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12 Magical American Waterfalls (You Can Actually Swim In)

Photo by Paul Massie Photography at Shutterstock

There’s nothing more refreshing on a hot summer day than taking a dip in the cascading waters of a waterfall. But while there are numerous stunning and well-known waterfalls around the country and the world, those that actually allow you to swim in them are a bit harder to find. Here are some of our top places where you can actually suit up or strip down and jump in.

  1. McCloud, California – Lower McCloud Falls has the reputation of the best waterfall in the region. With three levels, it lets you dive in from 12 feet, and for the less adventurous, it has large rocks around the edge for some relaxing sunbathing.
  2. Hundred-Mile Wilderness, Maine – At Gulf Hagas, there are numerous waterfalls and swimming holes, a heavily wooded gorge carved through slate bedrock which is part of the Appalachian Trail. You can trek an eight-mile loop that includes several waterfalls and swimming holes along the way.
  3. Mentone, Alabama – DeSoto State Park is home to many rushing waterfalls, but Desoto Falls is one of the most popular. The 104-foot waterfall drops into a deep, vast pool. There’s also a cave behind the cascade, giving you the perfect spot to sit and enjoy the spray.
  4. Ithaca, New York – Located in an area known for its wild beauty, Treman Falls has nine miles of trails that wind along the gorge, passing 12 waterfalls along the way. It includes a swimming area at its base that even consists of a diving board and lifeguard.
  5. Jackson County, Tennessee – Cummins Falls is a 75ft high fall located in Cummins Falls State Park. These falls were named one of the ten best swimming holes in America by Travel + Leisure. Hiking to these falls also attracts people because there is plenty of scenic beauty.
  6. Marsing, Idaho – Just an hour drive from Boise, Jump Creek Falls is a 60-foot waterfall located in an area of the Owyhee Wilderness known for its red osier dogwoods and water-birch trees. After cooling off in the water, take in all the stunning scenery surrounding the falls, including the cliffs, some as high as 600 feet.
  7. San Diego, California – In Southern California, Cedar Creek Falls is one of the top places to take a swim. This natural wonder is especially worthy during the winter months when seasonal rains pour into the 80-foot cascade of water. The trails which lead you to Cedar Creek take hikers through San Diego County’s backcountry, known for its chaparral plant and bird watching.
  8. Ludlow, Vermont – As a classic Vermont swimming hole, Buttermilk Falls has large pools of water below its upper and lower portions deep enough to submerge yourself. At the lower falls, this water is about 25 feet wide and usually a clear, olive-green. The upper falls are cut into two parts.
  9. Provo Canyon, Utah – As a local treasure in the Provo area, Bridal Veil Falls is a stunning duo cascade waterfall fed by Cascade Mountain. While many choose to view the falls from an observation deck, you can also swim here. But if you do, select your time of year to swim carefully because this is water created by a melted snowpack.
  10. Willamette Valley, Oregon – Hike beside towering 500-year-old trees that at one point were threatened by modern-day technology. Afterwhich, reach the 30-foot cascade that pours into a deep green pool that makes for a very picturesque but chilly swim.
  11. Dupont State Recreational Forest, North Carolina – Located along the Little River, Hooker Falls, pause to giggle, descends 12 feet into Cascade Lake. While it may not be visually dramatic, it is famous for being peaceful and easy to reach. When you’ve finished swimming, you can hike on to Triple Falls and High Falls.
  12. Dripping Springs, Texas – Thousands of years ago, the dome of an underground river collapsed, giving a little skylight to this previously hidden pool in Texas. These days, Hamilton Pool is so picturesque that several movies have used this setting as a backdrop. With its 50-foot waterfall, jade green pool, and limestone slabs, it’s easy to see why.

Our list can go on and on. There aren’t any shortages of beautiful places in our country to see. We also didn’t bother mentioning the obvious Yosemite, Oahu, and Grand Canyon waterfalls. But we recommend stepping outside of your comfort zone to visit a new place depending on what region you are traveling to.

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