12 Top-Secret Swimming Holes

Chill out this summer at some of North America's most refreshing hidden oases

The start of summer means travelers will be flocking to beaches and lakefronts in droves. Sure, we love boardwalks and water skiing and volleyball as much as the next guy. But when it comes to purely and simply communing with the water, there’s no better place to take a dip than an all-American swimming hole.[slideshow:679]

Swimming holes come in many shapes and sizes, but you’ll know one when you see it: a refreshing pool under a waterfall, a cool mountain stream, a crisp freshwater spring, a shaded grotto, a desert creek. No matter the locale, there’s an intimacy to the experience, fewer distractions, a deeper connection to nature. This is a place where every tiny detail—the color and temperature of the water, the type of rocks that line the pool, the height of the diving platform, the soundtrack of bird calls you’ll hear—combines to make a wholly one-of-a-kind experience. Truly, no two are the same.

Click here for the Secret Swimming Holes slideshow.

Best of all, swimming holes have a way of weeding out all but the most devoted diehards. After all, the vast majority will take research, time, effort and, in many cases, skill to tackle. Whether you’re searching for that one unmarked highway turnoff, hiking for miles in a national park, or perhaps even hiring a helicopter or pack animal to take you to some remote canyon corner, you know you’re earning something special along the way. Your reward? Spending time in an unspoiled oasis of refreshing calm with just your friends, the sun, the water, and anyone else dedicated enough to make the trek.

Click here for the Secret Swimming Holes slideshow.