It’s hot this summer in Gatlinburg. Mountain people looking to beat the sweltering summer heat usually know of a great swimming hole tucked between mountain hollers. The cool and clear mountain water refreshes and invigorates all whom splash and swim in these pristine mountain streams and swimming holes.
For those who prefer to just dip their toes, there is always basking on a warm rock and letting the babbling water sooth and calm you. And most are just a short drive from Elk Springs Resort. This summer don’t miss your chance to cool off while on vacation. Spend a lazy day visiting one of these famous swimming holes to experience the majestic mountain streams of the Great Smoky Mountain in all their splendor.
Midnight hole is one of the best-known swimming holes in the Great Smoky Mountains. Located at Big Creek on the North Carolina/Tennessee state line, just inside Great Smoky Mountains National Park, this swimming spot is formed where the creek flows between two large boulders. With the sun streaming through, the dark hue of this pool takes on dark shimmering light. The sparkling dark hue of these waters entices onlookers to take a cool dip.
The trail to this swimming hole follows an old railroad grade used to haul lumber out of the mountains during the logging boom. The hike to the Midnight hole is 1.4 miles. Before or after your dip, hike the extra half-mile up to view the spectacular Mouse Branch Falls. Located at the far side of Big Creek, these falls stand an impressive 45 feet high.
Directions: From Sevierville take I-40 East to Waterville Exit; Turn R then veer L onto Waterville Rd. Follow straight to Big Creek entrance. Pass ranger station and park in lot just beyond Big Creek trailhead. Follow Big Creek Trailhead 1.4 miles and you will see Midnight hole on your left.
Abrams Falls Swimming Hole
This waterfall and creek are named for Cherokee Chief Abram, or Abrams, whose village once stood several miles downstream. Located in Cades Cove, this swimming hole is a Kodak moment waiting to happen.
Although Abrams falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over the falls makes up for its lack of height. The water plunges into a large 100-foot pool at the base that sparkles with laughter and light.
While there is a bit of hike to this swimming hole, 2.5 miles from the trailhead, viewing Abrams Falls and lounging in the swimming hole make your arduous hike worth the effort. Don’t forget your camera and swimsuit for this picture perfect spot!
Directions: The turnoff to the trailhead that will take you to Abrams Falls is located past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road. To get to Cades Creek Loop Road from Gatlinburg head north on US 441 for 8.4 miles. Take a left on Wears Valley Road and follow for 12 miles. Turn left on TN-73 and follow into the park. When you reach the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek Road turn right onto Laurel Creek Road and follow until it dead ends into Cades Cove Loop Road.
Metcalf Bottoms Swimming Area
This picnic area located between Gatlinburg and Townsend offers great access to the Little Greenbrier River. Several shallow swimming holes are scattered along this picnic area. The area is wide and makes for a perfect spot to throw a tube into the water and relax. It’s also the perfect swimming area to have a nice picnic, with many tables sitting along the water.
The Metcalf Bottoms are also close to many other attractions in the area, so you can fit in a swim, a picnic, a hike or even some antique shopping. From here you can drive or take the small hike up to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse and look at the old one room school house and then venture to the Walker Sisters Cabin (the cabin of the old teachers from the school house). Once you’ve finished swimming, take, Lyons Spring Road to Wears Valley. Here you will experience beautiful mountain views, cute antique stores, and some small local shops.
Directions: Take US-441 into the park. At the Sugarlands Visitor Center turn right onto Little River Rd. toward Elkmont. Travel about six miles to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area on the right.
Greenbrier Swimming Holes on the Little Pigeon River
One of the clearest mountain rivers in the park, the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River flows through the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a favorite spot for tubers and swimmers to splash and play in the pristine pools that collect below small rapids.
Directions: From Gatlinburg at light #3, head east on Hwy 321. Travel for approximately 7 miles and turn right on Greenbrier Road. Swimming pools are located on your left along the road before you reach the ranger station.
The Townsend Y Swimming Area
The Townsend Y is where the Little River and the Middle Prong of Little River join. Probably the most easily accessed and popular swimming hole, this wide pool is located provides fun for the whole family. Located just after the Townsend entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this swimming area provides plenty of water to play in. Visitors can also sunbathe or enjoy a great picnic on the sloping hill above the pools and watch as sightseers enter the park.
Directions: From Gatlinburg head North on US 441 for 8.4 miles. Take a left on Wears Valley Road and follow for 12 miles. Turn left on TN-73 until you reach the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek Road.
Local legend has it that there once was a logging train that derailed here and plummeted into the Little River. No train was ever recovered and since the mysterious crash occurred this area has been referred to as The Sinks. This is one of the easier swimming holes to access and as such is usually popular on hot summer days. The Sinks offers visitors a beautiful waterfall with small cliff and rocks that flow down into a reservoir below. This swimming hole is a mix of rapids and deep pools. Remember this area is very rocky,the waterfall is massive and there are often strong currents; be cautious and never go behind or around the waterfall as this is very dangerous.
Take a relaxing drive through the mountains and enjoy your views on your way to The Sinks. See the directions below to get to this swimming destination, depending on traffic it can take anywhere from 30 – 40 minutes to reach your destination. But the view alone is worth the drive.
Directions:From the resort head southeast on Powdermill Rd toward Elk Spring Way, turn right to stay on Powdermill Rd, take a right onto Glades Rd for about 1.7 miles then turn right onto East Pkwy. Take a left onto US-441 S/Parkway until you reach Little River Road where you will turn right onto it.
The Chimney Top Trail
This swimming hole is for the adventurer and skilled hiker. The Chimney Top trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area and is great spot to enjoy a swim, beautiful mountain views, and a challenging 1,700 feet climb in a two mile radius (for more advanced hikers in good shape and not afraid of heights).
For those of you who are just looking for a place to cool off, this is where you can enjoy the refreshing Little Pigeon River. There are plenty of rocks to jump off into the river, however, be sure that the water levels are high enough for jumping (average level runs about six to eight feet deep). Glide into the nice cool waters and enjoy a lovely picnic with your family. The cascading waters are calming and a great relax. If you’re there for the hike follow the trailhead and be prepared for an exciting and challenging excursion. This 2 mile hike is filled with a rocky ridge-line and once you reach the top a near 360 degree view that is stunning.
Directions: Head southeast on Powdermill Rd toward Elk Spring Way, Turn right to stay on Powdermill Rd, Turn right onto Glades Rd, Turn right onto East Pkwy, Turn left onto US-441 S/Parkway, Continue to follow US-441 S into the park and past the visitor center. Continue on the 441 S until you reach the entrance to the Chimneys picnic area and trailhead.
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