Sports Stories

Traveling on SR 89A through Oak Creek Canyon provides nice scenery and even a lesser-known spot or two to grab a bite to eat.

But amongst the trees and winding pavement are some swimming holes that attract day-trippers and long-distance visitors alike.

Malia Mendoza jumps from under the bridge that passes over the swimming area at Slide Rock State Park. One park ranger estimated its height to be between 35 and 40 feet.
Two of these spots are Bootlegger and Slide Rock. Slide Rock is one of the most, if not the most, popular places to get wet in the Sedona area.

Even on overcast and breezy days you can find visitors braving the even colder water just to say they traversed down the natural rock slide.

A $20 fee for a one-day car permit or $3 for walk-in patrons during summer, Slide Rock might be the most easily accessible swimming hole in the area. Once inside Slide Rock State Park, visitors head to the right and follow signs, and fellow bathers, to the swimming area.

Down some steps and to the left, large amounts of smooth, flat red rocks, which offer seemingly unlimited space to leave belongings and lay out towels, appear.

Varying water depths, from ankle to full submersion, line the flowing water that cuts straight through the middle of the rock formation like a vein.

Continuing ahead there is the natural, approximately 80-foot slalom frequented by visitors, but do not expect to reach high speeds.

“It’s cool, really beautiful,” said Rick Lechleitner, a first-time visitor from Tomahawk, Wisc. “It’s fun and something different, but it’s pretty cold.”

Taking a right at the bottom of the steps, and some yards ahead along a path, a tall, approximately 40-foot cliff appears. Jump at your own risk — the depth below is visible through the clear water, but it is always safer to make sure it is deep enough beforehand, and no lifeguard is on duty.

A restroom is available on the east bank, but during periods of heavy flow the wooden foot bridge that connects the two sides is not available.


About two miles north of Slide Rock is another area called Bootlegger. Parking is free but somewhat limited, and is located on the west side of the highway.

A short walk to the south edge reveals a set of steps.

While descending the steps the swimming hole comes into view.

This particular spot is good for families looking for more peace and seclusion than the bustling Slide Rock.

Water runs at a slow pace, and the cove itself is located right in the middle that does not permit any risk of being washed away.

Its inverted dome shape has two extremely shallow areas at either side, one made of rock and the other sand. The water, like most swimming areas around, is mostly clear.

These spots offer a safe but wet place for children to play, but not a replacement for adult supervision. A medium-sized boulder rests on the shoreline in front of the deep middle point off of which to jump for some fun.

Surrounded by tall trees, there are shaded areas and some sunny ones. But the flank on which visitors descend to reach the shore is riddled with rocks that limit space for sunbathing but do allow for swimmers’ valuables to remain within sight.

Nonetheless, it offers areas for sunbathing, too. Fish typically frequent its waters as well.

Both spots have different attributes about them, but they have one thing in common: A safe, outdoor haven for overheating travelers and locals.

Check back next week to read about another Verde Valley swimming hole.

Just a few miles north of Slide Rock on 89A, Bootlegger is a much more tranquil swimming area. It is a smaller place to bathe, but offers beautiful views and plenty of shade.


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