Coolin' It Down

This summer, cool off.

On those blazing summer days in Bozeman, sometimes all you want is to grab a swimsuit and some beer and go in search of sweet relief. There are a number of places to swim around Bozeman if you’re willing to look. After all, the best swimming holes are earned, and there’s no greater feeling than slipping into that cool water, reaping the rewards of a day of exploration.

If you’re looking for a short trip near downtown Bozeman—and don’t mind company—try the Bozeman Pond next to the mall. A day-use-only site, it offers a small boat launch, plenty of green grass, and toilets. It’s the perfect place to bring a picnic and spend a relaxing afternoon close to home. Or take the 15-minute jaunt west to Axtell Bridge on the Gallatin for easy access and cold, clear water. If you’ve got more time, drive up Bridger Canyon to Fairy Lake. This picturesque alpine retreat offers fishing, camping, and beautiful day-hikes. The water tends to be chilly, but on those super hot summer afternoons, the cool mountain water is just the respite you need.

If you’re headed to Yellowstone Park, drop into the Firehole River for a fun swimming hole below a slot canyon, perfect for cooling off after exploring the thermal features. (Remember that it is Yellowstone and therefore apt to be crawling with tourists.) Headed back through Livingston, scope out the 9th St. Bridge over the Yellowstone River, where locals partake of the large swimming area and sprawling beach. Be advised: the Yellowstone River has powerful currents; be careful swimming and keep kids and dogs close.

Ennis Lake, north of Ennis, is a shallow reservoir with an average depth of eight feet (20 feet at its deepest); the water often reaches temperatures up to 80 degrees for a more comfortable swim.

To the west, seek out the large swimming hole on the Mighty Mo at Missouri Headwaters State Park. Swim across the eddy to a gravel bank and float down the main current, slipping into a small cove where you sprawl out and work on your tan. Again, be mindful of undercurrents and make sure the weaker swimmers stay in the slack water.

Going Airborne
Looking for something more exciting than a simple swim? There are many rope swings, cliffs, and jumping bridges in the area sure to enhance your afternoon dip. Like the local swimming holes, it’ll take some searching, but the best places are those you have to work to find. Remember to always inspect your landing zone for obstacles and verify water depth before jumping.

Fairy Lake has a rope swing just off the trail. It’s easy to spot if you’re looking for it, and once you do, you’ll find one of the best swimming spots on the lake.

Ennis Lake is home to a few different locations prime for cliff jumping. Take time to explore the lake and see what you can find.

The Jefferson River offers a couple classic bridge jumps for the more adventurous river-goers. Lofty leapers can climb to the top of the bridge, or if heights aren’t your thing, stay roadside for a shorter drop.

South of Livingston, the Yellowstone River offers a few jumping spots right off the highway—a perfect place to cool off and have some fun after a day of sunshine. Be advised: only a few bridges have water deep enough underneath for a safe landing.

Editor's note: Always check water depth before jumping, and don't assume it's safe just because someone else jumped in before you. Even though the base depth may be sufficient, a protruding rock hidden below the surface could ruin your day—or your life.