Soak up the summer sunshine by adventuring to your very own (semi-) secret swimming hole. Not always easy to reach, these swimming holes will reward you with pristine beaches, clear water, and the magic of having escaped the crowds.
Check an item off our summer bucket list along the way for your chance to win up to $500 in driving credit. We’re giving away $25 in driving credit each week to make your summer adventure that much sweeter.
Escape Karl the Fog and catch some sunshine by heading north to Hoyt Crossing in Nevada City. Situated along the South Yuba River, Hoyt Crossing offers sandy beaches and access to a number of nearby swimming holes. Be warned: Skinny-dippers abound in the summertime.
To get to Hoyt Crossing, drive east on Interstate 80 until you reach exit 119B for Auburn. Follow Highway 49 for about 40 miles until you reach the river. Hoyt Trail begins just off the highway. The drive takes around 4 hours in total, so plan on spending the whole day in Nevada City.
Once you’ve dropped your car off in the parking lot, take the trail toward Hoyt Crossing Beach. You’ll need to hike upstream for just over one mile to reach the beach.
If you find that Hoyt Crossing Beach is too busy, head back to Hoyt Trail and pick one of the several trails that branch off to enjoy your day on a smaller, more secluded beach. The trails off the main route also lead to pristine swimming holes for the most aquatically inclined.
Soak up the sun at Kemil Beach in the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore. Nestled against Lake Michigan, Kemil Beach is consistently rated one of the best in the United States.
To get to Kemil Beach, head east on Interstate 94 to Interstate 49 in Chesterton. Follow Highway 20 to Kemil Road to reach the beach. The drive takes around one hour in total.
If you’re feeling adventurous, hike the Dune Ridge Trail for stunning views of the Great Marsh. Take in the extensive wetlands and forests that make the Indiana Dunes National Lakeshore one of the most biologically diverse of the National Parks.
On your way home, stop to hike the Cowles Bog Trail. Just 10 minutes by car from Kemil Beach, this area of the park is an ecological wonder. From ponds and marshes to swamps and black oak savannas, the trail will take you through several distinct habitats.
Beat the summer heat by heading to Cunningham Falls State Park in the Catoctin Mountains of Maryland. Featuring one of Maryland’s most beautiful waterfalls, Cunningham Falls State Park offers visitors access to secluded swimming holes well worth the trek.
To get to Cunningham Falls, drive along Interstate 270 to Frederick. Then, take Highway 15 and merge onto Route 77. Travel west until you see the entrance for the park and follow the signs to the William Houck Area. The drive takes a little over an hour in total.
Once you’ve dropped your car off in the parking lot, take the Catoctin Trail and, at the fork, take Lower Trail to Cunningham Falls.You’ll need to hike for just under one mile to reach the Falls. If you’re feeling adventurous, opt for the Cliff Trail to head straight over the mountain.
If you decide that waterfall frolicking is not for you, hike back along the Lower Trail toward Hunting Creek Lake. A busier area of the park, the lake has several roped off areas for swimmers, sunbathers, and picnickers alike.
Stay cool this summer with a dip in the Oneonta Gorge. With high canyon walls covered in bright green moss and Lower Oneonta Falls rushing down, the Oneonta Gorge is well worth the drive and the hike. Plunge into cold, clear water of the Columbia River.
To get to Lower Oneonta Falls, head east on Interstate 84 to Bridal Veil and then drive east on the Historic Columbia River Highway towards Multnomah Falls. Keep driving until you see the Oneonta Tunnel. The drive takes around 45 minutes in total.
Once you’ve parked your car, walk down to Oneonta Creek and cross the log jam. Trek along the creek bed and through the slot canyon for less than half a mile. Be careful; the hike to Lower Oneonta Falls is very rocky and wet. Water shoes are recommended.
On your way back, consider taking the Horsetail Falls Trail and wind through the lush greenery for a little over a mile. Stop to take in the beauty of Ponytail Falls and Horsetail Falls, two more waterfalls in the Oneonta Gorge.