The swimming hole below Elk River Falls near Elk Park in Avery County. Photo by Ken Ketchie
Blowing Rock's public swimming pool. Photo by Ken Ketchie
The swimming area at Wildcat Lake near Banner Elk, Photo by Todd Bush
The swimming hole below Elk River Falls near Elk Parkin Avery County. Photo by Ken Ketche
The swimming hole below Elk River Falls near Elk Parkin Avery County. Photo by Ken Ketche
Elk River Falls near Elk Park in Avery County. Photo by Ken Ketche
Swimming hole on the Watauga River. Photo by Ken Ketchie
Enjoying Watauga River on a hot summer day. Photo by Ken Ketchie
Crabtree Falls off the Blue Ridge Parkway. Photo by Randy Johnson
Hebron Colony Rocks off the Blue Ridge Parkway is a popular stretch of river for hiking and swimming. Photo by Ken Ketchie
Having fun with a mountain waterfall. Photo by Frederica Georgia.
Watauga Lake has many public access points for swimming. Photo by Todd Bush
A swimming hole along the Watauga River outside of Boone. Photo by Ken Ketchie
A swimming hole along the Watauga River outside of Boone. Photo by Ken Ketchie
Wading into the New River at Green Valley Park. Photo by Ken Ketchie

▶ OUTDOOR ADVENTURES

Swimming

An abundance of natural swimming holes and small lakes exist within a short driving distance of Boone. Beat the heat and humidity by visiting the High Country’s top destinations for swimming and sunbathing.

Swimming Holes

Who needs a pool when you have an abundance of natural swimming holes, all within a short driving distance of Boone? Beat the heat and humidity by visiting the High Country’s top destinations for swimming, sunbathing and—if you’re so brave—cliff jumping.


Trash Can Falls

Address: US 321, Boone, NC

A popular swimming hole for college students, Trash Can features cascading falls and a few jumps ranging from 15 to 30 feet high. Diving is not recommended, as the water is only about 10 feet deep at most.

Directions: From Boone, take Highway 421 north towards Tennessee. Turn left on Highway 321 at Skate World Roller Rink and continue for approximately 10 miles. After crossing the Watauga River Bridge, you will see a parking area on the right. Cross the road and walk up a small, narrow trail into the woods for several hundred yards until you reach the falls.


Snake Pit Swimming Hole

Snake Pit provides visitors with a larger area to swim than Trash Can Falls. Multiple flat boulders make it possible to sunbathe, and there are a few tall jumps—but again, diving is not recommended due to the depth of the water. Be careful of the swift currents.

Directions: Snake Pit is in the same vicinity as Trash Can. From Boone, take Highway 421 and turn left on Highway 321 at Skate World Roller Rink. After crossing the Watauga River Bridge, continue to the second pull off. Park here at your own risk, or parking is available at Trash Can, which is about a five-minute walk to the Snake Pit trail. The trail is to the right near the guardrail. Be prepared for a steep climb down to the hole, but a knotted rope is available for those who need help climbing up and down.


Hebron Rock Colony

One of the most well known swimming spots, Hebron Rock Colony is a natural rock formation about 20 minutes away from Boone. Large boulders, small waterfalls and multiple swimming holes can be found here. If you continue to the top, a manmade dam can be found, and just beyond the dam is a larger swimming hole known for its sun.

Directions: Take Highway 105 south from Boone. Turn left on Old Shull’s Mill Road. After passing a church on your left, make a right onto Old Turnpike Road, which is unpaved. Continue about five minutes until you reach a sharp turn to the right. Parking is available here. Hebron is about a 10-minute walk down a steep hill.


Compression Falls (AKA Twisted Falls)

Featuring a waterfall listed at 30 feet high, Compression is in a remote setting perfect on a hot summer day. It is worth it if you can reach it: the hike is less than a mile, but the trail is extremely steep—straight down in some places. The trail will lead you over and around the rocks until you reach the falls.

Directions: From Boone, follow Highway 421 toward Tennessee. Turn onto Highway 321 and continue until you reach Elk Mills Store on your right. Turn right after the store onto Poga Road. After 0.2 miles the road will spit. Keep left and cross Jack Campbell Bridge, and turn right again to continue on Poga Road. Turn right onto Clawson Road and drive about half a mile. Park on the road next to an old barn up the hill to your left. The trail is across the road from the barn and is marked with yellow and red paint on a tree.


Elk River Falls (Big Falls)

Address: Trail, TN

Four miles upstream of Compression Falls is Elk River Falls or Big Falls, as it is known on topographic maps. Located in Elk Park in the Pisgah National Forest, the waterfall is estimated to be anywhere from 40 to 60 feet and features a nice pool for swimming and flat rocks for sunbathing. Here is one description of Elk River Falls: “With a high volume of water, it drops almost vertically into a huge, neat pool surrounded by massive rock bluffs, which [are] quite scenic.”

Directions: Take US 19 East to Elk Park, just over the border from Roan Mountain, Tenn., and turn north onto Old Mill Road. After 1/4 of a mile, turn north again onto Elk River Road. Take this for about 4 miles until the road dead ends at the falls. It's a short 1/4-mile hike to the base of the falls.


Gragg Prong

Address: Pisgah National Forest, NC

Gragg Prong features deep swimming holes carved out by multiple waterfalls. Located in the Wilson’s Creek area, this spot also has an open rock area perfect for sunbathing.

Directions: From Boone, take Highway 105 south toward Linville. Go straight through the intersection for Grandfather Mountain, and at a four-way stop, turn left on Roseboro Road. The road will cross the Blue Ridge Parkway in about a mile and will turn into Forest Service Road 1511, which is unpaved. The road continues for six to eight miles into a valley and the community of Roseboro. Stay straight to find the parking area. Follow Trail 262 downstream and you will find the swimming hole about a mile away.


Huntfish Falls

Address: Caldwell County, NC

Huntfish Falls has plenty of space for swimming and relaxing. The rocks open up into three levels, connected by a waterfall leading into a deep swimming hole.

Directions: Similar to Gragg Prong, from Boone, take Highway 105 south toward Linville. Continue straight through the intersection for Grandfather Mountain, and turn left on Roseboro Road. When the road intersects the Parkway, turn right. Take a left on Old Jonas Road or Forest Service Road 464. Continue down the valley for approximately eight miles until you see a parking lot on the left. The trail continues down for about a mile to the falls.


Watauga Lake

Address: Cherokee National Forest, TN

Watauga Lake is more than a spot to swim. Canoeing, kayaking, parasailing, jet skiing, fishing and wakeboarding are also popular. For families, a public beach is located in one of the recreational areas, and picnicking and swimming is popular. The Appalachian Trail also crosses the lake at the visitor’s center near the dam, making it possible to hear some interesting stories from hikers passing through.

Directions: From Boone, travel on Highway 421 for approximately five miles. Turn left on Highway 321, and continue for approximately 11 miles to the Tennessee border. Continue 12 miles on Highway 321 until you reach State Road 67, and turn right. Follow State Road 67 north about a half a mile to the bridge that crosses Watauga Lake. In total, this is about a 45-minute drive from Boone featuring many scenic views.


Wildcat Lake

Address: Banner Elk, NC

While not a natural swimming hole, Wildcat Lake in Banner Elk has both a shallow swimming area designated for children and a deeper swimming area for adolescents and adults. Lifeguards are on duty during summer hours. Non-motorized boats, canoes and kayaks can also access the lake.

Directions: From Boone, take Highway 105 south approximately 12 miles. Make a right onto Highway 184/Tynecastle Highway to Banner Elk. Stay on the road for approximately four miles until you come to Hickory Nut Gap Road on your left. The lake is located up Hickory Nut Gap Road.

Swimming Pools

Looking to cool off this summer? Look no further because the High Country – Ashe, Avery and Watauga – has several swimming pools open to the general public.

Some are indoor swimming pools open year-round and others are located outdoors and open during the warmer months. Many offer lap swim, public swim, swimming lessons and aquatic fitness for those of all ages. Whether you are in Blowing Rock or Boone, Linville or Jefferson, there is a pool waiting for you! So scroll below before you make the plunge.


Watauga County Swim Complex in Boone

Phone: 828-264-0270
Address: 231 Complex Dr, Boone, NC
Website: www.WataugaCounty.org

With three indoor pools, the Watauga County Swim Complex can accommodate lap swimmers, aquacisers and those who enjoy public swim. Daily and seasonal passes are available. While open year round, public swim hours for the summer are 1 to 5:30pm on Monday through Friday, 12 to 4pm on Saturday and 1 to 5pm on Sunday.

For more information such as the seasonal scheduling, pricing and so forth, click here or call the Watauga County Swim Complex at 828-264-0270. The facility is located at 231 Complex Dr. in Boone.


