There are some of the most amazing swimming holes and waterfalls in the continent in Arizona! It’s crazy but there are literally multiple storybook oases in the desert just outside of Phoenix, Arizona.
It’s incredible the amount of places within 2 hours of Phoenix where you can take a day trip to play in a waterfall or have a drink at an astonishing swimming hole.Whether you want to challenge yourself with something difficult or just drive up to something, there are water adventures abound at your toe-tips… is toe-tips a word? Can we use it more if not?
Some people have no ideas that Arizona has the most beautiful colored water in the country at our “toe-tips” with multiple cascading waterfalls adding to the beauty.
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Due to the advent of social media many of the best places are getting busy thus make sure to see if any permits are needed before planning your trip.
In no particular, below is a list of some absolutely stunning areas near Phoenix that you must visit. Some of the best spots are around 2 hours away but that just means you should pack a picnic and have the best day trip of your year!
Not to be confused with Fossil Creek, Bob Bear/Fossil Springs is my favorite hike in Arizona (aside from Havasupai) and it has the best water activities to spend a full day hanging out. There is cliff jumping, waterfalls, swimming holes, grottos, caves and the infamous toilet bowl!
It is 9 miles and a lot of it is out in the open in the sun. People have died from this hike due to not taking it seriously and be sure to bring a lot of water. There are now a lot of warnings including not bringing dogs due to the length and heat.
I could go on about this place as it is the best day hike in Arizona. The payoffs at the end are like nothing I have seen around the world in terms of all of the amazing activities and things to see near the end.
Even the pretty springs is a great area to see before you go to the waterfall and cave area. There is so much to see so definitely take your time and checkout all there is to see in the area. See here for the full Bob Bear Hike Guide.
Permit needed. 2 hours from Phoenix. For more Bob Bear Trail tips and to see my other best 5 hikes near Phoenix checkout this article.
An awesome hike with the best swimming hole in the area. There are also some great springs at the beginning that you can cool off in instantly to start your trip off right. Definitely take your time and enjoy yourself as when will you be back again?
The hike itself is pretty flat and good for all ages although beware the heat of course as a lot of it is in the open. If you want to the best adventure you need to hike the entire way down the creek, it is amazing, tips on how to do this in the article below.
One of the more underrated falls there is so much to see in and around Water Wheel Falls.
The walk is amazing as you walk along the stream and other little falls the entire way so it is not like you just do a hike for the falls at the end but there is beauty every step of the way.
The hike itself is a great distance for all fitness levels and it is definitely best for families out of any of the options in this article.
Take your time getting to the falls as there are all sorts of unique vantage points along the way. At the fork you can even go left towards another pool of water and small falls vs. to the right towards Water Wheel Falls.
Definitely pack a lunch and enjoy exploring all around the area.
You can also do mini cliff jumping at the end from the random log. It normally is pretty busy so try to go during the week to avoid crowds.
A parking pass purchased there. 1.5-2 hours from Phoenix. See this article for the full Water Wheel Falls hike guide.
Try to avoid coming when there is a heavy snowmelt often in early March when the water can be very muddy.
West Clear Creek
There are multiple entrances to the stunning West Clear Creek Wilderness area that can take you to stunning crystal clear waters, the Bullpen swimming hole (mentioned below) and even to Iron Maiden Falls.
If you want to discover one of the prettiest hikes in AZ and one with the pictured stunning blue water than follow my article by clicking here for the trek to the hanging springs and pool grande.
This hike as you can see is absolutely unreal with miles of this mesmerizing water and swimming holes. This is a full-day hike and you can even camp there.
If you want easier access to West Clear Creek then see below for another great stretch of this stunning area.
The Bullpen Swimming Hole
This is a well known swimming hole less than 30 minutes from Camp Verde. Another great day hike where you can spend time cliff jumping at the Bullpen but also explore for as long as you want along the incredible landscape.
West Clear Creek goes on for miles of ever-changing sites along the gorgeous stream. There are pools, streams, fish, crayfish and all sorts of flora and fauna along the way.
To get there just google search the Bullpen Day Use Area and you will get taken to the trailhead. From there just go left up the stream.
The Mogollon Rim and Payson area are packed with absolutely amazing things to see. Tonto Natural Bridge is a terrific spot right off the highway where you can get a hike in, go into the huge cave, dip in the water as well as enjoy a beautiful little waterfall.
It’s extremely serene and you can choose whether to walk for an hour or do the longer hike and enjoy half a day here. With picnic tables and site-seeing ledges this spot is great for families and adventurers alike.
The only downside is it’s not dog friendly. See here for the full guide for Tonto Natural Bridge State Park.
One of the most popular hikes in Sedona and for good reason. It is an easy hike of which you can turn around at any time meaning any fitness level can do this one.
It is consistently shaded by trees and you cross the water every half mile or less making it constantly refreshing and cool. For a more fun unique adventure you can just walk in the water the whole way up as long as it isn’t going to fast when you go.
Parking pass purchased on site but sometimes there is a long wait. 2 hours and 15 mins from Phoenix. See here for the full West Fork Trail hike guide with tips. For more Sedona info check out my top things to do in Sedona by clicking here or the best restaurants in Sedona here.
This might be the best hike to escape the heat as you are constantly in and around the water leading up to the falls. Is a nice little hike that is often shaded and gets you in the water plenty throughout the hike.
Depending when you go the water will be murky or can be a beautiful blue/green. However, any water color is amazing a it is really the canyon that makes this ares so beautiful.
Permit is needed. 2.5 hours from Phoenix. For a full Cibecue Creek guide with secrets and another waterfall nearby checkout this article.
There’s nothing better or more relaxing than a waterfall, let alone seven of them. Two hours from Phoenix and within Tucson city limits is another waterfall gem. It might be the best hike in Arizona that is literally within a major city.
This hike takes you criss-crossing seven times over the pretty Sabino Creek with some great fauna displaying nature at its finest along the way. The hike itself is long but pretty flat and it is very cool for kids if they can
Parking pass purchased there on site and it is 2 hours from Phoenix. See here for the full Seven Falls trail hike guide.
Maybe the most well known waterfall in the area and it is absolutely stunning from the falls itself to the water and creeks all around it.
Not to mention, if you have ever wanted to go behind a waterfall then you can check that off your bucket list because there is a little cave behind the falls.
There is also amazing cliff jumping and you can go for a hike up past the falls if you wish to some pretty springs.
It isn’t much of a hike to the falls and the hour of driving on the awful road from Camp Verde isn’t ideal for lower profile cars. Bring a cooler, some friends and go enjoy this real life desert oasis.
A permit needed and it is 2 hours from Phoenix. It is easy to access thus it can be extremely busy. Permits also sell out fast during peak months. See here for the full Fossil Creek trail guide.