While summer in Utah is generally a wonderful time of sunshine, mountain air and endless trails, the dog days can tend to get relentlessly hot, dry and dusty. In addition to creating volatile wildfire conditions, the weather can leave your whole body feeling a bit parched and in need of a respite. Fortunately, the Beehive State is full literal and figurative oases in the desert, with a host of alpine lakes, mountain reservoirs and waterfall-fed swimming holes. Here’s our list of the best swimming spots in Utah. Some of these require a decent hike to get to, while others are just feet from the car, but they’re all perfect for staying cool on a summer day.
Swimming Near SLC
Salt Lake City has swelled into a major urban population center, but there are all types of unique swimming opportunities nearby.
Mona Rope Swings: Just a 30-minute drive south of Provo, the Mona rope swings bring some excitement to the Burraston ponds. There are at least five rope swings and multiple platforms of varying sizes in the trees from which to plunge into the deep, refreshing pools of water. The rope swings have a small parking lot and are easy to find just by typing the name into Google Maps.
Pineview Reservoir: While not exactly a secret, Pineview Reservoir is one of the best spots to take a dip near SLC and Ogden. The reservoir is ringed by mountains, which provide not only incredible views, but also surprisingly good protection from the wine. Pineview Beach on the reservoir’s west end is flat and sandy and feels distinctly more like a natural lake than many of the dammed bodies of water in Utah.
East Canyon Reservoir: East Canyon is a famous, historical pioneer route for groups from Brigham Young’s Mormon pioneers to the ill-fated Donner Party. You can retrace their steps in a significantly less arduous manner by visiting East Canyon State Park for a dip in the reservoir. The snowmelt-fed water is surrounded by mountains and seems miles further from civilization than the short 25-minute drive would indicate.
Swimming in the Uinta Mountains
The Uinta Mountains are home to more than 1,000 pristine natural alpine lakes. Unlike those in the Cottonwood Canyons, they aren’t part of the watershed so they’re perfect for swimming. Access them all just east of Kamas and Park City via the Mirror Lake Highway (S.R. 150).
Ruth Lake: Ruth Lake is only about a mile from the trailhead, which is 35 miles up S.R. 150 from Kamas. Enjoy the mellow hike through open meadows with views of the surrounding mountains like Hayden Peak before rewarding yourself with a dip.
Mirror Lake: The namesake of the famous road through the Uintas, Mirror Lake is easily accessible as it’s right off the road. Because of that proximity, it can get a little crowded from time to time, but the near perfect reflection of the surrounding mountains alone makes it worth the visit. A well-maintained path surrounds the entire lake, so you can go for a nice scenic walk while finding the perfect spot to hop in. Mirror Lake is 32 miles up S.R. 150.
Wall Lake: Start from the Crystal Lake Trailhead (26 miles up S.R. 150), and head up the Notch Mountain Trail for about a mile to reach Wall Lake. Wall Lake is flanked by cliffs of varying sizes you can jump off depending on how daring you’re feeling. The Crystal Lake Trailhead gets a little crowded, but people dissipate quickly as you head up the trail and reach Wall Lake.
Swimming in the Utah Desert
These are the literal oases we were talking about. Utah’s famous desert landscapes are dotted with refreshing, picturesque swimming holes.
Touquerville Falls: Touquerville Falls is a wonderful spot to visit after spending a day at nearby Zion National Park. The road out there is a rough, 12-mile OHV trail. It’s passable with most relatively-capable 4×4 vehicles, but it’s not one to be attempted in your ’88 Civic or rusted out Ranger. The road can also be hiked by the hearty. Either way, once you reach the several levels of cascading waterfalls you know the effort was worth it.
Calf Creek Falls: Located in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Calf Creek Falls is named for the surrounding steep sandstone walls which served as a natural pen for calves. It’s about a three-mile hike to reach Lower Calf Creek Falls with its stunning 130-foot waterfall and a deep swimming pool. Upper Calf Creek Falls takes more effort to reach but has a 90-foot waterfall of its own and far fewer visitors. The historic rock art on the stone walls help the miles pass quickly.
Mill Creek Waterfall: Ever the popular tourist destination, Moab is teeming with people looking to cool off after a long day in the sun mountain biking or hiking through Arches and Canyonlands National Parks. The Mill Creek Waterfall Trail is less than a mile from downtown Moab. The full trail is a 7.5 mile out and back, but if you just want to make it to the waterfall for a swim it’s shy of two miles total.
This article was originally published on saltlakemagazine.com on Aug. 7, 2020.
For more ways to cool off this summer see our list of Best Water Attractions to Stay Cool this summer.