need to make advance reservations to swim in the so-called Blue Hole, and admission costs $10 for adults. Children get in for $6.

How to get there: Wimberley is 45 minutes southwest of Austin.

Related: 15 tips for picking the perfect Airbnb

Stony Brook State Park in New York

stony brook state park, ny
(Photo by John Koenig/Getty Images)

In the Finger Lakes region of western New York, you'll find multiple waterfalls and a stream-fed pool in Stony Brook State Park. There is one official swimming area that was created by damming off a part of the river. Admission is $7 per vehicle.

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How to get there: Stony Brook is about an hour south of Rochester in Dansville, New York. From New York City, travelers can take advantage of regular Amtrak service to Rochester.

Related: Best weekend getaways from New York City

Rattlesnake Pool in Maine

A short hike is required to reach Rattlesnake Pool, and the effort makes it that much sweeter of a find. The water is clear, cold and a vibrant shade of green, though it can get crowded in the summer. Located on the site of a former airport, AvGeeks will thrill at walking along the old landing strip to reach the path. Pro tip: Nearby trails, such as those to the summit of Blueberry Mountain, are surrounded by wild blueberries during the late summer months.

How to get there: Rattlesnake Pool is near Fryeburg, Maine, though it’s right across the border from New Hampshire, making North Conway the more popular nearby town for travelers.

Related: Things to know about Acadia National Park

Hamilton Pool in Texas

(Photo by WIN-Initiative / Getty Images)
(Photo by WIN-Initiative / Getty Images)

The Hamilton Pool Reserve, located outside Austin, is home to a 50-foot waterfall that empties into a box canyon. While hiking is always a fun time in the hill country, swimming in Hamilton Pool does depend on bacteria levels. The pool has not yet reopened for the season, but when it does, you need to make reservations online, in advance, before you can jump into the cool, refreshing waters.

How to get there: Hamilton Pool is located in Dripping Springs, about 40 minutes west of Austin.

Related: 10 tips for anyone taking a road trip right now

Havasu Falls in Arizona

(Photo courtesy of Gilles Baechler/Getty Images)
(Photo courtesy of Gilles Baechler/Getty Images)

OK, it's hardly fair to include Havasu Falls because it's so amazing — and also amazingly difficult to reach. (To say nothing of the fact that it's not an especially well-kept secret.) This roughly 100-foot waterfall spills over red rock cliffs into an impossibly turquoise blue pool below and is located on Havasupai tribe land. So, you can't just show up and take a dip. Travelers must embark on a 10-mile strenuous hike in the desert heat to reach the swimming hole, and getting a reservation to make the hike and camp is tough. Bookings for the entire year can be snapped up in 30 minutes since only a few hundred permits are issued per day. Also, note that this area has not yet reopened after the coronavirus shutdown.

How to get there: The Havasupai Reservation is in the southwest corner of the Grand Canyon National Park, with the nearest community being Peach Springs, about 64 miles away.

Related: Best times to visit the Grand Canyon

Emerald Pool in New Hampshire

Similar to Rattlesnake Pool in size and hue, this is one of the most popular swimming holes among those in the know in New Hampshire when the mercury rises on unusually hot summer days. Expect an easy, flat 15- to 30-minute hike to reach Emerald Pool, and definitely visit midweek if your schedule allows.

How to get there: Emerald Pool is part of the White Mountains National Forest, and See Swim has great step-by-step instructions to help you find this secret spot.

Related: The New Hampshire ski town that's perfect for a summer getaway

Sliding Rock in North Carolina

 

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If you want a ride on a 60-foot natural waterslide down a boulder, head to North Carolina within the Pisgah National Forest. You'll climb up the stairs and take a fun ride down before splashing into the 7-foot pool at the bottom. Just be prepared for the splash into the 50- or 60-degree water. Pro tip: You definitely want to pack river shoes and water shorts for this one! Entry costs $3.

How to get there: Sliding Rock in Brevard, North Carolina is less than an hour's drive from the cool, funky town of Asheville.

Related: Best things to do in Asheville

Featured image by Getty Images

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Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
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  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees
Apply for American Express® Gold Card
at American Express's secure site
Terms & restrictions apply. See rates & fees
Best for the well-traveled foodie
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S.
4XEarn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
3XEarn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.

    60,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $250
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

There's a lot to love about the Amex Gold card. It's been a fan favorite during the pandemic because of its fantastic rewards rate on restaurants (that includes takeout and delivery in the U.S.!) and U.S. supermarkets. If you're hitting the skies soon, you'll also earn bonus points on travel. Paired with up to $120 in Uber Cash (for U.S. Uber rides or Uber Eats orders) and up to $120 in annual dining statement credits at eligible partners, there's no reason that the foodie shouldn't add this card to their wallet. Enrollment required.

Pros

  • 4x on dining at restaurants and U.S. supermarkets (on the first $25,000 in purchases per calendar year; then 1x)
  • 3x on flights booked directly with the airline or with Amex Travel
  • Welcome bonus of 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first six months

Cons

  • Weak on travel outside of flights and everyday spending bonus categories
  • Not as useful for those living outside the U.S.
  • Some may have trouble using Uber/food credits
  • Few travel perks and protections
  • Earn 60,000 Membership Rewards® points after you spend $4,000 on eligible purchases with your new Card within the first 6 months of Card Membership.
  • Earn 4X Membership Rewards® Points at Restaurants, plus takeout and delivery in the U.S., and earn 4X Membership Rewards® points at U.S. supermarkets (on up to $25,000 per calendar year in purchases, then 1X).
  • Earn 3X Membership Rewards® points on flights booked directly with airlines or on amextravel.com.
  • $120 Uber Cash on Gold: Add your Gold Card to your Uber account and each month automatically get $10 in Uber Cash for Uber Eats orders or Uber rides in the U.S., totaling up to $120 per year.
  • $120 Dining Credit: Satisfy your cravings and earn up to $10 in statement credits monthly when you pay with the American Express® Gold Card at Grubhub, The Cheesecake Factory, Goldbelly, Wine.com, Milk Bar and select Shake Shack locations. Enrollment required.
  • Choose the color that suits your style. Gold or Rose Gold.
  • No Foreign Transaction Fees.
  • Annual Fee is $250.
  • Terms Apply.
  • See Rates & Fees