Skinny Dip Falls Trail consists of two stories. One is happy. The other is not. We will be candid as storytellers in describing both tales. Our goal is always your enjoyment of the great outdoors and your safety.
We will begin with the happy story, one that you’ll wish you could have enjoyed yourself.
Skinny Dip Falls Trail is famous for its cascading waterfalls that roar into a deep, clear pool. It is one of the most popular hikes along the Blue Ridge Parkway due to its beauty and the pristine water hole.
Parking for Skinny Dip Falls Trail is at the Glass Rock Overlook at milepost 417 of the Blue Ridge Parkway. When summer temperatures soar in the Blue Ridge Mountains, the parking lot will be jammed with cars while the overlook is barren of people. No, there hasn’t been an alien abduction. Most have taken the 3/4-mile hike to the swimming holes at Skinny Dip Falls Trail. And although its name may inspire you to swim in your “birthday suit,” please keep your clothes on!
To begin your adventure, head down the parking lot to the parkway. Cross the road to the trailhead that is unmarked but should be easy to spot. The muddy path descends through a fern-filled forest towards the falls. Rooty and rocky terrain can make footing tricky, but the hike is short, considered easy. As you get closer, you’ll hear the roar of the rapids and falls.
When you reach the 0.4-mile mark, steep stairs await your descent. From this vantage point, you’ll see and hear the cascading upper and lower falls. The combined elevation for all the falls is around 30’. You’ll also see various pools here and there. Once on the ground, you’ll cross a bridge over the gushing stream. On the other side, follow the path down to the 6’ crystal-clear water hole. Join the swimmers braving the frigid water, that even during hot summer months, hovers at 65°. Climb to the top of the nearby boulder and join the devils jumping into the pool.
That was then. Nowadays, Skinny Dip Falls Trail tells a different story, a tragic story.
In late August 2021, Tropical Storm Fred wreaked havoc across North Carolina. Words can’t do justice in describing the damage it caused at Skinny Dip Falls Trail. A YouTube video sums it up best with its title: “RIP Skinny Dip Falls.” Torrential rains caused massive rock slides to overrun the area, washing away the stairs and bridge. Trees fell and littered the area. The water hole that once attracted so many was filled with stone. The stream’s course has changed, and even the boulder that launched many a brave soul flight is gone. So are the larger and smaller falls. There is an “unofficial” trail down to the stream, but it is steep and dangerous. The path is open, but the forest service is advising people not to visit.
Since the trail was part of the Mountains-to-Sea Trail, outdoor enthusiasts hope the park service will rebuild the stairs and bridge. However, no one is certain when or if that will take place. Those that visited the devastation commented that only experienced hikers should consider making the trek to see the damage.
We hope we have helped you decide whether you want to brave a hike to the remnants of Skinny Dip Falls. Always check with the National Park Service for up-to-date information on any trail or park you’re considering visiting.
If hiking with children, have them keep their eyes open for the tree nicknamed “Dragon Tree.” The twisted tree resembles the arched neck and head of a dragon.