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Insider Tips: Swimming Holes

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SLIDING ROCK

Pisgah National Forest

Think of it as the original Slip n’ Slide. Mother Nature sends 11,000 gallons of water per minute down this broad, smooth granite rock and deposits it (and you) into a chilly pool at the base. Sliding Rock is one of those bucket list experiences, so grab your swimsuit and take the plunge. Sliding Rock was recently named one of the Top Ten Swimming Holes in the country by none other than USA Today. 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 I’ve found to avoid the crowds is to arrive early, before 10 am.

Directions: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go north 7.8 miles on US-276. Turn left into Sliding Rock entrance.

WHALE BACK

This is one of The Adventurist’s 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.

Directions: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go north 5.3 miles on US-276. Turn left onto FR-475. At 1.4 miles you will pass the Fish Hatchery. Continue on FR-475 for 1.7 miles. Turn left into small parking lot across from entrance to Cove Creek Campground.

HOOKER FALLS

DuPont State Recreational Forest

Named for Edmund Hooker, who operated a nearby mill in the 1800’s, this waterfall has a lot going for it. For starters, the ¼ mile walk from the Hooker Falls Parking lot is flat and easy. Second, besides the aforementioned Mr. Hooker and his mill, the falls has an interesting history: it was featured in the hit movie, The Last of the Mohicans. Third, this picturesque ledge-style waterfall tumbles into a pool that’s darn near perfect for swimming. The flat sandy banks make getting in and out of the Little River a cinch.

Directions: From downtown Brevard, go south 10.9 miles on US-276. Turn left at Cascade Lake Road and go 2.5 miles. Turn right on Staton Road at the DuPont State Recreational Forest sign. The road descends to a bridge that crosses the Little River. The Hooker Falls parking lot is on the left just after the bridge.

Google Directions

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. And, yes, you might see some foolish soul plunge into the pool from the rock outcroppings above. (You might also see that person airlifted out after seriously injuring themselves, as happened last year). But none of this should dissuade you from visiting what The Adventurist believes is one of the most picturesque waterfalls this side of Shangri-La. There is something so tranquil about the setting and so perfect about the way the water unfurls over the narrow granite promenade, that even the most jaded, seen-it-all traveler is brought up short.  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. To get to Courthouse Falls, used the directions below. After parking, follow the trail that parallels Courthouse Creek. After 2/10 of a mile, take a pathway on the left hand side (easy to miss) that delivers you, after 1/10 of a mile, to the base of the falls.

Directions to trailhead: From downtown Brevard take US-64 to NC-215. Turn right and drive 10.2 miles. Turn right onto a gravel road, FR-140. (just beyond a two-lane bridge). Follow it for approximately 3 miles until you reach a pull-off on the right across from Courthouse Creek.

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. This is an ideal spot for picnicing, too, with ten outdoor tables and restrooms.

Directions: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest on US-276. Go north 4.9 miles. Turn left into the Coon Tree parking area.

SKINNY DIP FALLS

Pisgah National Forest

I’ll tell you a couple of  secrets: Skinny Dip Falls isn’t in Transylvania County (falling just about ½ a mile outside the county border in Haywood County) and you won’t see scores of dedicated nudists. Before this spot was well known, it was a great place to shed all your clothes and swim au naturale, but those days are long gone. But just because it’s been discovered doesn’t mean it’s not a must-see destination. In fact, Skinny Dip Falls is completely captivating. Deep in the forest, a waterfall tumbles into a perfect emerald green pool surrounded by rhododendron, laurel and impressive rock outcroppings. A nice sized boulder is perfectly situated above the pool to provide the perfect launching pad for your award-winning cannonball.

Directions: Drive to the parking area located at milepost 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway (from Brevard, the easiest way to the Parkway from Brevard is US-276 North through Pisgah National Forest.) Across the road you will see a white blaze (indicating the Mountains to Sea trail). Take this trail for ½ a mile. Wooden steps lead down to the pool area.

Google Directions

FAWN LAKE

DuPont State Recreational 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 hookie, or while away a lazy afternoon. Some days you’ll find that you have the entire lake to yourself. Other days you’ll have company. 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 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. After parking at the Fawn Lake Access Area (see below) take the main trail/gravel road less than ½ mile to Fawn Lake.

