Updated: 8/1/2016! Looking for a great swimming hole in the Blue Ridge Mountains? With all of the great waterfalls, rivers, and creeks there are tons of places to swim. But 10 “swimming holes” in particular stand out to us as the best in the Blue Ridge Mountains. All of these holes are easy to access, beautiful to see, and provide a fun way to cool off during the hot summer months.
One of the most popular natural water slides in the US, and definitely the most popular in North Carolina is Sliding Rock. Located near Brevard NC, in Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock has been a popular 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 numerous observations areas. During prime summer months, life guards are also on duty.
Sliding rock is very short walk from the main parking lot, and easily accessible.
>>> See more photos and get more information in our complete Sliding Rock Guide.
One of our personal favorite summer swimming holes, and also a popular place for many others with small kids is Lower Falls in Graveyard fields. Lower Falls is a simply gorgeous water fall with a swimming hole below it. The swimming area is surrounded by many large rocks and are ideal for jumping from and soaking up some sun.
Graveyard Fields is located just off the Blue Ridge Parkway, east of Waynesville NC and South of Asheville. The falls are 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 just sit around and enjoy.
The most popular swimming hole destination on the Blue Ridge Parkway is Skinny Dip Falls. Don’t worry, people don’t skinny dip, at least not when we’ve been there! Skinny Dip Falls is a series of 3 cascading waterfalls with a few different swimming areas and a rock you can jump from and plunge into the the deep but cold water.
Skinny Dip Falls is located at the end of a 1/2 mile moderate hike. The trailhead is just opposite of the Looking Glass Falls overlook on The Blue Ridge Parkway. The water is pretty cool here, but refreshing especially on a hot summer day. One of our favorite places to bring our kids during the summer.
>>> See more photos and get all of the details in our Skinny Dip Falls Guide.
Another very popular swimming hole with a very tall “jump off rock” is Midnight Hole, located about 2 miles up Big Creek Trail. Midnight hole has a small beach area that is ideal for young kids to play in, deeper water for older kids, and two very large 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 is usually 40-50 people here swimming and and jumping from the rocks. Just be careful, the rocks and the climb up to them can be very slick. There are no life guards on duty!
Probably one of the most famous waterfalls in Western North Carolina, Looking Glass Falls is a popular tourist stop due to it’s ease of accessibility and visible from the main road. The falls are accessible via a very short paved walkway from the parking lot. Looking Glass Falls is not only a popular waterfall, but the area below the falls is also a popular summer wading and swimming hole for kids and adults.
The area below Looking Glass falls isn’t real 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 lots of photos and get all the details about Looking Glass Falls in our complete Looking Glass Falls Guide.
Hands down, our favorite summer time water destination is Deep Creek. Located just outside Bryson City, North Carolina, Deep Creek offers waterfalls, numerous wading areas, wonderful trails, and best of all, one of the best 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.
Tubes can be rented from a number of vendors prior to entering the park. Once there, you can enter the creek and start tubing anywhere. Generally people looking for a more relaxed tubing experience enter the water just past the bridge that crosses Big Creek. Those looking for a more “white water” experience hike up a little further to the furthest point where you can begin tubing. 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.
The Cedar Run swimming hole is located in the Shenandoah National Park and is the top swimming hole in the park. Cedar Run is made up of 3 separate waterfalls that include both natural water slides and swimming/wading pools. There are a number of small swimming pools, and the main falls at the end of the 1.7 mile hike has a natural water slide that is very popular.
The falls area is located along Whiteoak Trail, a 1.7 mile moderate hike. The walk down is easy, but the walk back up is a bit strenuous, but well worth it.
Directions: From Charlottesville, Virginia, head north on Highway 29 for 26 miles until you reach SR 231. Go north until you reach SR 670, where you proceed towards Syria. Turn right on SR 643/600 and drive to the White Oak Canyon trailhead.
Sunburst/Cold Mountain is a popular family swimming hole for locals, located near Bethel NC in Pisgah National Forest. This popular destination has a rope, jumping rock, and lots of wading areas for younger and smaller children.
Located along Highway 215, at the bridge that crosses the Pigeon River. Parking is available alongside Highway 215. Just park and walk down to the bridge. It will be hard to miss, especially on weekends in the summer.
>>> Check out our complete Sunburst Swimming Hole Guide for more information, tips, directions, and more photos.
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 roundtrip.
Turtleback falls is really only recommended for teens an adults that are strong swimmers. Additionally 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.
Directions: From Brevard NC, travel 18 miles on US 64 West to the intersection of Hwy 281 South, take a left to the park entrance road on the left. You’ll travel about 1 mile down the park entrance road to the Rainbow Falls parking area located off the loop road. There are signs directing you.
>>> Check out our complete Turtleback Falls Guide for more information, photos, video, and more.
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 it’s ease of accessible and due to 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.
The falls are named after Edmund Hooker whole ran a mill nearby and is the most popular water fall in Dupont State Park. Hooker Falls is also one of the most popular swimming holes in Western NC, so be prepared for crowds during the summer months.
A nice amenity of this swimming hole is that bathrooms area located at the Hooker Falls parking area. There is no supervision or lifeguards in this area, so swim at your own risk. While tempting, due to the small height of the falls, we do not recommend walking on top of the falls or jumping off the falls. The rocks above are slick, and people have been injured here.
Directions: From Brevard, take US 276 south for eight miles to Cedar Mountain. Turn left onto Cascade Lake Road and go 2.5 miles. Turn right onto Staton Road (look for the AGFA Plant sign) and go 1.5 miles until you cross a bridge. Turn left into the parking area.
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, located on Big Creek near the NC/GA state line and part of the Nantahala National Forest.
The hike to falls is 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. Just be careful at the top.
Directions: From the main stop light in downtown Highlands, turn onto Main Street. After it leaves town in a couple of blocks, Main Street turns into Horse Cove Rd. Continue down Horse Cove Rd for about 4 miles, then turn right on Walking Stick Rd (SR1608). Continue down this gravel road for a total of 2.5 miles until reach a fork in the road. Go right and drive 1/4 mile to FR4567. Drive another 1/4 mile and pull into the small parking area to the left. The trail begins at the gated road off from the the parking area.