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Jesse Weber | 05.04.2017

The Gem State holds many hidden treasures among its rolling hills, craggy peaks, and deep gorges. Among them are countless lakes, rivers, and waterfalls that burst with snowmelt in the spring and then remain crisp and clear all through the heat of summer. Ideal swimming holes dot the state, some obvious and easy to access, others tucked away far in the backcountry. From the many destinations, we have selected some of the best to make your summer in Idaho.

Front country

  • Alturas Lake's broad shoreline and beautiful backdrop invites families and dogs for swimming, picnicking, kayaking, paddleboarding, and boating in the Sawtooth Mountains.
  • Barclay Bay near Boise has a sandy beach, a public dock, a boat launch, and picnic areas on a large reservoir.
  • Beaver Bay Beach offers sandy shores, shallow water, and room to spread out near the campgrounds of Farragut State Park near Coeur d'Alene.
  • Buttonhook Bay is a nearby and more secluded cove of the lake with a swimming dock and cooler water.
  • Fall Creek Falls is a family-friendly and accessible boardwalk hike to a picturesque waterfall with a crisp wading pool beneath another cascade just upstream.
  • Redfish Lake is the famously stunning alpine lake near Stanley in the Sawtooth Mountains, and the day use area at Outlet Campground is one of the best spots for swimming and paddling from a sandy beach.
  • ​Sunbeam Hot Springs are naturally warm pools that flow into the Salmon River, providing thermal therapy where you can soak and wade, alternating from hot to cold.


  • Alice Lake is perhaps the most picturesque of all Idaho's alpine lakes, set among scenery that will steal your breath at every turn. Hiking and camping options among the many lakes and peaks make it easy to spend days here.
  • Imogene Lake is nestled in the rugged highcountry, where a combination of exciting driving, biking, or hiking leads to serene alpine waters.
  • Queens River Falls sits at the top of a long hike through a deep glacial canyon with creek crossings and some route finding, but the trip is well worthwhile for the adventure and the perfect swimming hole beneath the falls.
  • Redfish Lake's more remote shorelines provide solitary swimming, paddling, hiking, and climbing like nowhere else in the state, surrounded by the most impressive peaks of the Sawtooths and plenty of hiking options for farther removed lakes.


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