Top 3 Swimming Holes

Hot weather + cool water = late-summer heaven. Add a dose of backcountry solitude and scenic camping, and you might never leave.
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Hot weather + cool water = late-summer heaven. Add a dose of backcountry solitude and scenic camping, and you might never leave.

Havasupai Indian Reservation, AZ
Havasu Canyon

In this rust-walled paradise, deep basins and terraced travertine cascades sit below thundering waterfalls, making it one of the best places in the country (even the world) for a splash. Dip a toe in all five major pools on a moderate, 15-mile trip from Hualapai Hilltop. Switchback down 2,000 feet in 1.5 miles to the canyon floor, then hike 6.5 easy miles to the village of Supai. Continue a mile downstream past a braided fall formed by a 2008 flash flood to 30-foot Rock Falls, which entices hikers to cliff-jump into its 20-foot-deep grotto. A mile later, glimpse the canyon’s poster child: Havasu Falls, a 100-foot pounder feeding a turquoise pool. Pitch a tent in the campground just beyond and stay a night or two. Want more? Squeeze through a series of caves down a 100-foot cliff (chains and ladders help) on the 2-mile trip to 190-foot Mooney Falls; hike downstream another 3 miles to the gently tiered pools at Beaver Falls. Info/permits (928) 448-2121; havasupai-nsn.gov

The way From Flagstaff, take I-40 W 70 miles to AZ 66 W; go 30 miles to Indian 18 to Hualapai Hilltop.

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore, MI
North Manitou Island

Start with 20 miles of Lake Michigan’s wide, sandy beaches, add towering dunes and bald eagles, then subtract the crowds, and you get North Manitou Island. The wilderness outpost is renowned for sunsets over water, private lakefront camping—and primo swimming. Sample the best beaches on this 15.1-mile two-nighter. From the ferry landing, head south 1.1 miles on the Southern Loop Trail, then turn west on the Center Line Trail for 4 miles through maple, birch, and beech. Veer north for a mile to the old Crescent dock site: This stretch of 20-foot-wide shoreline hosts 6-foot waves over a soft, sandy bottom, making it the island’s best dip spot. Catch sunset from the wooded campsite 100 yards south of the dock. Next day, return on the Center Line Trail, turning right at South Cherry Orchard; continue another 2 miles to the beach just east of a 19th-century cemetery, where the rocky coast gives way to a 25-foot-wide expanse of sand. Scout a campsite inland from the dunes; on day three, hike back to the village to catch the ferry. Info/permit (231) 326-5134; nps.gov/slbe

The way
From Traverse City, link M 22 and M 204 26 miles to Leland. Go left on River St. to the Manitou Island Transit ferry ($35; manitoutransit.com).

Susquehannock SF, PA
Hammersley Pool

As if the hilltop views over rolling hardwood forest, reliable solitude, and trout-rich waters weren’t reason enough to venture into the state’s largest roadless area, there’s also The Pool. This 8-foot-deep, 100-foot-wide, spring-fed swimming hole nestles among rocky outcrops perfect for cannonballs, and near a sunny meadow that looks made for drying off. Because it stays full and skin-pricklingly cold well into August, The Pool makes for a prized destination on sticky, late-summer days. Savor it on a leisurely, 11.4-mile (round-trip) overnight on the Susquehannock Trail System. From Cross Fork, head north on the orange-blazed STS, gaining 1,000 feet in 1.5 miles to a grassy plateau. At 3 miles, the STS veers west along the Elkhorn Branch; keep an eye out for white-tailed deer and black bears (and rattlesnakes!). Reach the Hammersley Fork at mile 4.7 and turn north to trace the stream through a narrow valley shaded by maples and cherry trees; you’ll hit The Pool in about a mile. Splash away, then set up camp: The nicest site, a streamside spot shaded by large hemlocks, lies .3 mile back south along the STS. Info (814) 274-3600; bit.ly/SusqueSF

The way
From Williams-port, link US 220 S, PA 44 N, and PA 144 S 67 miles to Cross Fork. Go left on Main St., then right on Fire House Ln. Park behind the state forest maintenance shop.