Colorado’s best swimming holes

Furnace-like temperatures don’t have to keep you curled up in front of your swamp cooler. Load some soda in the ice chest, throw on a bathing suit, and head to one of Colorado’s best natural swimming pools to cool off the old-fashioned way.

Guffey’s Paradise Cove

Until recently, Southern Colorado’s Paradise Cove was one of the state’s most closely-guarded secrets. Unmarked on any map, the swimming hole and cliff-diving spot was known only to a handful of local outdoor die-hards.

The word has since gotten out, but Paradise Cove is still one of the coolest natural pools west of the Mississippi. Carved by what was once a towering waterfall and surrounded by smooth sanstone cliffs, the cove looks like something straight out of a summer daydream.

Getting there: From Colorado Springs, head west on Highway 24 for 26 miles, then turn right on Twin Rocks Road. Follow Twin Rocks for about five miles to T-junction turn left. After another six miles, head right at a fork in the road. Drive another four miles to another T-junction and turn right. In less than three miles, park in a dirt lot on the left. From here, hike half a mile on an easy trail to the Cove.

Photo courtesy Robert Van Vleck

The Devil’s Punchbowl in Aspen

Despite its infernal name, The Devil’s Punchbowl is cold enough to induce shrinkage on even the balmiest summer days. Fed by the Roaring Fork River and surrounded by cliffs, the emerald green pool is a real Colorado classic.

Just a stone’s throw from the top of Independence Pass, the Punchbowl is a favorite among backcountry bathers of all stripes – from slow-moving wallowers to cliff-diving acrobats. Hikers who prefer to keep their feet dry can lower their body temperatures by exploring the shady caves nearby.

Getting there: From Aspen, take Highway 82 8.5 miles west. Park in a large lot on the right side of the road. The punchbowl is a short walk from here, and trails to the caves and grottos begin at this lot. 

Photo courtesy