30+ Freshwater Swimming Holes

by Casey Higgins | Posted: Jul 14, 2014 | Updated: Jul 26, 2017

Comments: 30 Comments

Summer calls for a dip in the water, and we have fresh mountain streams and rivers that you’ll find most refreshing on a hot day. Our list has been compiled through various avenues of research, including tips from local residents. If they love these swimming holes, you’re sure to as well!

Goshen Pass

Goshen Pass

If you are unfamiliar with mountain streams, let me tell you that they’re cold. Pack a picnic and refresh yourself in the Maury River at one of these public access points in Rockbridge County:

Upper Little Stoney Falls

Upper Little Stoney Falls

Swim or wade at the base of a waterfall!


Choosing your James River access point can be tricky, as this gem can roar mightily in certain areas, especially after a heavy rain upstream. Try these locations, but never swim alone.

Splash around in the oldest river in North America, the New River.

Blue Hole – many river towns have a special swimming hole they dub “Blue Hole.” Aforementioned Goshen Pass is sometimes known as Blue Hole by locals, and it turns out  that University of Virginia students love their own “Blue Hole” on Moormans River near the Sugar Hollow Reservoir in Crozet. This swimming hole is within the boundaries of Shenandoah National Park.

Dunlap Creek beneath Humpback Bridge

Dunlap Creek beneath Humpback Bridge

Dunlap Creek flows beneath the renowned Humpback Bridge in Alleghany County. When the water’s high enough, it’s a great place for a dip. Otherwise, dipping your toes works, too, at this beautiful, historic site.

Craig Creek Recreation Area is 130 acres in Botetourt County that’s available for camping, picnics, and of course, swimming! The water is gentle and perfect for families.

While there’s no designated swimming area (like a beach) at Shenandoah River Raymond R. “Andy” Guest Jr. State Park on the Shenandoah River in Warren County, you can wade out and splash around or tube to your heart’s content.

Off the Blue Ridge Parkway in Rockbridge County at Petite’s Gap (milepost 71) is an unmarked gravel road (Petite’s Gap Road). Descend, winding, for several miles until you cross East Fork Elk Creek in Sulphur Spring Hollow. At the second crossing, pull off – your swimming hole is in that vicinity.

St. Mary’s River is home to St. Mary’s Falls, which can be found in Saint Mary’s Wilderness in Augusta County. This swimming hole includes a rock slide, which can be great fun if the water level is just right.  It’s just south of the falls.

Please enjoy Virginia’s swimming holes with a friend; never swim alone. Also, follow “leave no trace” practices when experiencing any part of Virginia’s outdoors.

Which of these have you been to? Which do you love that aren’t listed here? Leave a comment to tell us all about it.

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Cliff says:

Isn’t there one in an old quarry somewhere on Route 1 near the N.C. Border that was featured in the Times Dispatch a few years ago? Have never been able to find out any more information.

Panther Falls is west of Amherst, just off Panther Falls Road, near the Blue Ridge Parkway. It’s secluded, and usually not crowded during the summer months, depending on when you go.

Joan W. says:

BLUE HOLE is very public! So public that the parking lot is jammed packed most days. Super popular! A beautiful swimming hole to visit and an easy hike, mostly flat and not far.

Kim White says:

I strongly disagree with the suggestion to swim in the New River at Bisset Park in Radford. The current is dangerously strong and many people have lost their lives in that stretch of the river. Besides that, it’s been a couple years since I’ve been there but there were signs advising people not to swim in the river. I was at a family picnic when a lady got caught in a whirlpool and her husband and brother saved her but lost their lives. They were strong men who were strong swimmers.

Brendan Magee says:

All of this looks so AWESOME ….

Cora Gnegy says:

Dismal Falls is in Giles County. It’s an easy little walk and within the Jefferson National Forest. A really neat place to visit & enjoy a dip in the cool Dismal Creek.

LM says:

Blue Hole in Rawley Springs can only be accessed by trespassing through private land and the beach is on private land. The sheriff department WILL tow your car if you park anywhere near the area. Undercover cops are often on site when crowded trying to bust people. Full of broken glass & trash because of those that disrespect and trash the location. Not open to public access!

Casey Higgins says:

Thank you! That is not information we were privy to and we’re happy to pull it down.

isuckmanhn says:

Blue Hole in Rawley Springs can be access via the river. You can legally park in some areas away from the actual area. Pick up your trash and bring a big raft.

michelle Krawczyk says:

Any closer to Roanoke

Leslie says:

Are there any swimming holes closer to Northern Virginia? I know of the Great Falls area, but other than that, I’m not sure!

Casey says:

Unfortunately, I don’t know either. I spent a fair amount of time researching and didn’t find any clear winners. One near the Fredericksburg area was struck from my list because of injuries and fatalities that have been recorded.

suzan says:

Lake Anna

Paul says:

There’s a good spot at watermelon park!

Cristina Stipp says:

Unless you are wading in some of the smaller pools at difficult run, you should never swim or wade anywhere near great falls!

Douglas says:

White Oak Canyon is a fantastic swimming hole and you really can get right under the waterfall. If you need a place to stay when visiting White Oak Canyon or Old Rag Mountain please check out. The Cabins At Rose River Farm http://www.roseriverfarm.com/accommodations.html. There are also several great swimming holes on the Robinson River right across the road from the Cabins. You just can’t be a natural swimming hole!!!!

Laura says:

Where is this beautiful place?