15 Refreshing Swimming Holes in Utah (Beat the Heat in Southern Utah)
When you’re seeking an oasis during the heat of a dry desert summer, check out one of these awesome swimming holes in southern Utah. From lakes to rivers to waterfalls, these refreshing spots are where you want to go to cool off during your desert adventures.
Splash In These Swimming Holes in Southern Utah
Here’s a list of my favorite swimming holes in southern Utah, where I love to escape for a break from the heat.
Sheeps Bridge Park (aka Falls Park)
Fire Lake/Ivins Reservoir
Babylon Arch Swimming Hole
Lower Pine Creek Falls
Sand Hollow State Park
Quail Creek State Park
Virgin River Skimboard Park
Lake at The Hills
Jackson Flat Reservoir
I’ve included all my local insider tips for these swimming holes in Utah, so you can choose the perfect one – or more! – for you to explore. Many of these spots are free to access, but I’ve noted the ones which have entry fees.
1. Sheeps Bridge Park (aka Falls Park) - Virgin, UT
Sheeps Bridge Park, also known as Falls Park, is truly one of the best swimming holes near Zion. You can do a little (mild) cliff jumping here, and the kids will love tubing down this section of the Virgin River. It’s also a very sandy area, so bring the sand toys to have some fun on the beach, too.
Local tip: From the end of June through July, you’ll find that this spot is full of tiny baby frogs!
2. Fire Lake/Ivins Reservoir - Ivins, UT
Fire Lake is a beautiful place to enjoy the water with views of the famous red sandstone of the desert and stunning views of Snow Canyon State Park in the distance.. A few years ago, the Ivins Reservoir was transformed into this regional recreational site, which features clean bathrooms, showers, picnic tables, a pergola, and grassy fields for the whole family to enjoy.
You can kayak, canoe, tube, swim, and even fish in the lake, or just relax on the beach. It’s really an awesome spot to spend a day!
3. Babylon Swimming Hole - Leeds, UT
Deep in the desert near Leeds, UT, drive a windy dirt road to a hidden gem of a swimming hole on the Virgin River. Along with the sandy shore and deep patches for swimming, you’ll also find sandstone cliffs you can climb up and then jump in the water from.
Be sure to bring plenty of water with you to stay hydrated while you’re enjoying the beach. And watch out – the deep sand surrounding the river in this little area gets really hot in the summer, so be sure to protect your feet.
LOCAL TIP: The dirt road to the trailhead is a little rough in sections and the sand can get pretty deep, I would highly recommend a 4WD vehicle so you don’t have to worry about getting stuck.
4. Lower Pine Creek Falls - Zion National Park
This place is seriously one of my favorite swimming holes in Southern Utah…I just love Lower Pine Creek Falls! This spot is a bit of a secret in Zion National Park, since the park doesn’t advertise it, so it’s extra special because it’s more secluded.
Stream hopping and boulder scrambling on the short trail will take you to a couple pools and a waterfall with a nice sandy beach. You can even jump from the little cliffs into the water…it’s so fun!
Fees: You’ll need to pay the $35 entry fee/vehicle for Zion or have an annual National Parks pass.
5. Sand Hollow State Park - Hurricane, UT
The reservoir at Sand Hollow State Park is the perfect place to spend a day enjoying the water with a beautiful backdrop of red rocks. Everyone can get in on the fun, from playing in the sand to swimming to watersports.
Sand Hollow Reservoir is a super popular sport for cliff jumping, with beginner to advanced cliffs. Find out more details about cliff jumping and exploring the lake in my full blog post about visiting Sand Hollow State Park.
Fees: It costs $15 (weekdays) or $20 (Fri-Sun) per vehicle for residents ($20-$25 for non-residents) to enter Sand Hollow State Park, or you can use a Utah State Parks pass. Increased weekend fees apply from March through October.
6. Confluence Park - Hurricane, UT
Confluence Park is a 344 acre sanctuary in La Verkin, with a trail that runs along the Virgin River where you can find two swimming holes. One of the spots you can swim is about a ¾ mile hike from the La Verkin trailhead, while the other is right below The Dwellings. Enjoy a sandy beach, picnic tables, and even a rope swing here!
Local tip: Confluence Park sits in a gorge below The Dwellings, which I highly recommend for lodging in La Verkin. If you stay at The Dwellings, you even get your own dedicated access point to the park.
7. Quail Creek State Park - Hurricane, UT
At Quail Creek State Park, you’ll find a spectacular reservoir where you can soak in the water all day long. A lot of improvements have been made at the reservoir over the past few years, and now you’ll find plenty of picnic benches and shade structures all over.
Along with swimming, SUPing, and kayaking, you can play at the St. George Aqua Adventures Waterpark right in the reservoir. Kids of all ages will have an absolute blast on the water slides, obstacle course, trampolines, and swing…and believe me, adults will have a ton of fun, too. (The waterpark requires tickets purchased online or walk-in.)
Local tip: You can rent kayaks and paddleboards right on the shore from DIG Paddlesports…which also has a great concession stand when you need snacks.
Fees: It costs $15/vehicle for residents or $20/vehicle for non-residents to enter Quail Creek State Park, or you can use a Utah State Parks pass.
