There’s no denying that temperatures in Asheville, North Carolina, can get downright hot, and often, it seems like you can’t find a break from the oppressive heat. But the Asheville area teems with natural swimming holes ideal for a quick cooldown or an all-day outing. Ranging from crowded to remote, the following 10 swimming holes around Asheville, appeal to an array of people from all ages and walks of life.
1. Sliding Rock
The most popular of all the swimming holes near Asheville is Sliding Rock. As the name implies, this swimming hole features a slick, natural water slide that shoots participants 60 feet down a rock face and into a pool that’s 6 to 8 feet deep. More than 11,000 gallons of water come through the slide each minute, giving you a quick, fast-paced thrill ride to boot. It’s perfect for a refreshing dip after hiking or biking through the Pisgah National Forest.
Keep in mind that Sliding Rock can get crowded, especially during the peak summer months. Plan on heading here in the mornings, evenings, and weekdays. A lifeguard is on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Memorial Day through Labor Day. Note that children under 7 must slide with an adult. The cost is $2, and on-site showers and restrooms are available.
U.S. Route 276
Pisgah Forest, NC 28768
2. Looking Glass Falls
9 miles off of the parkway, you’ll find Looking Glass Falls. This popular swimming destination in Asheville is considered to be one of the tallest and prettiest waterfalls in the area. Parking is available near the falls and you can swim at the base of the waterfall. While this is a popular swimming hole destination, Looking Glass Falls still isn’t overcrowded during the busy summertime season! Keep in mind that cell-service is also hit or miss as it is in the forest.
Swimming at Looking Glass Falls can be a little risky due to the strong push from the waterfall. Try not to climb on the nearby rocks and make sure you are practicing best safety precautions. Admission is free.
Looking Glass Falls
Brevard, NC 28712
3. Hooker Falls
Located in DuPont State Recreational Forest, Hooker Falls features a swimming hole at the bottom of a 12-foot waterfall. Their waters are calm with almost no current, making it great for children or below-average swimmers. If you’re feeling a bit adventurous, wade underneath the waterfall for a rush of refreshing water. You can also go between the rock face and the waterfall to a misty chasm, which is probably best enjoyed on an inner tube. A rope swing adds another element of fun to the mix.
Hooker Falls at DuPont State Recreational Forest
1300 Staton Road
Cedar Mountain, NC 28718
4. Midnight Hole
If you’re looking for something a bit more off the beaten path that’s still accessible, head for Midnight Hole. Located only 4 miles off I-40, you don’t have to wander too far to find it. Once you arrive, park at the Big Creek trailhead and walk the easy 1.4 miles to Midnight Hole. Featuring clear waters and a narrow waterfall, it’s a great place to cool down during the day. You’ll also find several smooth boulders that surround the watering hole for sunbathing or a picnic.
Midnight Hole at Great Smoky Mountains National Park
Located about 4 miles off I-40
5. Turtleback Falls
Think of Turtleback Falls as a far less crowded Sliding Rock. Located in Gorges State Park, it was relatively difficult to access until 2009, when the state built a 3.5 mile trail to make it easier to reach. However, this access hasn’t made it as popular as other water holes.
If you’re a good swimmer, slide down the falls to an exhilarating 20-foot drop into the pool below. For something more relaxed, wade or hike about 1/4 mile down the river to the tranquil Hidden Falls.
976 Grassy Ridge Road
Lake Toxaway, NC 28747
6. Azalea Park
When you don’t have time to burn on the drive, head to Azalea Park on the east side of Asheville. This public park sits on the banks of the Swannanoa River, and one stretch has a light current that’s conducive to a nice dip on a hot day.
The City of Asheville maintains the park, so restrooms are available, and the area is well-maintained. If you’re there only to watch, the banks of the river offer an excellent place to soak up the sun and enjoy lunch.
Azalea Road East
Asheville, NC 28805
7. Wildcat Lake
When the other swimming holes get crowded, Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk is the place to go. With more than 13 acres of water, white sand beaches, a swimming dock, a bathhouse, and picnic tables, this place has everything you need to spend the entire day with friends or family. If the weather is hot, it’s even better. Wildcat Lake sits at an elevation of 3,700 feet, providing chilly, yet refreshing, waters that are great in the summer, spring, and fall.
Hickory Nut Gap Road
Banner Elk, NC 28604
8. Silver Run Falls
Located in the heart of the Nantahala National Forest, Silver Run Falls features a 25-foot waterfall that runs into a calm natural pool. You can’t slide on the falls here, but they do offer a nice backdrop to the scenery. Besides, the water never gets more than about 2 or 3 feet deep, so kids can feel confident wading around in the water without much trouble. However, heavy crowds are common on weekends.
Silver Run Falls
Silver Run Road
Cashiers, NC 28717
9. Bust Your Butt Falls
Probably the best-named swimming holes and waterfalls in the country, Bust Your Butt Falls allows you to do just what the name says. There’s little chance you’ll get injured, but you’ll definitely get some excitement from sliding down the falls on your butt. Situated in the middle of a gorge, the area also has some great views when you aren’t hitting the water. A jump-off rock highlights the other exciting part of this swimming pool.
Watch out if heavy rainfall has occurred, as the Cullasaja River can swell and cause unsafe swimming conditions.
Bust Your Butt Falls
Off U.S. Highway 64
Highlands, NC 28741
10. Elk River Falls
One of the most stunning swimming holes near Asheville, Elk River Falls features a 50-foot waterfall that’s nothing short of spectacular. Additionally, you’ll discover an oval swimming pool that’s one of the most popular spots in the Pisgah National Forest. Flat rocks make it easy to catch some sun or have a picnic. Remember that many boulders are hidden below the surface too, so don’t jump from the top of the falls under any circumstances.
Elk River Falls
Elk River Road
Elk Park, NC 28622
No matter where you decide to beat the heat, swim, or enjoy the scenery, remember to stay safe. If you keep that precaution in mind, you’re bound to have a wonderful time at these fun swimming holes.