Looking Glass B & W

With the full heat of summer bearing down upon us, finding ways to cool down become a priority. Air conditioning is great, but it's not much fun. 

Cool drinks and fans are classic, but short-lived options. 

The best ways of keeping summer's heat at bay are perhaps the most ancient. Taking time this summer to cool off in one the region's oldest form of entertainment, the swimming hole, is not only fun, but might just be good for the soul.

A word of caution though. As with any natural water feature visitors need to be mindful of slick rocks and swift water at all times and use extreme caution.

Forget the selfie and enjoy the memory instead, its not worth your life.

1. Looking Glass Falls

Looking Glass Fall sign
Rock cairns at Looking Glass
Swimmers enjoying Looking Glass Fall

Popular with locals and tourists alike, this iconic fall in the Pisgah National Forest has been a favorite for generations. The stunning falls are easy to locate, just off of U.S. 276 about six miles south of the Blue Ridge Parkway on the left. 

It will be hard to miss, due the crowd of cars parked along the road, next to the stair case leading down to the falls.

Unless the season has been very dry, the falls never fail to disappoint, as hundreds of thousands of gallons of fresh, crisp mountain stream cascade over the fall almost 60 feet above its catch basin, forming a deep pool at the base.

The water quickly flows down stream in wide shallow creek, making for multiple swimming opportunities. 

The bravest and strongest swimmers enjoy the pool, while kids and families stick to the shallower parts of the water. 

Some even attempt to climb above and around the falls, but this is not recommended, since slick and precarious rock make for dangerous combinations.

2. Sliding Rock

Sliding Rock

Water swiftly flows down Sliding Rock in the Pisgah National Forest in Western North Carolina

Located near Looking Glass Falls off of U.S. 276, Sliding Rock is just what is sounds like, a natural water slide that drops swimmers into a deep pool at its base.

The spot is extremely popular in the summer, so arrive early or be prepared to wait to get in.

Heading toward Brevard, Sliding Rock is on the right, south of the parkway, before you get to Looking Glass Rock and is clearly marked by signage.

During the season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day - the site is staffed by life guards and there are public restrooms to change in. 

There is a $2 fee per person to get in, kids under 3 are free. No picnicking or alcohol is allowed on site, but there are picnic locations along the road nearby.

Visit the Forest Service page for more details.

3. Skinny Dip Falls

Skinny Dip Falls
Swimmers at Skinny Dip Falls
Taking the plunge
A giant leap...

A hugely popular swimming hole, located off the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skinny Dip Falls is almost in danger of being loved to death. A recent trip revealed trash and left-behind articles of clothing strewn all over the area, which is disappointing to see.

The falls themselves are gorgeous though, dropping several times, creating multiple pools to enjoy.

To find the falls, park at the Looking Glass overlook on the parkway at mile marker 417. Cross the parkway to find the trail head marked with a small sign. 

The connector trail intersects with the Mountains to Sea trail just a short distance away. Head toward the falls by taking a left on MST and following the trail downhill about half a mile to the falls. There you will find wooden benches and a bridge across Yellowstone Prong at the falls.

With several pools, feel free to explore and find your perfect swimming location. For the adventurous types, there is a rock to jump from into one of the pools.

4. Sunburst Campground

Across the street from the Sunburst Campground, off Lake Logan Road is a nice little spot to dip a toe or a line and relax on a hot day. 

The spot sits at the confluence of the West Fork of the Pigeon River and the Middle Prong of the West Fork. 

Park across the street, outside the campground and enjoy splashing around for a quick afternoon cool down.

5. A Swim and a Hike: Big East Fork

Swimming hole on East Fork

Emerald green waters hide a deceptively deep swimming hole, hidden in a quiet section of Big East Fork. Just in view, the small waterfall where Shining Creek joins the East Fork.

From Waynesville head out U.S. 276 through Cruso to the Big East Fork Trail head. There are several parking ares here to use. Nearest the Big East Fork sign, the parking area here actually leads to the Shining Creek Trailhead, not the one we're looking for. 

When this overflows, there is a larger area available across the street. 

Just past the Big East Fork sign a few hundred feet up the road is another smaller parking area, leading to the Big East Fork trailhead. If possible, park here, or back down the road at the larger spot across the street.

This trail runs the length of the East Fork, about 3.5 miles to the spot where it intersects with Greasy Prong and Yellowstone Prong in the Shining Rock Wilderness Area. No need to go that far to have fun though.


There are multiple campsites along this trail with easy access to the river. East Fork runs over numerous small waterfalls and ranges at times from rocky and shallow to swift and deep. 

Natural pools of emerald green water make for excellent swimming spots that are less well known and therefore less crowded than other areas. 

One particularly nice spot is located where Shining Creek meets the East Fork, forming a deep pool, right next to a nice camping spot. The shallow, rocky beach is perfect for relaxing. 

From family-friendly to ultra adventurous, there are plenty of options to enjoy all over the region, just waiting to be discovered. 

Tell us about your favorite swimming spot!

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