Where to go on a hot summer day near Flagstaff? Fossil Creek is an obvious choice for many, and Chavez Ranch Creek, in nearby Sedona, makes for a beautiful creekside afternoon. But these 4 lesser-known swimming holes in the area simply have to be added to the list.
1. Wet Beaver Creek Campground
Drive to the Beaver Creek Campground for an easy place to cool off. Creek access is just outside the parking lot, and it's easy to bring coolers, towels, and anything else for a relaxing day by the water. Reasonably deep pools and flat rock shelves allow for kid-or-adult-friendly 'cliff jumping' and there's even a rope swing further down. This spot gets a little busy in the summer, but it's well worth the trip. Watch out for the crawdads, they're everywhere. No fee, but the parking lot can get full at peak times.
2. Red Rock Crossing
This trail boasts the “most photographed view in Arizona” (Cathedral Rock), but Red Rock Crossing has much more to offer than just a few photo opportunities. Start at a paved parking lot with a picnic area, and hike out on an easy, sandy trail, crossing the river several times, until the trail peters out (or keep going to reach other, more strenuous, Sedona trails). The whole area is ripe for swimming and wading, and there's even a vortex nearby for the curious. Just remember to purchase a parking pass – a day pass is $5.
3. Bell Rock Trail “The Crack”
Bell Rock combines hiking and swimming in Wet Beaver Creek Canyon (not to be confused with the campground). The hike is 11 miles total, though most of the swimming holes lie within the first few miles of trail. Spend the day exploring tiny offshoot trails, most of which have a watery reward at the end. Or, hike all the way to the end and back, taking time for a dip along the way. The trail is a little hard to follow at times, but stick with it for a rewarding, refreshing workout. A spur trail near the beginning leads to “the crack,” a large, flat rocky spot that is sometimes crowded during the summer. A parking pass is needed for this trail – a day pass is $5.
4. Sycamore Canyon Wilderness
The adventurous will want to head to Sycamore Canyon, near Cottonwood. There are a few amazing trails in the area, as well as tons of creek access. It might be the only place in the area to see otters, and the canyon offers perhaps the best solitary watering holes and swimming spots in Arizona. Natural springs provide sudden bursts of water, and Sycamore Creek meanders through the wilderness, at times deep enough for cliff jumping and at other times hurrying along over rapids. The access roads start out rough and get worse – this keeps many visitors away, but the brave and well-equipped will find an oasis of cool, turquoise water with few other visitors to spoil the view. Backpackers, be aware that camping is not allowed in certain areas of Parson's Spring Trail.
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