Tucked deep inside the forests and gorges of Western North Carolina are hundreds of wild swimming holes and natural water parks. We’ve already brought you five of our favorites, but that was only a small taste of what the Blue Ridge has to offer. Here, we bring you a few more bucket list swimming destinations, only with a twist: four swimmable waterfalls! Imagine slicing through emerald water, the sweet relief of a cold plunge on a humid summer afternoon and the dip of the head beneath the falls. Pure Blue Ridge bliss.

1. Wintergreen Falls

Melina Coogan

As the name suggests, this swimming hole is sweet, green, and refreshing, hidden away into what feels like a forgotten corner of DuPont State Forest. I have never seen another visitor at these falls, which certainly makes for a unique experience in this super popular wilderness area. A lovely and densely wooded 3.2 mile (round trip) hike will lead you to this 15 foot cascade of water that tumbles over a sloping rock wall into a boulder-strewn pool. At the edge of the pool, the water rushes over another short drop on its way to the Little River.

It is only safe to swim at this pool when the water is at moderate to lower levels; when the waterfall is roaring, the current will be too swift. This is part of the reason that Wintergreen Falls has remained such a well kept secret. When the weather has stayed dry for a few weeks, take a dip, take in the scenery, and enjoy the solitude.

Park at the Guion Farm Trailhead on Sky Valley Road, Dupont National Forest.

2. Paradise Falls

The perfect mountain plunge.
The perfect mountain plunge.
Thomas Shahan

Until you see it with your own eyes, you may have trouble believing that this waterfall exists in North Carolina! This breathtaking swimming hole is located on Wolf Creek, tucked inside a beautiful gorge in the Nantahala National Forest. The waterfall, set back from the swimming hole in a narrow rocky chasm, resembles a slot canyon from the American Southwest. You can even shimmy up a rope to the second tier of rock, where the river is surrounded by sheer canyon walls.

For further adventure, explore the plunge pools and twisting rock of this unusual landscape by venturing downstream. As always, pay close attention to water levels, as tight canyons and heavy rain are not a friendly combination. Be aware that the dam at Wolf Creek Lake, located above Paradise Falls, is released often to keep water levels stable.

Park at the Wolf Creek Lake parking area off of NC 281. The trailhead is a quarter mile from the lot.

3. Hunt Fish Falls

Kolin Toney

One of the best swimming holes in all of North Carolina lies at the base of Hunt Fish Falls, deep within the stunning Grandfather Ranger District. It is accessible by a 3-mile out and back hike on the Mountains to Sea Trail. Laced with waterfalls and stream crossings, this hike will keep you on your toes as you hop and splash across the slick rocks and deep pools of the tremendous Gragg Prong. Hunt Fish Falls features a double drop into an enormous granite swimming hole of clear, jewel-toned water. It is a cold and refreshing reward after your moderate hike.

From the Wilson Creek Visitor Center at 7805 Brown Mountain Beach Rd., go 3.1 miles North to NC 90 and turn left. Go 1.8 miles and turn left on FS 464 (Pineola Rd.). Go about 3.1 miles uphill and the trailhead for trail #263 is on the right. Park there.


4. Turtleback Falls

Melina Coogan

In this natural water slide in the Nantahala National Forest, a curtain of water cascades down a smooth, sloping rock face and then plunges in free fall into the pool below. Also known as Umbrella Falls, this watery gem on the Horsepasture River provides a summertime thrill akin to Sliding Rock , but without the throngs of visitors or the long wait in line.

Besides swimming, sliding, and splashing, another reason to visit Turtleback Falls is its proximity to the 150 foot Rainbow Falls, one of the more spectacular sites in the Blue Ridge Mountains. However, this stunning landmark presents a real danger: restrict your swimming to the deep, protected pool beneath the friendly Turtleback Falls, and do not attempt to explore downstream. People have been swept over Rainbow Falls, and the ones that survive do not recommend the experience!

Park at the Rainbow Falls Trailhead parking area in Gorges State Park.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Teva

The West coast may have hot springs and glacier-fed lakes, but here in the sultry Southeast we have our swimming holes — and we’re damn proud of them. Just listen to the Top 40 Country Countdown: people are always jumping into water, fishing in the holler, lying by the creek, and getting into trouble down by the river. A summer spent fully immersed in mountain-fed pools would be a fine summer indeed. Here are five of the coolest and coldest swimming holes within two hours of Asheville.

