NC Swimming Holes – Our Top 10 Picks (2024)

Looking for beautiful, fun, and cool NC swimming holes in the Blue Ridge Mountains? With all the great waterfalls, rivers, and creeks, there are tons of places to swim. But 10 NC swimming holes stand out as some of the best that the Blue Ridge Mountains offer.  

These swimming holes are easy to access, beautiful to see, and provide a fun way to cool off during the hot summer months.

Updated: 3/18/2024

Top NC Swimming Holes - Our Personal Picks

NC Swimming Holes - Midnight Hole in the Fall

We're NC mountain locals,and have been visiting waterfalls and local swimming holes as a family for over 16 years. While our kids are all grown up now, we had a blast hanging out on hot summer days at these wonderful swimming holes.

While there are certainly many more, these are our top picks for the very best NC swimming holes.

Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock NC

One of the most popular natural water slides in the US and definitely the most popular in North Carolina is Sliding Rock.  

Near Brevard NC, in Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock has been a popular swimming and sliding destination for many years.

You'll slide down a 60 foot long smooth rock waterfall and plunge into a deep pool of cool, but refreshing water.

Sliding Rock has a large parking area, bathrooms, and multiple observation areas. During prime summer months, life guards are also on duty.

Sliding rock is a brief walk from the main parking lot, and easily accessible. There is a small fee during the summer.

See more photos and get more information in our complete Sliding Rock Guide.

Graveyard Fields - Lower Falls

One of our favorite NC swimming holes is Lower Falls in Graveyard fields.

Lower Falls (or second falls) is a simply gorgeous water fall with a swimming hole below it. The swimming area is surrounded by many large rocks that are ideal for jumping off and into the crisp and cool water.

Graveyard Fields is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, east of Waynesville NC and south of Asheville NC.

Lower Falls is a moderate 1-mile hike from the parking lot. Even if you don't plan to swim, Graveyard fields and specifically Lower Falls is a wonderful destination to see and enjoy.

See lots of photos and learn more about Graveyard field and Lower Falls in our Lower Falls and  Graveyard Fields Guide.

Skinny Dip Falls 

Update: We're leaving this one on our list, but the Skinny Dip Falls swimming hole, as most knew it, is gone. There is still a small waterfall, and few pools here, but there are better swimming hole options in the area.

Skinny Dip Falls suffered massive damage because of the severe flooding from Tropical Storm Fred in 2021.

See more photos and get all the details on the damage to Skinny Dip in our Skinny Dip Falls Guide. You can also watch our video:

Midnight Hole

Another very popular swimming hole with a very tall "jump off rock" is Midnight Hole, in the Big Creek Section of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  

Midnight Hole has a small beach area that is ideal for young kids to play in, deeper water for older kids, and two enormous boulders that older children, teens and even adults can jump down from.

Midnight Hole is a very popular destination in the summer. On a typical weekend, there are usually 40-50 people swimming and jumping from the rocks. Just be careful. The rocks and the climb up to them can be very slick. There are no lifeguards on duty and you are a long way from any medical facilities.

While you're there, walk the extra 1/2 mile on up Big Creek trail to Mouse Creek Falls, a small but beautiful waterfall.

See our guide to Midnight Hole for more details

Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Falls

Probably one of the most famous waterfalls in Western North Carolina is Looking Glass Falls.

Looking Glass Falls is a popular tourist stop because it's a stunning waterfall, that is both easy to access and visible from the roadside. This is a great waterfall to visit for those with accessibility needs.  

A very short paved walkway from the parking area allows easy access to the falls. Looking Glass Falls is not only a popular waterfall, but the area below the falls is also a popular NC swimming hole for kids and adults.

The area below Looking Glass falls isn't really deep, so you'll be wading more than swimming, but either way, spending time in the water below the 60 foot tall rushing waterfall is an experience to enjoy and remember.

See our Looking Glass Falls Guide for more information: Looking Glass Falls Guide.

