Swimming is a favorite summer pastime for kids. A kiddie pool in the backyard will do in a pinch, and the community pool is always a good idea (though often crowded). For a true adventure, take advantage of the natural beauty of the Black Hills by taking them to one of the area’s many swimming holes. Some are small, others span thousands of acres…and all are cool and refreshing on a hot day! 

Remember to practice water safety at all times! Limit water activities to dedicated swimming areas and never let your kids swim unattended. Apply sunscreen and make sure they drink plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. Keep an eye on the weather; summer storms are common in the Black Hills. When thunder roars, head for shore. 

We talked to local parents to find their favorite swimming holes in the Black Hills. Here are their suggestions!

Angostura Reservoir

This large lake 10 miles southeast of Hot Springs features 36 miles of shoreline and four separate beaches, all of them nice and sandy. It’s a favorite of a lot of moms, which can mean large crowds—especially during weekends. Hobie Beach is recommended, as it’s often a little less crowded than the others. Playgrounds offer additional non-water options if the kids want to take a break from swimming. 

Sheridan Lake

Sheridan Lake is a popular swimming spot for little ones because the water tends to be warmer than the other lakes in the Black Hills. There are two designated swimming beaches, one on the north shore complex and another on the south shore. Picnic areas make it a great spot to enjoy lunch. 

Sylvan Lake

This picturesque lake in Custer State Park is probably the most scenic in the Black Hills. The calm waters and sandy beach attract families all summer long. Rafts, floaties, and inner tubes are common sights. Older kids can take turns jumping from the rocks into the lake (be sure to supervise them closely, of course). 

Little Elk Creek

This scenic but relatively unknown spot means you won’t have to battle the crowds that are common in more popular spots. Located in Piedmont, there’s a six-mile hiking trail that parallels the creek. It’s mostly level, making it ideal for even younger kids, and while there is no designated swimming spot, there are plenty of shallow pools along the creek that are perfect for splashing around in. 

Cold Brook Lake

This popular destination in Hot Springs features a sandy swimming beach and crystal clear waters that are perfect for snorkeling. Picnic shelters, grills, and a playground provide lots of options that don’t involve water. A short path is perfect for bike riding and wildlife viewing. It’s easy to spend a whole day here. 

Center Lake

This scenic mountain lake, nestled among Ponderosa pines and located on Playhouse Road, is another spot that doesn’t receive much attention. Sparse crowds make it easy to keep an eye on your child, and the water is usually calm. There are shower facilities to rinse off the little ones after they’ve tired of the swimming beach. 

To make sure you don’t forget anything before setting out, here’s a list of beach day essentials for your day on the water! 

CURATED BY MARK PETRUSKA