1. Sliding Rock

Jenn Deane

Just eight miles outside of Brevard, Sliding Rock  is Mother Nature’s answer to the slip n’ slide. You will shoot sixty feet down a perfectly smooth rock face, fueled by more than 11,000 gallons of cascading water, into a pool that is six feet deep and shockingly cold. This could be the perfect conclusion to a long day of mountain biking in the Pisgah National Forest.

As one might expect, this natural water park is extremely popular during the scorching Appalachian summers. A lifeguard is on duty between Memorial Day and Labor day, between the hours of 10am-6pm. If big crowds and long lines are not your cup of sweet iced tea, then make sure to visit Sliding Rock outside of these hours.

There is a $2 charge during lifeguard hours; bathrooms and showers available onsite.

2. Skinny Dip Falls

Jenn Deane

This may come as a disappointment for some and a relief to others, but Skinny Dip Falls is not actually a clothing-optional swimming hole. This rugged and serene pool is located at the headwaters of the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River. Waterfalls, jumping-off rocks, a deep plunge pool, and shallow areas for wading make it a very popular swimming spot. If you’re determined to go au naturel , there are plenty of secluded spots to be found by exploring upstream.

Located just a half mile off the Blue Ridge Parkway on the Mountains-to-Sea-Trail, Skinny Dip Falls is a great place to cool down after hiking in nearby Graveyard Fields, Black Balsam Knob, or the Shining Rock Wilderness.

A blazed spur trailhead is located at Milepost 417 near the Looking Glass Rock Overlook. 

3. Compression/Twisted Falls

Ry Glover

Some of the best cliff jumping in the Southeast can be found in Cherokee National Forest, not quite two hours outside of Asheville. A series of curving back roads and a steep, mile-long hike will lead you to the base of Compression Falls—also known as Twisted or Twisting Falls—a 40 foot curtain of cascading water on the beautiful Elk River.

Although this area is becoming increasingly popular, its remote setting and steep access trail keeps the massive summer crowds at bay. A wide pool beneath the falls is ideal for swimming and sun bathing, and there are plenty of cliffs and jumping rocks to keep you entertained. Thrill seekers can find quite the adrenaline rush (not to mention photo op) by sliding directly over the falls into the pool. (While lots of people do this, be aware that any time you willingly or unwillingly plunge off of a waterfall, you are risking bodily harm. There have been a few unfortunate incidents of severe injuries resulting from people going over the falls.)

Your best landmark is Elk Mills Store on Route 321 in Elk Mills, TN. Find a map here

4. Hooker Falls

DuPont State Forest's Hooker Falls
DuPont State Forest’s Hooker Falls

DuPont State Forest is a complete, all-in-one summertime destination. Hikers and mountain bikers will enjoy over one hundred miles of multi-use trails, including the sweet, soaring downhill of Ridgeline Trail, the exposed, sun-beaten Slick-Rock Trail, and the many spectacular waterfalls for which the forest is best known. No day of exploration is complete in this natural playground without taking a dip in the pool beneath Hooker Falls — the only waterfall in DuPont that is safe for swimming.

Explore the misty chasm behind the pounding veil of the fall, plunge off the rope swing, or float in the languid downstream waters. Because the pool is part of Cascade Lake, there is no current or downstream waterfalls to watch out for. Hooker Falls are a mere quarter mile from the parking lot, so bring a floaty, a cooler, and stay ’til your waterlogged.

Park in the Hooker Falls Parking Area. Port-a-johns available in the parking lot. The forest closes at 10pm. 

5. Midnight Hole

Melina Coogan

The mountain-chilled, emerald water of Midnight Hole provides a refreshing oasis from the oppressive humidity of a Carolina Summer. This swimming hole, studded with jump rocks and fed by a small waterfall, is one of the many natural treasures you can find hidden away in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. It is located on Big Creek on the Carolina/Tennessee State line, after an easy 1.4 mile hike on the Big Creek Trail.

Park at the Big Creek Campground Parking Lot.


Originally written by RootsRated.

Featured image provided by Melina Coogan