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!
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:
- Ben Salem Wayside
- Goshen Pass
- In the same vicinity is Blowing Springs Recreation Area, Route 39, Bath County. Check out the geological air duct that blows 58-degree water out of the rocks!
- Additionally, the Walton Tract along the Cowpasture River has a canoe put-in area that is frequented as a swimming hole.
Upper Little Stoney Falls
Swim or wade at the base of a waterfall!
- Whiteoak Canyon, Shenandoah National Park
- Dismal Falls, Bland County
- Campbell Creek, Nelson County
- Roaring Run, Botetourt County
- Nottoway Falls, Lunenburg County
- Roaring Run, Eagle Rock
- Big Falls at Pinnacle Natural Area Preserve, Russell County
- Little Stony Creek Falls at Little Stony National Recreation Trail, Scott County
Dismal Falls, photo credit: Michael Speed, IG account: @photosbyspeed
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.
- Headwaters of the James, Botetourt County
- Horseshoe Bend, Scottsville
- James River State Park, Buckingham County
- Pony Pasture, Richmond
- Belle Isle Historic Park, Richmond
- Jamestown Beach Park, Williamsburg
- Huntington Park, Newport News
Splash around in the oldest river in North America, the New River, at New River Trail State Park in Foster Falls.
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 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.
Shenandoah River, Photo Credit: Johnny Molloy
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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Is it legal to cliff jump at the spot mentioned in the article?
You have forgotten Lake Phoenix in Rawlings, VA.
Just be sure that the location you choose is legal for swimming. Here in Fairfax County Virginia many of the lovely spots in parks are prohibited for liability reasons as well as health reasons.
Join the discussion
What about the falls and pools of Overall Run? It’s a hidden gem in Shenandoah National Park: https://whatwedidlastweekend.org/ourtripstonature/2016/4/29/overall-run-falls-and-pools
I think this is one of the best places in Virginia to swim and cool down. The pools are big and the falls are very nice.
Due to the flooding recently in alleghany county the humback bridge area would not be safe to swim just yet. Just a heads up.
Falling springs has no trespassing signs up now. We actually saw about 10 people getting tickets 2 hours after we left, that were there before us.
My husband grew up in the area, and we went to see the waterfall a couple years ago. It seemed, even then, that it was only…….kinda sorta “legal” to get in the water there: there was a fence torn down, and people ignored it. I don’t know why it would be a problem, but I do know the waterfall area itself is a unique biome, and maybe they’re worried about people killing the algae and stuff.
that is beautiful
Is there any camping near Pony Park in Richmond?
Pony Pasture and the other swimming spots in Richmond are all in the city itself, so no real camp grounds. Most of the access points close at dark. Pocahontas State Park is just outside Richmond though. They probably have campgrounds.
Pocahontas absolutely has camping, and also a little water park for the kids, and an amphitheater that hosts some pretty awesome shows. We’ve seen Dark Star Orchestra a couple times there. The park itself is quite large, all kinds of trails. There’s a little bridge people like to jump off of into the creek. A+
Guess you just ignore the No Swimming sign posted right next to the bridge right?