Cold Therapy

Safety tips for outdoor cold water therapy

Taking an ice bath at home is one of the easiest, most convenient ways to make cold therapy a part of your routine. But taking a dip in a natural body of water can add an extra element to your cold plunge. 

From connecting with nature to enjoying a scenic experience, there are plenty of reasons to opt for a cold plunge in a natural body of water. 

Whether you have one close to home or are looking to add cold water to your next vacation itinerary, a little planning and appropriate caution will ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. 

Safety tips for outdoor cold water therapy

Cold plunges in natural bodies of water can be a fun and exhilerating experience, but safety always comes first. 

Age, ability and the conditions of water and weather should always be considered before doing an outdoor cold plunge. 

Other risk factors to consider before trying outdoor cold water therapy: 

  • Current — Especially in rivers, consider the direction, speed and volume of moving water. A general rule is to never swim in water that’s moving faster than you can walk. 
  • Slippery conditions — Of course, walking on ice can always lead to slips and falls. Carefully consider rocky surfaces as well and use caution. 
  • Underwater objects — Be cautious when you’re entering the water, as sharp rocks, trees or other hazards could be lurking beneath the surface. 
  • Ice — Shifting or breaking ice at the water’s surface can make it difficult to get out of the water. Always have a solid plan in place for how you’ll safely get out before you consider getting in. 

To stay safe, consider adding these safety precautions before taking a dip in a cold body of water: 

  • Bring a buddy who can help in the event of an emergency
  • Wear shoes or booties to give your feet extra grip and prevent falls
  • Consider a life jacket 
  • Have a plan for warming up
  • Try booties, gloves and/or a hat to protect from extreme cold (frozen lakes can be just above 30 degrees Fahrenheit)

Best places for a natural cold plunge

Consider these top U.S. destinations for the traveling cold plunge enthusiast.

Sky Pond, Rocky Mountain National Park, Colorado

One of the most popular hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park, this 9-mile route will take you past several lakes and waterfalls before reaching your final destination: Sky Pond. 

Surrounded on three sides by sheer cliff faces, Sky Pond offers breathtaking views, as well as chilly waters. 

Grinnell Lake, Glacier National Park, Montana

A boat ferry, a suspension bridge and a waterfall are all part of your journey to reach this glacier-fed lake below a mountain. 

Grinnel Lake shares its name with the glacier (Grinnel Glacier) and mountain (Mount Grinnel). It was the awesome beauty of this area that inspired its namesake, explorer George Bird Grinnel to advocate it be preserved as a national park.  

Merced River, Yosemite National Park, California

Merced River boasts multiple locations that are great for swimming or cold plunging in Yosemite. Recommended spots for recreation includes Housekeeping Camp Beach, Sentinel Beach Picnic Area, Cathedral Beach and the path across from El Capitan Picnic Area. 

Spring and early summer is when snowmelt from the mountains fills the river, so this is when the water is coldest and running fastest. 

Lake Harriet, Minneapolis, Minnesota

In a place where cold-weather recreation is a must (think snowshoeing, snowmobiling and ice fishing), it’s no surprise that winter swimming has gained popularity. 

Lake Harriet southwest Minneapolis is a cold plunge destination in the U.S.’s coldest major city. A group of volunteers maintains an area for cold plunging throughout the winter months when the Lake’s surface is covered in thick ice. 

Lake Michigan (or any of the Great Lakes) 

With more than 4,500 miles of combined shoreline, the five Great Lakes provide ample access to cold water. 

The weather and water conditions should be carefully considered, as windy or stomy conditions can make these lakes unsafe or swimming or plunging. 

Many cities along the Great Lakes have opportunities for cold water plunging or swimming during winter months. Look for Facebook groups of cold water enthusiasts, Reddit threads or even local businesses such as spas that might provide safe access. 

Create an unforgettable experience

Cold plunging in a natural body of water can be a memory that last a lifetime. 

We always love to see the creative ways people are getting cold. No matter where you’re plunging, tag @IceBarrel in your posts and we’ll be glad to celebrate your journey! 


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