Deep Creek Tubing in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Hands down, our favorite family summer water destination is Deep Creek, in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park.  

Located just outside Bryson City NC, Deep Creek offers waterfalls, many wading areas, wonderful trails, and best of all, one of the best water tubing spots in the Blue Ridge Mountains.  If our kids had their choice, this is where we would spend every weekend during the summer months.

Prior to entering the park, you can rent tubes from several vendors. Once there, you can enter the creek and start tubing anywhere.

People looking for a more relaxed tubing experience should enter the Deep Creek just past the bridge that crosses the creek.

Those looking for a more "white water" experience hike up a little further to the furthest point where you can begin tubing (just below Indian Creek Falls). 

We highly recommend tubing in Deep Creek. It's an experience you won't soon forget.

See photos and get lots of tips for Tubing in Deep Creek in our complete Deep Creek Tubing Guide.

Sunburst Swimming Hole

Swimming Holes

Sunburst is a popular family swimming hole for locals and tourists near Bethel NC in Pisgah National Forest. This popular NC swimming hole has a rope, jumping rock, a small beach area, and lots of wading areas for younger and smaller children. It's one of the many swimming holes near Waynesville NC.

Located on Highway 215, at the bridge that crosses the Pigeon River and just past the Sunburst camping area. Parking is available alongside Highway 215. It will be hard to miss, especially on weekends in the summer.

See our complete Sunburst Swimming Hole Guide for more information

Turtleback Falls

Turtleback Falls

Turtleback Falls is one of three waterfalls you can see along a stretch of the Horsepasture River in Nantahala National Forest. Turtleback Falls is the second falls and is a popular swimming spot and water slide. The falls are roughly a 1.5 mile hike and 3 mile round-trip.

Turtleback falls is really only recommended for teens and adults that are strong swimmers. If water is flowing heavily over Turtleback falls, you'll want to avoid swimming, as currents can carry you too far downstream and over the 150 foot tall Rainbow Falls down river.

Even at low water levels, the currents here can be strong, so be smart and know your limits. If you're going to attempt sliding down, we recommend you bring a pair of good quality water shoes to keep you from slipping.

Check out our complete Turtleback Falls Guide for more information

Hooker Falls - Dupont State Park

Hooker Falls NC Dupont State Forest

Hooker Falls is the fourth waterfall along Little River, which passes through Dupont State Park near Brevard NC.

The pool below the 11' tall Hooker Falls has become a popular swimming hole due to its ease of accessible and because of the calm waters below the falls.  

From the Hooker falls parking lot, it's only a short 1/4 mile hike along a gravel road to the falls. The calm waters at the base of the falls make this a safe and fun swimming hole that is popular with families.

Hooker Falls is also one of the most popular swimming holes in Western NC, so be prepared for crowds during the summer months.

While tempting, we do not recommend walking on top of the falls or jumping off the falls. People have been injured here due to the slick rocks above.

See our Hooker Falls guide for more information

Secret Falls - Highlands NC

Secret Falls

As the name implies, this is not a well-known waterfall and swimming hole, and is very secluded.  As a result, few people know about it offering more of a private swimming hole that is great for families.  

Secret Falls is a 50' tall waterfall, on Big Creek near Highlands NC and part of the Nantahala National Forest.

The hike to the falls is a 1-mile round trip and considered easy to moderate. The trails are well maintained and there is access to the top of the falls, and the swimming hole at the bottom.

About the author

Larry Deane is co-owner of Blue Ridge Mountain Life. He has spent more than 20 years exploring the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains and has a deep passion for nature, history, storytelling, and adventure. Along with his wife Jenn, they combined these passions to create Blue Ridge Mountain Life, a travel guide to these stunning mountains they are fortunate to call home.

Larry has more than 20 years of experience as a writer and journalist, and has established himself as a leading voice and expert for Blue Ridge Mountains. He is also an avid hiker, photographer, and videographer. He loves sharing his mountain adventures and knowledge with more than 500,000 people per month on Blue Ridge Mountain Life.


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