The Smoky Mountains are famed for hiking and camping, and its scenic vistas and mountain trails attract hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. However, these are not the only ways that the beauty of the Smokies can be appreciated. Many visitors might not even be aware that swimming is also a popular activity in the Smoky Mountains, and there are a number of swimming holes one can seek out.
While some are tucked away and secluded in the Smokies, others are easily reachable and are often dominated by summer tourists and locals. Regardless of which type of swimming hole one finds themselves drawn to, one thing is for sure: taking a dip after a hike through the Smoky Mountains is a one-of-a-kind experience. When summer weather calls for a cooldown, these rivers, streams, and creeks are ready to provide visitors to the Smokies with the relaxation and chill vibes they desire.
What To Know About Swimming In The Smoky Mountains
Before taking that dive into the nearest swimming hole in the Smokies, it's important to know that not every body of water is safe for swimming. The swimming holes that are frequented by hikers and visitors to the mountains are filtered with fresh, clean water, and are (mostly) free of strong currents. Those who are not strong swimmers should always use caution when swimming in a wilderness area, as a number of factors - including the weather, water conditions, and terrain - can cause someone to easily lose their footing or become disoriented.
With that being said, swimming in a natural area should always be the first priority. Swimmers should avoid patches of slippery rocks and should wear appropriate footwear with good grip when traversing wet terrain. Additionally, they should avoid jumping into shallow water or venturing near rapids or areas where the current picks up. While park rangers might be around to issue warnings, the terrain in the Smoky Mountains should always be respected, regardless of whether an authority figure is around.
The Best Swimming Holes In The Smoky Mountains
With safety tips in mind, those who venture into these beautiful woods will be greeted with nothing short of a magical landscape. These swimming holes are scenic and tranquil, and are secluded enough to feel private, but not remote enough to feel barren and desolate.
Some might be familiar with the Little River because of The Sinks (which we'll get to later on), but Townsend Wye is a calmer part of this famous waterway. This is also the easiest swimming hole to access since Townsend is easily accessible and the swimming hole is not far from the main road.
There's plenty of greenery around Townsend Wye for visitors to sit down and enjoy a sunny day or pack a lunch, and its gentle rapids are perfect for tubing. Some visitors have even taken to jumping off the rock walls surrounding the deepest parts of the swimming hole, while others stick to its shallow, calm areas to laze away the day.
While it's not recommended that visitors go swimming in The Sinks, it hasn't stopped many from doing so. However, The Sinks is split into two visibly separate parts: the cascade and the calm swimming hole further west. The upper cascade and the area underneath the bridge should be avoided at all costs due to strong currents, white-water rapids, and a swirling whirlpool that has claimed the lives of others. To the west, its natural pool is much calmer and it's not unusual to see visitors taking a dip on days when it's especially hot.
Visitors should take extreme caution in reaching the lower swimming hole that can be found west past the falls. It's often slippery and can pose threats to those wearing improper footwear or who are unfamiliar with the area.
While the name of this swimming hole implies that its active at night, its name actually has nothing to do with when this natural pool is visited. It's not unusual to not be alone at Midnight Hole since it is so popular, mostly due to its stunning beauty. A six-foot waterfall sits just upstream from the swimming hole itself, and the water is crystal-clear and always cool enough for a dip no matter how hot the temperature.
This swimming hole can be found after a short 1.4-mile hike from the Big Creek Trail inside of Great Smoky Mountains National Park.
This swimming hole requires practically no effort to reach, as its visitors usually just pull up, jump out, and jump right in. The site of Metcalf Bottoms is actually part picnic area, which is convenient for families and groups looking to grab a bite before taking a dip. It's also one of the shallowest swimming holes, with its deepest part being only about four feet, according to smokymountains.com.
This makes it a great option for children, as there are no rough waters or strong currents to contend with. However, since there are no lifeguards on duty, parents should always be aware of where their families are swimming.