Directions to trailhead: from downtown Brevard, go south 10.9 miles on US-276. Turn left at Cascade Lake Road. Make an immediate right on Reasonover Road. Go 2.8 miles. Turn left into Fawn Lake Access Area.

Google Directions

Short Hike

WHALE BACK

This is one of The Adventurist’s 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.

Directions: From intersection of US-276/US-64/NC-280, enter Pisgah National Forest. Go north 5.3 miles on US-276. Turn left onto FR-475. At 1.4 miles you will pass the Fish Hatchery. Continue on FR-475 for 1.7 miles. Turn left into small parking lot across from entrance to Cove Creek Campground.

FAWN LAKE

DuPont State Recreational 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 hookie, or while away a lazy afternoon. Some days you’ll find that you have the entire lake to yourself. Other days you’ll have company. 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 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. After parking at the Fawn Lake Access Area (see below) take the main trail/gravel road less than ½ mile to Fawn Lake.

Directions to trailhead: from downtown Brevard, go south 10.9 miles on US-276. Turn left at Cascade Lake Road. Make an immediate right on Reasonover Road. Go 2.8 miles. Turn left into Fawn Lake Access Area.

Google Directions

HOOKER FALLS

DuPont State Recreational Forest

Named for Edmund Hooker, who operated a nearby mill in the 1800’s, this waterfall has a lot going for it. For starters, the ¼ mile walk from the Hooker Falls Parking lot is flat and easy. Second, besides the aforementioned Mr. Hooker and his mill, the falls has an interesting history: it was featured in the hit movie, The Last of the Mohicans. Third, this picturesque ledge-style waterfall tumbles into a pool that’s darn near perfect for swimming. The flat sandy banks make getting in and out of the Little River a cinch.

Directions: From downtown Brevard, go south 10.9 miles on US-276. Turn left at Cascade Lake Road and go 2.5 miles. Turn right on Staton Road at the DuPont State Recreational Forest sign. The road descends to a bridge that crosses the Little River. The Hooker Falls parking lot is on the left just after the bridge.

Google Directions

SKINNY DIP FALLS

Pisgah National Forest

I’ll tell you a couple of  secrets: Skinny Dip Falls isn’t in Transylvania County (falling just about ½ a mile outside the county border in Haywood County) and you won’t see scores of dedicated nudists. Before this spot was well known, it was a great place to shed all your clothes and swim au naturale, but those days are long gone. But just because it’s been discovered doesn’t mean it’s not a must-see destination. In fact, Skinny Dip Falls is completely captivating. Deep in the forest, a waterfall tumbles into a perfect emerald green pool surrounded by rhododendron, laurel and impressive rock outcroppings. A nice sized boulder is perfectly situated above the pool to provide the perfect launching pad for your award-winning cannonball.

Directions: Drive to the parking area located at milepost 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway (from Brevard, the easiest way to the Parkway from Brevard is US-276 North through Pisgah National Forest.) Across the road you will see a white blaze (indicating the Mountains to Sea trail). Take this trail for ½ a mile. Wooden steps lead down to the pool area.

Google Directions

Off the Beaten Path

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. And, yes, you might see some foolish soul plunge into the pool from the rock outcroppings above. (You might also see that person airlifted out after seriously injuring themselves, as happened last year). But none of this should dissuade you from visiting what The Adventurist believes is one of the most picturesque waterfalls this side of Shangri-La. There is something so tranquil about the setting and so perfect about the way the water unfurls over the narrow granite promenade, that even the most jaded, seen-it-all traveler is brought up short.  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. To get to Courthouse Falls, used the directions below. After parking, follow the trail that parallels Courthouse Creek. After 2/10 of a mile, take a pathway on the left hand side (easy to miss) that delivers you, after 1/10 of a mile, to the base of the falls.

Directions to trailhead: From downtown Brevard take US-64 to NC-215. Turn right and drive 10.2 miles. Turn right onto a gravel road, FR-140. (just beyond a two-lane bridge). Follow it for approximately 3 miles until you reach a pull-off on the right across from Courthouse Creek.

Google Directions