10 of the best spots in the United States for cliff diving

There’s something incredibly freeing about jumping into the unknown. For thrill-seekers, the best respite from the summer heat comes in the form of an unsanctioned, naturally made dive site.  And for those who don’t have the experience to safely jump, you can sit back, relax and watch the others make a splash.  Here are 10 beautiful places to make the leap.

A few words of caution: Look before you jump (water should be at least eight feet deep) and don’t go it alone (buddy systems are best when you’re living on the edge). 

Crater Lake National Park | Oregon

Crater Lake National Park will cool you off quickly — Photo courtesy of Powderruns via Flickr

Not only is Crater Lake considered one of the most jaw-droppingly gorgeous spots in the world, with its true blue hue and forest setting, it’s also one of the most refreshing dives you can take. Temps near the surface hover at a chilly 55 degrees, and with a depth of nearly 2,000 feet, you don’t have to worry about hitting rock bottom. 

Red Rocks Park | Vermont

One of the most dangerous jumps in the country, Red Rocks has cliffs as high as 76 feet tall with narrow, jagged openings and sobering cold temps in Lake Champlain. Unskilled jumpers can go for the thrill of watching.  

Havasupai Falls | Arizona

Havasupai Falls offers a softer landing — Photo courtesy of Jon Roig via Flickr

Waterfall jumping is a gentler alternative to cliff diving: the churning water softens the landing. Set in the southern rim of the Grand Canyon, it takes a 10-mile hike to get to this gem with turquoise blue waters and a red, sandy bottom.

For decades, young men of the Havasupai tribe took to the falls as a rite of passage. Today, adventure seekers take on the hike to jump into these crystalline waters with plenty of low-to-mid level cliffs for beginners.

Kahekili’s Leap | Hawaii

The mother of all jumps: Legend has it that in the 1770s, Kahekili, the Birdman King, spearheaded the sport by making his warriors leap from the top of the 63-foot falls into shallow waters below to prove their loyalty. While the lore might lure you to Kahekili’s Leap in Lanai, this is one of the most dangerous dives and recommended only for pros. 

Caney Fork Gorge | Tennessee

Caney Fork Gorge is a popular place for fun on the water — Photo courtesy of daveoratox via Flickr

Inside Rock Island State Park, 84 miles from Nashville, the Caney Fork Gorge attracts jumpers with its family of waterfalls dropping into one of the best little swimming holes in Tennessee. Make sure the water is high enough, pick your favorite spot on the plateau and hop right in alongside the hipsters and country folk. 

Guffey Gorge | Colorado

Coloradoans managed to keep Guffey, a.k.a “Paradise Cove,” close to the sleeve for years. While no longer a secret, it’s still relatively quiet and a prime spot for enthusiasts. You’ll find it a short, but steep hike from County Road 112, around 35 miles from Colorado Springs. 

Possum Kingdom Lake | Texas

Red Bull Cliff Diving competition at Possum Kingdom Lake — Photo courtesy of Red Bull

Of course, Red Bull, the “gives you wings” energy drink, would host a cliff-jumping competition, and, of course, Texas with its “bigger is better” motto would provide a host site. Daredevils take to the 80-foot cliffs at Possum Kingdom for a chance at winning the title, but laymen would do best to stick to the 20-foot leaps.

Aztec Falls | California

This is one of the best spots to jump – if you can find it. There are cliffs from five to 60 feet high, suiting different adrenaline level desires. It only requires a one-mile hike (round trip), and it’s an easy day trip from Los Angeles. To get there, head to San Bernardino National Forest and follow this path

Hippie Hole | Alabama

Hippie Hole is also known as Martha’s Falls — Photo courtesy of Tennessee Wanderer via Flickr

Yes, this place is a little dicey (think an unlit, jagged hike along slippery rocks with rambunctious teens), but isn’t that part of the fun with these backwoods sites? From the Little River Canyon Falls parking lot, turn right and drive to the next gravel lot on the right. Park and follow a rough trail down. Some people also call it Martha’s Falls, in case you’re asking for directions. 

St. Mary’s Glacier | Colorado

The glacier-fed lake at St. Mary’s offers several low- and mid-level spots to take the leap. Work up a sweat on the 1.8-mile loop trail before cooling off in the icy waters. Make sure to look up – you may just see people skiing down the glacier.  





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