5 Great Western Swim Spots
Have Swimsuit, Will Travel
Put the puffy away and take those shorts, tanks, bathing suits, and sandals down from the attic, because warm weather is officially upon us. This means that many a water-themed trip awaits you and your friends. We’ve been all over the West to some of the most beautiful watering holes this side of the country has to offer; whether you’d rather float a river, spend the day at some beautiful hot springs, or just hang out on the banks of somewhere utterly cool (and preferably surrounded by water), we’ve got the lowdown. For a few unbeatable warm weather destinations in Arizona, Idaho, and our own home state of Utah, read on.
Homestead Crater – Utah
One of the most unique activities in Utah lives at the Homestead Crater. Located in Midway, Utah, the 10,000-year-old crater began taking shape when thermally heated mineral water bubbled up out of the ground, depositing layers of limestone little by little. Today, from the outside, it looks like a 55-foot tall anthill made of stone. On the inside, it’s a 90-degree grotto—crystal-clear, 60 feet deep, and smooth as glass. A remarkable natural formation, no doubt, and perfect for an afternoon adventure.
The Crater offers swimming, scuba diving, snorkeling, and even a SUP yoga class … and fun fact, It is the only warm scuba diving destination in the continental US! If you’re not trying to get too active, rather just looking for a nice, therapeutic afternoon, spend your time relaxing and soaking up the hot mineral water. Depending on the activity you choose at the Crater, consider either a one-piece or bikini. Modern styles paired with reliable support make these options perfect, whether you’re padding around the Crater or hanging low on the sides, just dipping your feet in.
Diamond Fork Hot Springs – Utah
Just under an hour south of Salt Lake City, you’ll find Utah’s Diamond Fork (also known as Fifth Water) Hot Springs. The springs are located 2.5 miles from the trailhead and entertain a doable 700 foot elevation gain. The trail is easy to follow and during the first half, hugs the left side of Sixth Water Creek, a beautiful sight in and of itself. The water starts to become more and more turquoise as you near the springs, though … some pools so shockingly blue that they’re reminiscent of the famous Blue Lagoon in Iceland. Temperatures of the pools vary, and because you’ll just have hiked a good bit, you may not be looking to dip into the hottest spring. The lowest pools that you’ll see upon arriving are the coolest, and the ones found closest to the waterfall source are the warmest.
For this outing, a bikini or one-piece will work perfectly. Throw a pair of board shorts on over your bathing suit of choice and you’ll be set for both the hike in and hike out. Because you’ll be getting into hot water and then out into cooler air, we suggest bringing an extra layer for the hike back out.
Coeur d’Alene River – Idaho
The Coeur d’Alene River offers more than just flowing water. It makes its way through historic mining areas in Idaho’s well known Silver Valle, and is a lovely recreational river for anything from whitewater rafting to paddling and fishing … and of course, floating. Floating is one of our all-time favorite things to do in the summer. It’s a great way to cool off and relax out on the water without much of an agenda! The Coeur d’Alene flows for 37 miles, so pick a starting point, leave another vehicle downstream at an easily accessible location, and hop on in.
We suggest wearing a rashguard when floating. When you’re hanging out in a tube on the water all day, you’ll likely forget to apply and reapply sunscreen. A rashguard will save your arms from sunburn when you’ve finished up the day. Not to mention that paddling a tube can be tough on your inner arms, so a rashguard will put a layer between you and your (often irritating) tube.
Havasupai Falls – Arizona
Oh, Havasupai. Where do we begin? An otherworldly aquamarine experience awaits roughly 10 miles into the Grand Canyon, 260 miles north of Phoenix, Arizona. At the Hualapai Hilltop trailhead, you’ll be led 8 miles down to the village of Supai, and another 2 miles to the falls. Unfortunately, you can’t just show up at the Canyon to visit the falls. You’ll have to acquire a permit to see these beautiful sites, which live on the Havasupai Indian Reservation. If you are lucky enough to get a permit, usually almost a year in advance (yikes!): don’t walk, run. Go to the falls as soon as you can to experience the turquoise-colored travertine pools and startling hiking views. Camping in Havasupai is also a must (day trips are actually not permitted by the reservation) … and besides, when you set up camp beside a free flowing, crystal blue creek, you won’t want to leave anytime soon.
If you take a trip to Havasupai, we suggest bringing an array of swim gear: a one-piece that won’t slip or fall off when you’re at the mouth of the powerful falls, a bikini for your more chill days, a rashguard in case the Arizona sun gets a little too strong (and it might), and board shorts for the days you decide to hike around the reservation.
Lake Powell – Arizona/Utah
What isn’t there to do at Lake Powell? Located on the Colorado River and straddling the border between Utah and Arizona, most of Lake Powell is located in Utah, but there are a few truly beautiful (and important) places you must visit in Arizona. While the Utah side lays claim to the sacred Rainbow Bridge National Monument, Arizona ecompasses arguably the most important part of the lake: its dam. The manmade lake took 17 years to fill to the planned level of 3,700 feet above sea level. In some places, it’s a whopping 500 feet deep. At the lake, you’ll find endless sunshine and warm waters on which to do dozens of activities: rent a houseboat, wakeboard, paddleboard, swim, jet ski, power boat … the options are truly endless.
Much like swim gear for Havasupai Falls, because the activity options are so vast at Lake Powell, you’d be best served bringing a handful of swimsuit options along. Certainly a bikini for those down days on the lake, and perhaps a rashguard and pair of board shorts if you decide to get after it on a wakeboard (this option is one we highly recommend).
These are just a few of the many great water-centric places in the western interior. Some of our other favorites included Sitting Bull Falls in New Mexico, Grasshopper Point and Slide Rock State Park in Arizona, and Devil’s Punch Bowl in Colorado, but of course there are countless others! Wherever you’re going this summer, and whatever you’re doing, just make sure that swimsuit’s packed and ready.