Arizona Swimming Holes

Even though Arizona is a desert state, it’s got a ton of great swimming holes.

Throughout tributaries of rivers and near mountain springs, these natural spas are extremely popular with picnickers, hikers, and just about everyone else who likes soaking it up al fresco style, calmly.

Some of them make it easy for you to practically drive to them, and others require a small walk or a little bit of a scramble forward. A couple of them can be reached after a hard, long hike.

Keep in mind that you’re not the sole individual who wants to cool off here. You wil find a crowd at any one of these spots on the summer weekend, and you need to plan for that.

Water Wheel

If you go to the north of Payson, the Mogollon Rim country, crisscrossed by several canyons and creeks, is great territory for holes to go swimming in. Some of the most used ones are discovered just to the east of the campground, called the Water Wheel Campground, and it’s a little recreation area off of the Forest Road 199.

As you go east along the creek, and go hiking there, you’ll see a number of swimming holes there. The initial few are shallow and wide, and the ones to the east are fairly deep and narrower. The more up the stream you go, the less you will discover there.

Roughly a quarter-mile from the road area is a number of little waterfalls and pools that are elongated near a small granite gorge base, and it’s polished smooth by time and water.

Admission: Free.

Where: You go along Arizona 87, which is the Beeline Highway, all the way up north to Payson. A couple miles to the north of Arizona 260, turn east on to the Houston Mesa Road and go about 7.6 miles to a big picnic/camping site on the right. Park there, and then take a walk on up the creek.

Phone Number: 928-474-7900

Slide Rock State Park

There’s nothing more fun that swooshing around on waterslides that are natural on Oak Creek on a burning summer day. Adults and kids can enjoy the swimming holes and smooth rock chutes that are refreshing, situated near the beautiful scenery near Oak Creek Canyon.

With simple access and lots of amenities, as well as restrooms, a gift shop and a tiny concession stand, and picnic tables, this is a very popular state park, especially on the summer weekends.

Take a little break from your soaking and splashing with a little stroll along one of the little hiking trails. This is a great area for bird watchers.

No glass containers or pets are allowed in the swimming areas.

Admission: $10 for each vehicle (only $8 once Labor Day is over).

Where: From Phoenix, go along the Interstate 17 up on north to Exit 298, which is the Sedona exit, then go along Arizona 179 west and north approximately 15 miles all the way into Sedona. Now, go along Arizona 89A to the north approximately seven miles to get to the park.

Phone Number: 928-282-3034 or visit

Bell Crossing

When the rancher, Charles Bell, developed his cattle trail in the 1930s, there were some good chances that he never dreamed it would be a good spot for hikers.

After a hot, long 3.5-mile hike across a basically scenic landscape, the crossing – where Wet Beaver Creek crosses the Bell Trail – looks like an oasis, shaded by ash, willows, sycamores, and cottonwoods.

To get to the swimming hole, sometimes known as “the Crack,” go on up the stream from the crossing to a number of wide, and, in many places, modestly deep pools along the creek, which are great for a quick dip.

Even though it can be sort of a tussle in some places to get beyond the Crack, the farther you go in, the fewer the people there are.

Admission: Free

Where: From Phoenix, go down I-17 north to Exit 298, which is the Sedona exit. Go east and go down Forest Road 618 for a couple of miles to the southeast, and then turn left toward FR 618A and move toward the parking area.

Phone Number: 928-282-4119 or

Hell’s Gate

Only living in Phoenix would you think of a place called Hell’s Gate as inviting.

Even though it has a poor name, Hell’s Gate Wilderness is a beautiful place, with rock walls that are ragged, and they tower hundreds of feet, and there is a beautiful swath of green in a corridor of a desert that would be sandy otherwise.

It’s a hot, long, steep, and strenuous hike down onto Hell’s Gate, but it just makes the creek seem that much more inviting It even cuts the crowd numbers down.

The route can get a little sketchy once you reach the end of the reek, but the trail will continue on the other end, and it will wind to the west a couple of hundred yards to the place where the Haigler Creek turns into Tonto Creek. The banks are kind of brushy, but there are a number of nice camping spots by the confluence, and the green areas by the creeks are pretty inviting places.

Admission: Free

Where: From Phoenix, go along Arizona 87, which is the Beeline Highway, to the north of Payson. Go east on Arizona 260 and just travel for approximately 11 miles. Once you reach mile marker 263, go to the south onto the Forest Road 405A, and then drive for about half of a mile to get to the trailhead.

Phone Number: 928-474-7900

Havasu Falls

This destination necessitates lots of planning, some money, and a terrible hike, but just think about how great you’ll feel when you’re soaking in the waters of the Havasu Falls, the kind that are turquoise and beautiful, the western part of the Grand Canyon area.

Whether or not you’re staying at the lodge in Supai Village, or at the campsite near, you can discover Navajo Falls, Mooney, and Havasu. If that’s not enough of a volume of water for you, you can go all the way down the Colorado River on a hiking journey.

If you go about 60 miles north of Seligman, from Hualapai Hilltop, it’s a generally difficult 8-mile hike to get down to Supai Village and then another couple of miles to get to the campground.

Admission: $35 for each person to get into the Havasupai Reservation, $5 for each person environmental-care fee, $17 for each person for the night camping fee, $145 for each night to stay at the lodge, which can house up to four people.

Where: From Phoenix, go along I-17 north to Flagstaff. Make a west turn on I-40 and go for about 75 miles to Seligman. Go down Route 66 about 28 miles northwest to Indian Route 18. Make a right turn and go for about 60 miles to the parking lot at Hualapai Hilltop. There aren’t any facilities at the trailhead, but you can camp there if you desire to. There aren’t any facilities at the campsite. No fees or permits are required.

Phone Number: 928-448-2121 (camping), 928-448-2111 (lodge)


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