Wyoming conjures up images of snowy mountain peaks, one-stop cowboy towns and roaming bison, but this landlocked state also has its fair share of lakes, rivers and beaches for you to swim, soak and even surf in.
Summer is short and sweet here, so locals embrace the warmer weather wholeheartedly by taking advantage of every opportunity to get out on the water. There are a few rules to keep in mind when swimming in Wyoming: respect the wildlife, pack your sense of adventure, and remember that even when the water is chilly, the views are beyond rewarding. Here are the best places to swim in Wyoming.
String Lake is calm, clear and has excellent views of the snowcapped Tetons
Grand Teton National Park is better known for wildlife viewing and stunning hikes than warm water (rivers and lakes are fed by snowmelt and glacial runoff), but the crystal-clear ribbon of String Lake is an exception to the rule. The water here is shallow, making it easy for the whole family to enjoy, and it gets way warmer than the surrounding Jackson or Jenny Lakes. You’ll see plenty of canoes, kayaks, and paddleboards out on the water – rent one nearby at Dornan’s – because the lake stays relatively calm on windy days and there are no motorboats allowed. Postcard views of the Teton range make this lake’s small beaches and picnic tables an ideal spot to spend the entire day. Just remember to follow the park’s food storage guidelines – this is definitely bear country.
Alcova Reservoir has a dedicated kids’ swimming beach
There are four beaches to choose from at the popular summer destination of Alcova Reservoir – all with excellent access for swimming – but the Children’s Swim Beach is a favorite for young kids due to its sandy bottom and calm water. Beach volleyball nets and a playground together with camping, picnic and RV sites add to the reservoir’s appeal as a family destination. While the swimming beaches are located in protected coves, the lake is also great for boating and offers easy access with eight boat ramps. The best way to enjoy Alcova is to stay for a night or two, rent a boat, bike, paddleboard or kayak from the marina, and stop at the ice-cream shop at the end of the day for a sweet summer treat.
Firehole River Canyon is Yellowstone’s best swimming hole
The Firehole River is not as hot as the name would lead you to believe, making it a great option for cooling off after a long day of driving and sightseeing in Yellowstone National Park. There are bathrooms across the street that make changing a breeze and an easy-to-locate swimming hole out of the river’s main current. Lifejackets are recommended for kids, and water shoes might be helpful for navigating the river’s rocky bottom. If you’re not quite up for swimming, there is a good beach where you can just relax and watch the action.
Explore local history at dog-friendly Lower Slide Lake
If you are visiting the Yellowstone and Grand Teton National Park areas, you know that park rules limit where dogs can go. The Bridger-Teton National Forest’s Lower Slide Lake is worth a visit if you want to let your pets cool off, too. The reddish shoal that dots the hills here creates unique scenery quite unlike anything you’ll see in the more famous parks. The lake is relatively calm and protected, making it an ideal place for small watercraft like kayaks and paddleboards. On your way out, stop at the Kelly Deli for giant sandwiches and boozy seltzers on tap. Fun fact: this lake was created by an infamous rockslide that dammed the river and took out the entire town of Kelly, resulting in the Upper and Lower Slide Lakes. On the far end of the lake, you can see the tops of trees still poking out from the depths!
Granite Hot Springs is your best bet when the weather turns chilly
In the northwest corner of Wyoming, snow can fall every month of the year! Even in the hottest months of July and August, the temperature can plummet in the evenings, so Granite Hot Springs is a great option for swimming when the weather report is less than ideal. Natural hot springs feed into a man-made pool that costs $8 for adults and $5 for kids to enter. In the summer, you’ll take a windy, scenic drive to the springs, and in the winter the area is only accessible via snowmobile, snow bike or snowshoe (check for closures during the spring and fall months). Entry includes access to bathrooms and changing rooms, but there are few other amenities, so bring your own snacks.
Palisades Reservoir is a boater’s and surfer’s paradise
No ocean, no problem! The small town of Alpine, Wyoming, has fully embraced the summer surf culture, and its laid-back vibe is a welcome respite from the crowds in nearby Jackson Hole. The lake is plenty large enough to sustain the many local boaters who enjoy it, and vibes are always good when the wake surf and water ski boats are out and music is playing. Boat rentals and surf lessons are available with Teton Surf Co, and Melvin Brewing is the perfect place to enjoy a locally brewed beer as the sun sets over the Snake River Mountains. In the evenings you’ll mingle with plenty of other boaters and surf enthusiasts docking up, grilling hot dogs, and just enjoying the lake life.