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As Temperatures Rise, Take to Area Swimming Holes

By Ethan Woodhouse

July 3, 2012. There are over 70 freshwater swimming holes littered around North Carolina, but it would seem that many alone are located here in the High Country. One of the most popular summer activities around Boone is to take advantage of area swimming holes and the activities they provide. Students, locals and tourists alike flee to these natural water parks to escape the summer heat on a daily basis, but locating one can be tricky.

Hebron Rock Colony

The biggest crowds can usually found at Hebron Rock Colony. Located off of Old Shull’s Mill Road on Highway 105, visitors can build up a little sweat on the shady hike down to the river. Once there, they can occupy themselves with the massive boulders, secluded swimming holes and natural trails off the river. It’s easy to lose track of time and spend hours at this scenic swimming hotspot.

Snake Pit and Trash Can Falls are two other popular swimming destinations. Follow U.S. 421 north towards Tennessee and make a left at the old Skate World Roller Rink to locate these two spots. After crossing the Old Watauga Bridge, two pull-off parking areas are located on the right elbow.  The first pull-off grants the quickest access to Trash Can Falls. Located on the left side of the road, Trash Can can be located by following a narrow, up-hill

Snake Pit

path for a few hundred yards. Trash Can provides visitors with narrow, cascading falls and harrowing jumps ranging from 15 to 30 feet high. 

On the other side of the road, swimmers can descend a knotted rope ladder to reach Snake Pit. The Pit provides a more relaxing area, with several large rocks perfect for sunbathing and a large, open swimming area. For those feeling antsy, traveling upstream may provide them with a glimpse of the snakes that give the spot it’s name.

Located on the Carter County, Tenn. – NC border, Twisted Falls, or Compression Falls features a steep ¾ mile hike down to the base waterfall, which is 30 to 40 feet tall. Visitors can slide off the slippery rocks and jump into the water hole below, or continue venturing upstream. There they will find several other waterfalls, between 10 and 20 feet tall, each of varying depths and excitement. Injuries are not uncommon at these falls, and in such a remote location, assistance and rescue can be difficult. 

Compression Falls

Also located off of Old Shulls Road, “Boone Beach,” and the 105 dam provide launching pads, sandy shores and a pair of tranquil swimming holes that overlook the Hounds Ear Golf Course. The dam and beach are both easy to find. After following Highway 105 and passing the Broadstone Road stoplight, a large parking lot on the left marks the dam. Plenty of rocks provide sunbathing opportunities and the 25-foot dam provides a launching pad for daredevils. Further down Old Shulls you will find parking on the shoulder for Boone Beach’s sandy shores and open swimming hole.

Winkler’s Creek swimming hole also draws plenty of visitors with its waterfall, rope swing and large, open water. To reach the Creek, follow Winkler’s Creek road for a half-mile. On hot days, cars will be parked in the gravel on the right shoulder. On the opposite side of the road, travel down a path and you will find the swimming hole.  

Use caution when accessing these swimming holes and leaping from their falls. Many of the locations are largely secluded and difficult for emergency personal to reach. Bring some snacks and appropriate swimming gear and your summer day is sure to go swimmingly. There are dozens more area swimming spots, and if you ask politely, maybe a swimmer can clue you into some more secretive locations.