Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Arizona? Yes, and Here Are 8 Worth the Journey.

(Shutterstock Photo/Lissandra Melo)

By Teresa K. Traverse

July 31, 2023

Summer’s sweltering temperatures are here and here to stay for a few months. But don’t get bummed out—Arizona is home to numerous swimming holes where you can cool off.

All but one of the places we mention in this article are open and ready for a dip (we’ll explain that outlier in a bit). From a state park in Sedona to one of the most majestic waterfalls in the world, here are eight swimming holes worth the journey. 

Slide Rock State Park

6871 N. AZ-89A in Sedona 

Sedona’s Slide Rock State Park is named for the natural red rock formation that forms a … you guessed it … 80-foot slide that visitors can ride down when they’re cooling off in Oak Creek. The state park is located on a 43-acre historic apple farm with almost 300 apple trees. You’ll see the historic cabins near the start of a trail that you’ll need to follow down to the main swimming area. When you’re there, enjoy the red rock views along with plenty of places to take a dip. 

Fossil Creek

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Arizona? Yes, and Here Are 8 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz. via Flickr

Fossil Creek Road in Pine 

Fossil Creek is one of three swimming holes we’ve included here that’s located in the Coconino National Forest, but since that forest alone takes up nearly 2 million acres, we’ve tried to keep them spread out a bit. The 1-mile Waterfall Trail is the most popular area in all of Fossil Creek. Visitors can look forward to a roaring waterfall and clear, blue/green-colored water, which is teeming with calcium. Speaking of which, those rock deposits you’ll see are made of travertine, a form of limestone that encases items in the streambed to create fossil-like imprints and items, hence the name Fossil Creek. 

It’s a tough trek to reach this place, however. The Waterfall Trail can only be accessed from Camp Verde. You must drive on a rough dirt road to access the Waterfall Trailhead. A high-clearance vehicle is advised. There’s no access to this trail from Strawberry by car. 

From now through Oct. 1, you must reserve a permit to access this area. Reservations guarantee a parking space that costs $6 per day. You’ll need to file for a permit online, then bring said permit with you when you go. 

Wet Beaver Creek Canyon

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Arizona? Yes, and Here Are 8 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Coconino National Forest, Ariz. via Flickr

FR 618 in Rimrock 

Located just outside of Sedona in Rimrock (take a right onto Stoneman Lake Road off Interstate-17), Wet Beaver Wilderness is a canyon that also provides numerous swimming holes surrounded by canyon walls and trees to supply shade, making for a majestic setting. 

There are multiple trails in the Wet Beaver Wilderness area, but the main one that hikers use is Bell Trail. The Wet Beaver Wilderness is roughly 2.7 miles from the Bell Trailhead—named after Charles Bell, who constructed this cattle trail back in 1932. When you’re on the trail, enjoy the red rocks, mountains dotted with trees, and crystal clear creek water.  

Tonto Natural Bridge State Park 

NF-583A in Pine

Park entrance fees: 

Adults ages 14 and up: $7 

Youth ages 7 to 13: $4

Children from newborns to 6: Free 

Located just outside of Payson in Pine, Tonto Natural Bridge State Park lays claim to the largest travertine bridge in the world. The bridge stands 183 feet high and can be seen from four viewpoints. The half-mile Pine Creek Trail—400 feet of this trail is developed and the rest is not—will take you down to the bridge. Mind your footing on the way down as the trail is steep. 

Please keep in mind that swimming is not permitted under the natural bridge, but visitors can swim upstream and downstream in nearby Pine Creek. Please also note that pets are not allowed on park trails. Trails close one hour prior to the park closing. 

London Bridge Beach

1340 McCulloch Blvd. in Lake Havasu City 

Here’s a fascinating fact for you: The actual London Bridge resides in Lake Havasu City in eastern Arizona, near the California border, and no, it’s not falling down. London Bridge Beach is just past the bridge, featuring 12 ramadas with BBQs, two playgrounds, walking paths, a volleyball and basketball court, a buoyed swim area, and an enclosed dog park. 

Lake Havasu State Park

(Shutterstock Photo/Danita Delimont)

699 London Bridge Road in Lake Havasu City 

Lake Havasu State Park is home to plenty of sandy beaches where visitors can swim in certain designated areas along the shoreline. The park cautions that sand can sometimes be rocky and to not swim by any boat ramps. Enjoy the white sand, expansive blue skies, cool water, and palm trees in the distance. 

Bull Pen Swimming Hole

Bull Pen Road in Camp Verde 

The Bull Pen swimming hole is located along West Clear Creek in northern Arizona’s Camp Verde, renowned for its clear waters. The hike is just under 2 miles round-trip and relatively flat. When you find it, there are several rocks to jump off of or swing into the water from using a rope swing. The road out to the trailhead is unpaved, but it can be handled in a street car. 

Find directions to this swimming hole at this website. It’s best to have it downloaded to your cellphone as service can be spotty if existent at all. 

Havasu Falls

(Shutterstock Photo/Ryan Kelehar)

Although Havasu Falls is currently closed for the summer, no list of Arizona’s most epic swimming holes could even be considered comprehensive without it. Havasu Falls is known for its stunning blue waterfall, which is located in a remote area on tribal lands, so you must obtain a permit to access it. 

The season runs from February to November. This hike is hard; the elevation changes by a staggering 1,800 feet in the first two miles! You must bring at least one gallon of water. Read more about how to secure a permit at the Visit Arizona website. This epic trek should be on your Arizona bucket list if it isn’t already. The difficulty is high, but the payoff is grand.

READ MORE: These 4 Arizona Cities Are Among the Most Fun in the US

Author

  • Teresa K. Traverse

    Teresa K. Traverse is a Phoenix, Arizona-based writer and editor. Her work also has appeared in national print outlets including Weight Watchers, Bust and Parenting magazines and on sites like Tripadvisor, Wine Enthusiast, SFGate, Brides, Rachael Ray Every Day, Bustle, Racked, ForRent.com, WeddingWire, Refinery29, The Daily Meal, Oxygenmag.com, USA Today and Fast Company. She's the managing editor of Sedona Monthly. In her spare time, she loves hiking, reading magazines and spending quality time with her long-haired Chihuahua, Rocket. Visit teresaktraverse.com to check out more of her work.

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