With its stunning array of mountain regions, gorgeous beaches, and four national forests throughout, it’s no wonder North Carolina is a popular state for swimming out in the wilds! If this is a recreational activity that’s caught your interest, we’ve got you covered with this guide to some of the best natural springs in North Carolina! Read on to find out more about these amazing swimming holes spread across the state!
Natural Springs in Eastern North Carolina
At one time considered a luxury getaway with its offering of crystal clear waters and white sand beaches reminiscent of the Bahamas, White Lake is one of the most well-known and best-loved swimming holes in North Carolina! This naturally formed crater, now a lake, reaches a maximum depth of 15 feet; its shores are edged by cypress trees and beautiful cuts of sand, and the lake bottom is always visible no matter how far out you swim. White Lake is a fantastic option especially for families and groups to enjoy some laid-back swimming!
Located along the Cape Fear River in eastern North Carolina, Deep Bottom is a popular swimming hole, particularly among adventurous swimmers who don’t mind this natural spring’s well-kept secret: few people know how deep it actually is, a fact to which its name can be attributed. But don’t let that little mystery stop you from visiting! Strong and experienced swimmers will absolutely love the cool, shady relief to be found when swimming in Deep Bottom!
If you’re looking for a bit of ocean view in your natural swimming itinerary, make sure you engage your vehicle’s 4 wheel drive and swing into Carova Beach! This hidden gem of North Carolina’s natural swimming spots boasts 11 miles of magnificent beach, where one can indulge in the beautiful waters, soak up the sun along the white sand, and even spot wild horses along the shore! Located in the Currituck section of the OBX, this beach offers a truly one-of-a-kind swimming experience in North Carolina!
Natural Springs in Central North Carolina
First up to bat for natural springs in Central North Carolina is Carrigan Farm! While “farm” may not be a word one often associates with “natural springs”, Carrigan Farm’s unique swimming experience is here to change that! Here at Carrigan Farm, you’ll find a unique swimming opportunity in an old quarry, with stunning sapphire-blue waters that will beckon you in for a fantastic, relaxing aquatic adventure! Offering open swim times on the weekends, Carrigan Farm is a great way to enjoy a visit to one of the natural springs in North Carolina without having to travel all the way into the mountains!
Elk River Falls
A fantastic option for swimmers and sunbathers alike thanks to its gorgeous, sandy beachside, Elk River Falls and its swimming hole are a favorite of this area! Located not far from the Tennessee border, Elk River Falls attracts many swimmers, hikers, picnickers, backpackers, and more.
Well known for being both a lovely and safe swimming hole, Elk River Falls is a great option for folks who want to spend a carefree day relaxing out in the sun, alternating between swimming in this natural spring and drying out on a lounge chair or blanket on the beach, then diving back in for more!
Hanging Rock State Park
Breathtaking scenery and a fantastic swimming experience are just two of the things that await at Hanging Rock State Park, the next destination on our list of natural springs in North Carolina!
Riddled throughout with natural falls—including the most popular, the Lower Cascade Falls, which are located a little under a half-mile into the park—Hanging Rock boasts a trove of eye-catching sights and plenty of places to beat the heat and make memories solo or with family and friends inside its beautiful borders! This park is a great place for folks of all ages to enjoy a natural swimming experience!
A well-known spot among locals and a hidden gem for visitors as well, Shacktown Falls—also known as North Deep Creek Falls or Styers Mill Falls—is a great destination choice for anyone searching for some of the best natural springs in North Carolina!
With its shorter, gentler falls feeding into a small swimming hole, Shacktown Falls is the ideal spot not only for a brisk dip in the heat of summer, but also for sunbathing on its large rocks or cooling off beneath its cascades. This is a great, relaxing getaway in the heart of nature for those looking to soak up all the best of what North Carolina’s swimming spots have to offer!
Natural Springs in Western North Carolina
The first of our natural springs in western North Carolina is Midnight Hole! While its name may seem a bit sinister, Midnight Hole is a safe and fantastically popular swimming hole located within the Great Smokies and fed by a mountain river!
This unmarked hole can be difficult to find the first time, so it’s recommended to plan your initial trip here on a weekend, when Midnight Hole draws a larger crowd, making it harder to miss. But once you’ve visited once, you’ll want to conquer the short hike to this hole again and again for a plunge into its waters, cool all year round, and perfect for a swim after your hike!
Located in the verdant Blue Ridge Mountains, Sliding Rock may be altogether the most popular and best-loved spot on this list! Here you can skim down the natural, gently-graded rock slide and splash into a pool of fresh, cool, crystal clear mountain water below! Typically bustling and absolutely beautiful, Sliding Rock is a thrilling destination that usually makes the top of every swimmer’s itinerary when looking for the best natural springs in North Carolina!
Looking Glass Falls
While swimming in this shallower pool may be reserved for the littlest hikers, Looking Glass Falls does offer a great wading experience and is great for cooling off after traversing through the Blue Ridge Mountains!
Located just a couple of miles down US 276 from the more popular destination of Sliding Rock, Looking Glass Falls tends to offer a quieter, more reflective atmosphere, with the stunning falls and thick woodland surroundings giving an air of seclusion and almost magical beauty. This is a great option for families with smaller children to relax after hiking and enjoy the water and shade!
Skinny Dip Falls
Although its name may suggest otherwise, Skinny Dip Falls is a great swimming hole the entire family can enjoy! Located at the end of a rigorous but navigable three-mile hike and enclosed in a scenic array of woodland beauty, the falls themselves are perfect for wading and splashing in, while Skinny Dip’s swimming hole offers a few different entry points including a rock you can safely leap off of into the gorgeous waters.
This spot is great for adventurous hikers, families with slightly older children, and anyone who enjoys the beauty of the forest and a natural spring swim! Unfortunately, this area suffered extreme damage in a flood in 2021, so it’s currently closed to the public. But with any luck, you’ll soon be able to go swimming here again!
Yellow Creek Falls
Perhaps one of the most visually stunning swimming hole picks on our list, the natural spring at the base of Yellow Creek Falls tantalizes the eye due to the way the sunlight reflects on its surface, creating a mesmerizing dance of light and shadows. Located a little over a half-mile hike into the woods, Yellow Creek Falls feeds into this natural pool in a well-shaded area that keeps the waters consistently cool all year round. This is a great option for casual hikers to meander into the forest, take a dip in the natural pool, and hike back without too much effort!
If you’re looking for a fantastic natural water location that offers swimming and much, much more, Lake Glenville is the perfect spot for you! Located in the Blue Ridge Mountains at an elevation of 3,500 feet, Lake Glenville is a great spot for swimming to and from the three gorgeous waterfalls that feed its crystalline contents, as well as for fishing and taking in the stunning scenery this mountain reservoir has to offer! A great option for families or groups who want to enjoy both swimming and fishing!
For swimmers who prefer a less crowded natural spring with more room to spread out, Hooker Falls is the ideal spot! The broad, beautiful pool located at the base of these rushing falls provides ample space for swimmers to plunge in, wade, float, soak, and simply bask in the breathtaking scenery without feeling overwhelmed by close proximity to their fellow swimmers! With rope swinging and inner-tubing both encouraged here at Hooker Falls, it’s no wonder this is such a popular swimming hole!
Last but not least on our list of natural springs in North Carolina is Deep Creek! Located at the base of a subtler waterfall set in the stunning Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Deep Creek is a great swimming hole offering jump-off rocks, bubbling springs, and scenic beauty, and it’s particularly popular among those who enjoy tubing! If you’re visiting this natural spring with the intent to go tubing, you don’t even have to bring your own tube; this recreation is so popular for the Deep Creek area, they have tubing rentals available on site for a nominal fee! Bring your own tube or pick one up and enjoy a lazy, laid-back experience within the beauty that is Deep Creek!
Wrapping Up Natural Springs in North Carolina
We hope our guide has you excited to visit some of the natural springs in North Carolina! Which spot tops your swimming hole list? Let us know in the comments below!
Ready for some more North Carolina adventures? Check out our recommendations below!