As the weather heats up, there’s nothing more enjoyable than plunging into a cool body of water. This summer, skip the chlorine and concrete in favor of nature’s swimming pools. From expansive lakes with sandy beaches to swimming holes with breathtaking waterfalls, our country’s natural landscapes provide a wealth of memorable places to take a dip.
Ready to plan your summer van adventures? We’ve sifted through tons of options so you don’t have to and compiled eight of the best spots to swim in nature. Besides swimming, these destinations offer cliff jumping, scuba diving, paddle boarding, boating, hiking, picnicking, and much more. Along with your trusty van, everything you need for an epic summer vacation is right here.
Photo By @Yosemite_Airbnb
Carlon Falls, California
Tucked away in Yosemite National Park, you’ll find a serene swimming hole surrounded by ferns, Indian rhubarb, and pine trees. The pool is carved out of the Tuolumne River by a 30-foot waterfall. There’s also a picnic area, so pack some local treats for lunch. Speaking of treats, the trailhead of the 1.4-mile walk to the falls starts outside of Yosemite National Park, so you won’t have to pay the usual $35 for park admission. The swimming hole under the waterfall can get crowded in the summer, but the river offers other nearby places to swim if you want to stake out your own spot for part of the afternoon.
Lake Tahoe, California and Nevada
We sing the praises of this scenic alpine lake all the time. It made it onto our list of “Top Lakes Across the U.S.” and even merited its own Rec Van adventure guide. With that in mind, we’ll focus on the swimming-related details here. There are multiple notable places to take a dip in Lake Tahoe. Whether you are in California or Nevada, you won’t be disappointed by the lake’s invigorating water, recreation opportunities, and mountain views. Popular swimming beaches include Pope Beach, Sand Harbor, and Zephyr Cove. As if that weren’t enough, there are several smaller lakes like Echo Lake and Fallen Leaf Lake to check out nearby. If you’re a traveler who likes to mix things up from day to day, Tahoe is the perfect vacation destination.
Blue Hole, New Mexico
While Lake Tahoe is the largest alpine lake in North America, this next location is a tiny jewel in the desert. Just 60 feet across, the Blue Hole of Santa Rosa feels like a circular swimming pool made by Mother Nature. It’s a great place to stop on your Southwestern travels if you’re looking for a refreshing swim and energizing cliff jump. If you’re interested in scuba diving, Blue Hole is even more appealing. The hole is over 80 feet deep with hidden underwater caves, making it one of the top destinations in the U.S for scuba diving and training. Visitors can also walk less than ten minutes to reach Park Lake. There, an inflatable obstacle course on the water provides hours of fun for families.
Lake Powell, Arizona and Utah
Lake Powell would be worth a visit for the views of red rock formations and turquoise waters alone. The recreation opportunities in this unique landscape just sweeten the deal. The water can reach 80 degrees in the summer, so you’ll be happy to swim, frolic, and float endlessly. Rent a powerboat or take a boat tour and then dive into the inviting water, or access it directly at swimming areas like Wahweap Beach and The Chains. Kayaking and standup paddleboarding are also popular ways to explore the striking scenery at a relaxed pace. With all of the different ways to navigate the lake and several iconic landmarks like Rainbow Bridge and Cathedral in the Desert, you could easily spend multiple days exploring Lake Powell.
Photo By @KevinBoutwell
Havasu Falls, Arizona
Head Southwest from Lake Powell to reach another iconic destination, Havasu Falls. This 100-foot waterfall in the Grand Canyon feeds a luminous pool that’s perfect for swimming. Havasu Falls is a bucket list type of place and getting there is not for the faint of heart. You’ll have to leave your van up top and hike into the Grand Canyon, where you’ll stay in a tent campground or lodge near the falls. It’s extremely competitive to get a reservation for this destination in the Havasupai Indian Reservation, so you’ll need to plan well in advance. However, the breathtaking scenery of Havasu Falls and the four other waterfalls in the area are well worth the hurdles you’ll have to jump through to get there.
Lake Chelan, Washington
If swimming is just one of many activities you’re looking to partake in this summer, you’ll appreciate the variety of recreation opportunities at Lake Chelan. Washington State’s largest lake winds its way through picturesque hills where you can enjoy wine tasting, mountain biking, boutique shopping, and even zip-lining. In the summer, dropping water levels in the lake reveal natural sandy beaches for sunbathing and swimming. July through September is the best time to swim. The area also has plenty of protected nature for van camping at Lake Chelan State Park and the five other parks on the lake.
Photo By @LetíciaBaltieri
Green Lake, New York
Looking for a swimming destination on the East Coast? Look no further than Green Lakes State Park in New York. There you’ll find bright teal water–the unusual color comes from suspended minerals–surrounded by a lovely old-growth forest. There are two neighboring glacial lakes in the park, Green Lake and Round Lake. Survey the perimeter of both lakes on a peaceful 3.25-mile hike, then cool off at either East or West Green Lake Beaches. The beaches are well equipped with lifeguards, paddleboard and non-motorized boat rentals, picnic areas, and hot showers. The state park is also home to a popular 18-hole golf course. This destination pairs pristine nature with creature comforts.
Photo By @LaurenClarkPhoto
Blue Hole, Texas
“Blue Hole” seems to be a common name for swimming holes across the U.S. In fact, there are multiple places called Blue Hole in Texas alone. Interestingly, this swimming spot at Blue Hole Regional Park is a misnomer. The natural spring-fed swimming hole is a green, not blue, paradise thanks to the surrounding cypress trees reflecting in the water. Hop on the fan-favorite rope swings or relax and read on the grassy swim lawn. After you’ve had your fill of hanging out by the water, you can hike through the verdant landscape or play basketball on the park’s courts. However you choose to spend your time at Blue Hole Regional Park, you’re in for some quintessential summer fun.
When it comes to swimming in nature, a camper van is your best friend. Spend all day out on the water, then rinse off and unwind in your comfortable home on wheels. Looking for a van with the most innovative amenities on the market? Visit Rec Van today.