The beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains attract thousands of people a year to hike our majestic ranges, enchanting balds, and picturesque hillsides. On warm summer days, we still like to get outside, but with a cool reward, so here are our favorite hikes with swimming holes in Western NC. (WNC)
It is a common misconception that we do not see high summer temperatures due to our elevation (highest peak at 6,684 ft. with an average elevation of around 2,500 ft.). Oh, I am here to tell you that we do, indeed. We average in the 80s in the summer, but we definitely see the 90s too — although consistently low 90s, and it never stays long. During our version of the “dog days,” hiking can understandably feel more like a chore than a fun day excursion. This is where our swimming holes come in!
Nothing beats plunging into a refreshingly cold swimming hole after a vigorous hike that gets your blood flowing and covers you in sweat. It’s such a great way to feel re-invigorated and get that reprieve from the summer heat.
Sliding Rock is by far the most popular swimming hole in WNC! It is family-friendly and costs $5.00 to go down the 60-foot natural water slide into an 8-foot deep swimming hole. Lifeguards are stationed from Memorial Day until Labor Day. Additionally, there are two observation towers. Be aware that it can get crowded, and plan for alternatives if you cannot get into the parking lot. After Labor Day, there is no fee; you may enjoy the slide “at your own risk.”
If it is too crowded when you get there, it is a quick two-mile drive to Looking Glass Falls, and an easy hike to the falls.
Harper Creek Falls
Harper Creek Falls rewards a 1.4-mile hike with a reward of two smallish waterfalls with wading pools at the bottom of each is one I highly recommend. You enjoy an easy breezy 1.7-mile hike to the swimming area, which is two small waterfalls with wading pools at the bottom of each. The water is some of the most pristine and healthy in North America. It is crystal clear and deceptively deep because of that. The hardest part of the trail is the beginning and the scramble down to the water (look for the rope to help).
Chestnut Cove Branch Falls
Chestnut Cove Branch Falls is one of our favorite spots to unwind. It’s a little smaller than the other swimming holes but more remote, enabling you to dodge the crowds. It is an easy 1.5-mile hike to get there too! The water depth depends on how much rain we’ve encountered lately, but even at its most shallow, the water still reaches waist-high. Chestnut Cove Branch is a part of North Harper Creek located in the Pisgah National Forest.
Slickrock Creek Trail to Lower Falls
West of Asheville, Lower Falls Slickrock straddles the state line. It is a great place to go for the more serious hiking enthusiasts. The 17,000 acres include 55 miles of remote hiking trails. Lower Falls and the swimming hole it creates are about 3 miles into the forest on the Slickrock Creek Trail, making for a moderate 6-mile there-and-back hike. There’s also a 6.4-mile loop option. The 15-foot-tall falls drop into a deep hole that benefits from a break in the forest canopy. Sun warms the mountain water and the rocks along the bank.
Cove Creek Falls and Whaleback Swimming Hole
Combine the Cove Creek Falls hike with a stop at the Whaleback Swimming Hole–not only do you enjoy a cooling dip, but you get to see another great waterfall. Our area of North Carolina is full of them! The hike is 2 miles but can be extended with another 2-mile loop. It is near the Pisgah Center for Wildlife Education in Pisgah National Forest.
Just four miles off I-40 is a 1.4-mile (each way) hike to Midnight Hole from the Big Creek Trailhead. Bring a picnic to enjoy on the large smooth boulders that surround the swimming hole. The trail is considered one of the most beautiful in the park.
Return to Wildberry Lodge for Cooling Breezes and Amazing Breakfast
After a day of hiking, paddling around the water, and snapping shots of waterfalls, come back to Wildberry Lodge and relax on our patio. On the way, stop at one of our many local farms for fresh produce, cheese, or wine. This time of year, there is always an abundance of fresh fruit and vegetables–we use them for our amazing breakfasts! Plan now for a super summer getaway; before you know it, the leaves will be turning, and the smell of pumpkin spice will fill the air.