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Swimming in North Carolina’s Blue Ridge Mountains

Summertime Refreshment

Nothing is more refreshing while on a summertime North Carolina mountains vacation than a splash in a cool swimming hole in one of the many streams, rivers and lakes in the region.

Mountain streams can be quite chilly, no matter how warm the air.  Still, it’s hard to resist taking off those hot hiking boots and dipping the toes into the icy water.  Although this isn’t exactly “swimming,” it’s one way to enjoy the waters of the North Carolina Blue Ridge mountains. Or you can take the plunge altogether, and come up gasping from the jolt of cold water.

Favorite Places

Sliding Rock
Photo by Philip Lane.

Sliding Rock

One of the favorite natural swimming holes in North Carolina’s mountains is Sliding Rock, near Brevard, a 50-foot long sloping boulder that forms a natural water slide.  The pool at the bottom is seven feet deep.  Changing rooms and restrooms are available, and the popular activity is watched over by lifeguards from Memorial Day through Labor Day, from 10 am to 5 pm.  The cost to enter the USDA Forest Service recreation area is $1.

Lake Lure Beach

Lake Lure

Lake Lure, named one of the top 10 most beautiful man-made lakes in the world by National Geographic, has a sandy beach all tricked out for families looking for tamer water play.  The lake is nestled in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, with majestic Chimney Rock and Rumbling Bald mountains reflected in the placid waters.  The beach is open seven days a week from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with a small admission fee.

Cheoah Point Beach and The Rock

A great place to swim and picnic, Cheoah Point Beach is on Santeelah Lake in the Nantahala National Forest near Robbinsville. “The Rock” is a favorite highlight of the beach. The Nanatahala National Forest covers 1.3 million acres of mountain lands. The lake and surrounding landscape provide countless recreational opportunities for outdoor enthusiasts.


Jump Off Rocks

One of the favorite stops on the many whitewater rafting and float trip adventures on the rivers in the North Carolina mountains is a “jump off rock,” a place where boaters can beach for a short break and a swim.  The rocks are easily climbed and the waters deep enough to receive the jumpers.  Jump off rocks can be found on the Nantahala River just upstream from the popular Nantahala Outdoor Center, and on the French Broad River, just south of Hot Springs.


A Word About Waterfalls—Don’t Swim Here!

The North Carolina Blue Ridge Mountains are dotted with beautiful waterfalls, but bathers must beware of the dangers inherent in wading or swimming above a falls.  Waterfalls are dangerous—wet rocks are slick and currents are stronger than they appear. One slip of a foot and you can be over the edge in a heartbeat.  Enjoy the pools at the foot of many waterfalls, but DO NOT climb to the top and wade out into the water.  Even a short drop can be life threatening.


For more details on the many great places to go swimming in Western North Carolina, visit these websites: