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5 Best Swimming Holes: Splash down

Looking for a place to cool off in the summer? We’ve got you covered. From the ever-popular and world-famous Sliding Rock to more remote, have-it-all-to-myself spots, here’s our personal list of favorite places to splash down.

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Courthouse Falls

Pisgah National Forest

Yes, this waterfall is off the beaten track. Yes, the water (because of the abundant shade) is always shiveringly cold. But none of this should dissuade you from visiting one of the most picturesque waterfalls this side of Shangri-La. The pool is roomy enough for several swimmers. And a little notch at the base of the falls makes it possible to slip behind the cascade. All in all, magical.

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Fawn Lake

Dupont State Recreation Forest

Not a swimming hole in the strictest sense (it is a lake, after all) but Fawn Lake is a sensational spot to cool off, play hooky, or while away a lazy afternoon. The good news is that the lake is large enough to accommodate lots of folks without anyone feeling like their privacy is being invaded. One big advantage to Fawn Lake is that the water temperature is generally much more moderate than the other river- and stream-fed swimming spots we’ve mentioned. It also has a handy pier that leads out to the deeper section of the lake.

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Whale Back

Pisgah National Forest

This is one of our favorite little spots to cool off. In the center of the swimming hole sits a long, irregular granite rock that resembles a whale breaching the surface, hence the name. It’s a local favorite, so it can get crowded. Weekdays and early mornings are your best opportunities to have this little jewel to yourself.

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Coon Tree Picnic Area

Pisgah National Forest

There are several spots along the beautiful Davidson River that are ideal for a cool dip, but none quite so easy to get to as the Coon Tree Picnic Area, located just off US-276. Slip off your shoes, roll up your pants legs and get your feet wet. Or go for the full body immersion experience. Either way, you’re sure to climb out of the water with a yes-I’m-on-vacation grin on your face.

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Sliding Rock

Pisgah National Forest

Think of it as the original Slip n’ Slide. Sliding Rock is one of those bucket list experiences, so grab your swimsuit and take the plunge. There’s a one-dollar per person charge at the entrance (between Memorial Day and Labor Day, when lifeguards are present) and there are also restroom facilities for changing. Sliding Rock can get extremely crowded. The best way we’ve found to avoid the crowds is to arrive early, before 10 am or visit mid-week.