4 Perfect Summer Swimming Holes

Cool off by seeking out Central Ohio’s best natural swimming spots.

Summer in Ohio often means 90-degree days with 90% humidity. If you’re even thinking about a self-powered activity, make sure to end it at a body of water where you can jump in and cool off. Here are four swimming holes worth checking out this summer, all within a 90-minute drive of Columbus.

Sneak the creek at Shale Hollow

Head 30 minutes north to Delaware County and Shale Hollow Park for a hike-to-creek expedition. Starting from the main parking lot with a picnic area, pick up the Great Horned Owl Trail (1.1 miles) and then the Overlook Trail (1 mile). When finished, head to the adjacent off-trail exploration area along Big Run. Make sure your feet are well-covered, and start wading and exploring the creekbed to your heart’s content. Look for concretions, which resemble sandstone bowling balls embedded in the shale bluffs. Though you won’t find a pool big enough to cannonball into, the calm, shaded, shallow waters offer a pristine place to cool off on a hot summer day. Unfortunately, pets are not allowed. More info: preservationparks.com

Ride the Kokosing Gap Trail 

Starting in Mount Vernon at the Mount Vernon Avenue trailhead, ride the flat, paved Kokosing Gap Trail through a mix of forests and fields as you parallel and cross the Kokosing River, a state-designated Scenic river. A few miles in, roll past Kenyon College’s Brown Environmental Center. Then, at about Mile 9, pass under the stone arch in Howard where you will exit the trail at U.S. 36. Ride south 3 miles to Bridge Street and the Millwood River Access along the Kokosing. Jump into the river from the rocky beach here, but beware of undercurrents downstream. There is a picnic area with a table, grill and port-a-potty on-site. More info: ohiodnr.gov

Go DIY tubing at Mohican State Park

The Mohican River is likely the most paddled river in the state, and for good reason: It’s considerably boater-friendly with an entry-level Class I difficulty rating, beautiful scenery (it’s a state-designated Scenic river) and plenty of liveries providing rental boats and shuttles. But skip the canoe traffic jam and, instead, head to the Clear Fork of the Mohican River, which flows through the state park. Bring your own paddle craft or inner tube and float the mile-long section of river in the campground, complete with three official tubing-access sites. Do as many laps as you like by simply floating downstream and then hiking back upstream to the put-in. Launch at the bridge by the cabins and take out before you float under the state Route 3 bridge. More info: ohiodnr.gov

Paddle to swim in Caesar Creek Lake

Yes, the nearly 3,000-acre Caesar Creek Lake allows for unlimited-horsepower boats. But there is plenty of water for the self-powered fleet, too. Namely, boat-swim areas where you can say goodbye to the crowds at the beach. These designated areas are located in no-wake zones where swimming from your boat is perfectly legal, and Caesar Creek Lake is home to several of them. To get started, put in your standup paddleboard or kayak at the campground boat ramp off of Center Road. Paddle south/southwest along the densely wooded shoreline to the first major inlet; this is one of the designated boat swim areas. Head back to check out the other ones. Better yet, next time you plan to visit a state park with a large lake, inquire ahead of time about a boat-swim area; many parks have them. More info: ohiodnr.gov

All articles are for general informational purposes.  Each individual’s needs, preferences, goals and abilities may vary.  Be sure to obtain all appropriate training, expert supervision and/or medical advice before engaging in strenuous or potentially hazardous activity.