Robbin’s Pool in Blowing Rock

Phone: 828-295-5222
Address: 145 Park Ave, Blowing Rock, NC

For those wanting to cool off in Blowing Rock, Robbin’s Pool is a downtown hotspot. Located off of Clark Street by the Broyhill Park, the outdoor pool is open from Memorial Day to Labor Day weekends. Daily and season passes are available from the Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation department. Youth swimming lessons are available too.

The facility includes one large, multi-use pool and a smaller wading pool. The pools are heated, and complex includes shower and dressing facilities, restrooms, and a concession area with snack and drink machines. The pool is open for “public swim” on Saturdays 11am to 7pm; Sundays 12 to 7pm; and weekdays 11 to 5pm and 6 to 8:30pm. For more information, call Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation at 828-295-5222.


YMCA Pool in Avery County in Linville

Phone: 828-737-5500
Address: 436 Hospital Dr, Linville, NC
Website: YMCAAvery.org

The Williams YMCA of Avery County offers pool parties, swimming lessons, a water slide and water fitness for the community. Kids can play in the WaterZone, participate in lap swim or enjoy open pool time with friends and family. Check out membership rates here.

The Williams YMCA of Avery is located at 436 Hospital Drive in Linville. For more information and times of operation, call 828-737-5500 or visit the YMCA’s website.


Avery County Swimming Pool in Newland

Phone: 828-733-8268
Address: 785 Cranberry St, Newland, NC
Website: www.AveryCountyNC.gov

Avery County Parks and Recreation operates a public swimming pool complex located in Newland off Shultz Circle across from United Community Bank. The complex in Avery consists of two separate pools with one diving board. One is a large multiuse pool and the other is smaller and geared toward children.

Lifeguards monitor both of these pools. A snack machine provides food and drinks. For more information, call 828-733-8268 or visit the parks and recreation website.


ARHS Wellness Center in Boone

Phone: 828-266-1060
Address: 232 Boone Heights Dr, Boone, NC
Website: AppRHS.org

The swimming pool offers a chance to engage in just some of the many healthy activities that the Appalachian Regional Healthcare System’s Paul H. Broyhill Wellness Center provides. The center has courts for basketball, volleyball and racquetball as well as an indoor track, cardiovascular equipment, strength training machines and free weights. It also offers general fitness, educational and rehabilitative services.

As for aquatics, the Wellness Center offers H20 fitness, arthritis foundation aquatic program, low-impact aqua aerobics, deep-water fitness, prenatal aqua aerobics, aquatic personal training, swim stroke clinics, lifeguard training and swim lessons for groups and individuals. Monthly, quarterly and semi-annual memberships are offered. For hours of operation and more information about the Wellness Center, click here or call 828-266-1060.


Lees-McRae College Swimming Pool in Banner Elk

Phone: 828-898-8725
Address: 191 Main St W, Banner Elk, NC
Website: www.LMC.edu

Rhea-Lyons Swimming Pool, located in the back of Williams Gymnasium off Hickory Nut Gap Road on the Lees-McRae College campus in Banner Elk, is open to community members.

Daily passes are available, or with the purchase of a $150 community membership, the public has access to the student recreation complex, rock climbing wall, wellness center, library, tennis courts and much more for the year. For more information, call 828-898-8725. For updated monthly schedules, check out the Lees-McRae College calendar here.


Appalachian State University Swimming Pool

Phone: 828-262-2100
Address: 287 Rivers St, Boone, NC
Website: Aquatics.AppState.edu

If you are affiliated with an Appalachian State University faculty or staff member or student, guests are allowed access to the Recreation Center off of Bodenheimer Drive, just a block from downtown Boone, for a $5 daily pass.

The Recreation Center includes a pool with an aquatic program that offers lessons, safety and certification courses and other water-based activities. For more information call 828-262-2100.


Mountain Hearts Center for Prevention and Wellness

Phone: 336-846-0744
Address: 200 Hospital Ave, Jefferson, NC

Ashe Memorial Hospital’s Mountain Hearts Center for Prevention and Wellness facility operates a heated swimming pool in Jefferson. Located at 200 Hospital Avenue, members of the public can purchase memberships to engage in land and water aerobics. Swimming lessons are also offered. For more information, call 336-846-0744.


Ashe County Middle School Pool

Phone: 336-384-3591
Address: 255 Northwest Ln, Warrensville, NC

Also, Ashe County Middle School Pool in Warrensville is open to the public during the summer months and offers swimming lessons to students. For more information, call the school, which is located at 255 Northwest Lane, at 336-384-3591.