Although the water can be cold year-round in some parts of northern Canada, in the south, there are many swimming holes to enjoy in the summertime. From British Columbia to New Brunswick, check out these quarries, lakes, and grottos that make up the country’s best swimming locales.
A horseshoe-shaped lake within Jasper National Park, Horseshoe Lake is known for its cold, but clear, turquoise water and high cliffs. It’s only a 1.5-kilometer (0.9-mile) loop from the trailhead to the lake, which sits just off the beautiful Icefields Parkway, south of Jasper. Horseshoe Lake is well liked by cliff jumpers, but it also has shallow water in some parts, so be cautious.
Raggedy Ass Falls
It may have a unique name, but Raggedy Ass Falls is an adventurous place to go swimming in New Brunswick. There are four waterfalls here, and each one has a deep, plunging pool. The pool at the top waterfall is the largest, which locals say resembles a medium-sized swimming pool. It’s suggested that if you’re plunging into one, you should definitely brave the cold and swim in them all.
Raggedy Ass Falls, Sand Brook Road, South Oromocto Lake, NB, Canada, +1 506 230 0087
An excavation site for limestone in the 1900s, the two-acre Elora Quarry, surrounded by cliffs reaching 12 meters (40 feet), is now a very popular swimming hole in Ontario. Locals suggest bringing an inflatable tube to float in, and there is also a sandy beach that leads into the water. It does cost to enter the quarry, which is a two-hour drive from Toronto, but many would say it’s worth it.
The Grotto in Bruce Peninsula National Park is one of the best swimming holes in North America, thanks to its mesmerizing turquoise water and the surrounding Niagara Escarpment rocks. It takes about 45 minutes each way to reach the Grotto from the park’s Cyprus Lake Road entrance. It’s best to visit in spring and fall to avoid the summer crowds, as hundreds of thousands of people visit annually. An alternative is nearby Indian Head Cove.
On Lake Superior, you will find Katherine Cove and its Bathtub Island. It’s named this because there’s a large depression in the rocky surface, which captures water from the lake’s waves, resulting in a shallow, bathtub-like swimming hole, which is a beautiful and secluded spot to relax. It’s just south of the cove off Highway 17.
Located within Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, the Sooke Potholes are a series of deep and polished rock pools naturally carved out of the Sooke River’s bedrock. The potholes are the result of glacial action in the last ice age, some 15,000 years ago. It’s a popular place for locals and visitors to spend a day on Vancouver Island, as the water is both clean and clear.
Sooke Potholes Provincial Park, Sooke River Road, Sooke, BC, Canada, +1 250 474 1336
Both locals and young families enjoy visiting Cascade Ponds, due to its shallow water, small beach area, access to picnic tables, and nearby walking trails. Located within Banff National Park and on the way to picturesque Lake Minnewanka, Cascade Ponds’ mountain surrounds and cute bridges make it feel like you’re “jumping into a painting.”
Cascade Ponds, Lake Minnewanka Scenic Drive, Banff, AB, Canada, +1 403 762 1500
St. Marys Quarry
Known as “Canada’s largest outdoor freshwater swimming pool,” St. Marys Quarry is a hopping swimming spot in summer. The quarry filled with water between 1930 and 1935, which is when locals began using it as a swimming hole. Its clear water and optional activities keep people coming back—even though there is an entry fee. There’s a water trampoline, grassed area, volleyball nets, stand-up paddleboard rentals, and snacks available from the Tiki Hut.
St. Marys Quarry, 425 Water Street S, St. Marys, ON, Canada, +1 519 284 3090
Located within Lynn Canyon Park are many swimming holes, including a 30-foot (9.1-meter) pool. However, although the crystal-clear water looks inviting, it’s extremely cold even in the height of summer. There’s also the option to swim in the shallow and calm water holes underneath Twin Falls, which is within Lynn Canyon too. The park is a large area with many spots for a picnic as well.
A three-kilometer (1.86-mile) round-trip hike will get you to Mystery Lake, an idyllic swimming hole in Mount Seymour Provincial Park. As it’s sheltered from the wind, the lake’s water always seems to mirror the surrounding forest perfectly. It’s an excellent place to enjoy a picnic, but it’s recommended that you arrive early to enjoy the peace and quiet before other people catch up to you.