8. Toquerville Falls - Toquerville, UT
This double waterfall oasis is truly what desert dreams are made of! Toquerville Falls is one of the most epic waterfalls in southern Utah, and the whole family will savor the time spent splashing around in these stunning waterfalls. You don’t even have to hike to get here.
Local tip: But you do NEED a high-clearance, 4WD vehicle to make it to Toquerville Falls. There is a nearly six-mile stretch of road to the falls that isn’t accessible in any other vehicle. Do not try to drive this road in anything less…seriously, you will get stuck and ruin your car.
9. Pa’Rus Trail - Zion National Park
Most people miss the Pa’rus Trail since it’s right near the entrance to Zion. But it is a lovely paved trail running along the Virgin River, so it’s perfect for stopping to dip your toes in the water...or even go for a swim. In fact, “Pa’rus” means “bubbling water” in Paiute. The trail begins behind the South Campground and runs from the Visitor Center to Canyon Junction.
Fees: Since the Pa’rus Trail is located within the Zion park boundaries, you’ll need to pay the $35 entry fee/vehicle ($20/pedestrian) or have an annual National Parks pass.
LOCAL TIP: Also check out George Barker River Park right outside the park entrance in Springdale. You can enjoy a sandy beach area along the river here, with amazing views of Zion. Both the Pa’Rus Trail and George Barker River Park are dog-friendly if you have a four-legged family member.
10. Gunlock Reservoir - Gunlock, UT
About 15 miles northwest of St. George, you’ll find the welcoming waters of Gunlock Reservoir. You can boat, kayak, canoe, paddleboard, fish, and swim in the reservoir at Gunlock State Park. Beach campgrounds are available on a first-come/first-serve basis if you want to spend more time on the water. And if you’re lucky, Gunlock Falls might even be flowing during your visit!
Fees: It’s $10 per vehicle for residents or $15 per vehicle for non-residents to enter Gunlock State Park, or you can use a Utah State Parks pass.
11. Virgin River Skimboard Park - Washington, UT
The Virgin River Skimboard Park is a unique spot where kids can bring their own skimboards and play in the small waves. A man-made waterfall has created small pools to splash around in, and I see people bring sand toys and beach chairs and just spend the whole day here.
12. Navajo Lake - Cedar Mountain, UT
Located in Dixie National Forest, Navajo Lake is absolutely gorgeous! It’s also absolutely freezing, since it’s an alpine lake on top of Cedar Mountain. It was naturally formed by lava flow and you can explore the lava beds in the area when the water gets too chilly.
13. Lake at The Hills - Cedar City, UT
Lake at The Hills is a small, man-made lake right in the middle of Cedar City. It’s easily accessible if you just want to take a quick dip, and you can also go kayaking, paddleboarding, and fishing here.
14. Lake Powell - Page, AZ
Lake Powell is the largest man-made lake in North America, and you’ll want a boat to explore a lot of it. But my favorite section of Lake Powell is The Chains, which is super easy to get to without a boat. The Chains is located just past Glen Canyon Dam on the Page side of the lake, and it is awesome for swimming, cliff jumping, and scrambling around the red rocks.
Find out all about exploring The Chains at Lake Powell in my guide here.
15. Jackson Flat Reservoir - Kanab, UT
A beautiful little lake in Kanab, Jackson Flat Reservoir is a really nice spot for playing in the water and hanging out. You’ll find lots to do here, with a sand volleyball court, a disc golf course, and even an outdoor gym. We loved e-biking on the trail around the lake.
Local tip: You can rent e-bikes, kayaks, and paddleboards at ROAM Surf & Sport at Jackson Flat.
Virgin River Algal Bloom Advisory
Algal bloom toxins were discovered in the Virgin River in July 2020 after a puppy died 20 minutes after coming in contact with the water. Since then, the Zion has been monitoring toxin levels in the park’s streams and rivers. As of July 2023, the park has downgraded most of the water bodies in the park to a Health Watch level, while North Creek (including The Subway) remains at a Warning Advisory level. You can check the current status of the Virgin River Watershed monitoring here.
During warning advisories, the park recommends that recreators avoid swimming or submerging their head in the river because toxins can enter the body by swallowing water or through the nose, eyes, or open wounds.
Drinking water from the Virgin River is NOT advised. Toxins cannot be filtered out by standard hiking filtration methods. Dogs must be kept on a leash. If pets get into the river, remove them from the water immediately, rinse off their fur thoroughly, and monitor for symptoms of toxin poisoning. A dog can die in as little as 15 minutes from anatoxin-a poisoning.
Thoughts from a Local
Since July 2020, thousands of people have continued hiking The Narrows and swimming in the Virgin River. I have hiked The Narrows and swam in the Virgin River myself, and I have not gotten sick or heard of anyone getting sick.
Tips for Enjoying Swimming Holes in Utah
Bring lots of water, especially to the spots you have to hike into. Even though you’re playing in the water, you’re still in the desert where it’s easy to get dangerously dehydrated (and the water at swimming holes isn’t safe for drinking).
Use sun protection! Waterproof sunscreen is key here, since the desert sun is still hot even when you feel cool in the water.
Don’t forget towels if you want them…or you can just air dry pretty quickly in the dry desert heat.
A lot of these spots have nice sandy beaches, so I love bringing sand toys for the kids.
As always make sure to Leave No Trace, and clean up all your trash. Leave the swimming hole looking better than you found it for other people to enjoy as much as you did.