By TMoM Team Member Kodia Byers
Does your family love exploring the outdoors? What better way to beat the summer heat than checking out local watering holes.
We hope you enjoy this list of places to escape, which include serene flowing creek sides, splash worthy swimming holes and sliding rocks! As with any exploration, it’s important to be prepared! Most watering holes suited for swimming are recommended for older kids and seasoned swimmers. Creeks and slow moving riversides are safer for young ones. Remember to always be aware of your surroundings and safety, wear appropriate attire and please preserve these natural beauties!
Be sure to also check our Day Trip Directory and Chasing Waterfalls blog for even more fun summer ideas!
Please take CDC recommendations and other necessary precautions when venturing out on any of these excursions. TMoM is not liable for any accidents or harm.
Location: Mooresville, NC
Description: Public swimming is offered in this deep natural quarry from 10am until 3pm daily. Lifeguards are on the grounds. Advance reservations are required. There is a fee to swim, and it is best for older children.
Additional Info: carriganfarms.com or TMoM blog here
Location: Big Elkin Creek, Wilkes County
Description: Trails surround these falls, but you can also park close enough to walk about a quarter mile to reach the Carter Falls. Cautionary tip and photo credit taken from this article: “The falls is a touch wild, lying at the bottom of a wooded gorge that requires some caution by folks who must climb down a steep creek bank to get to the water. While the upper falls at the end of a newly cleared trail look tranquil enough, the falls’ lower, steeper section has a wall of granite where someone can slip and get hurt.” (Photo credit: Mountains to Sea)
Additional Info: mountainstoseatrail.org
Cascades Preserve Watering Holes
Location: Oak Ridge/Kernersville, NC
Description: When you follow GPS, you will park in a lot and the entrance to the Falling Waters Trail will be directly across the street. About 10 minutes into the trail walk is a bridge over a stream where kids can search for bugs and wade in the water. As you follow the loop, a trail winds around alongside the creek with more opportunities for wading, splashing, and exploring. Make sure you have good walking shoes if you intend to spend more time walking than resting by the water! Read our TMoM blog here.
Additional Info: guilfordcountync.gov/cascades-preserve or piedmonttrails.org
Hanging Rock State Park Watering Holes
Location: Danbury, NC
Description: We have blogged previously about the beach at Hanging Rock Lake. This is such a fun way to spend the day if you truly want to swim (currently open Thursdays – Mondays). But, you can also enjoy wading and sitting by the water’s edge at the Lower Cascade Falls. This is a waterfall and pool area that is usually around 2-3 feet deep. Water shoes are recommended since the floor can be rocky. When you arrive at Hanging Rock, park at the Lower Cascades trail and take the path to the falls. It is less than half a mile, but of course you can enjoy many trails in the area should you choose to spend the day hiking! You can also read about the Riverbluffs trail here!
Additional Info: ncparks.gov/hanging-rock-state-park or TMoM blog here
Little Walden Nature Trail Watering Holes
Location: Clemmons, NC (Tanglewood Park)
Description: Many of us have enjoyed all that Tanglewood Park has to offer, but there is a not-so-well-known section that includes this nature trail and creek. When venturing to Tanglewood Park from I-40, you will exit onto Harper Road. Follow Harper Road across 158 instead of turning right to go to Tanglewood’s main entrance. The road will change to Craver Land Rd, and on your left you will see Nature Trail Drive. Turn here and park in front of the brick house. You will see a beautiful garden area to the right and will follow the trail back to a pond which is where the Little Walden trail begins. It weaves through the woods past old buildings and allows you to come upon a creek and wading area as shown in the first photo.
Additional Info: forsyth.cc/parks
Mayo River State Park
Location: Stoneville, NC
Description: This write-up (and photo credit) comes from our friends at the Piedmont Land Conservancy: “The Mayo River Trail takes you on an effortless journey with incredible pay off. Explore the impressive Fall Creek Falls and the sandy shores along the beautiful Mayo River. The trail is 1.9 miles one way, or a total of 3.8 miles out and back. It’s almost flat with very little grades or stairs. As you drive in on the gravel Deshazo Road you’ll come across a State Park sign: “Mayo River State Park: Deshazo Mill Access.” Because it’s far off the beaten path, the long drive at the trailhead might be the most challenging part of this trail, but once you arrive it’s easy going. After only a very short walk and you’ll stumble upon the Falls. The scale of this waterfall is much larger than it appears in photos. As always with waterfalls, the peaceful sound is just another element to enjoy. People like to hang around here, throwing up hammocks or finding a spot to sit for a snack or lunch.”
Additional Info: piedmonttrails.org or ncparks.gov/mayo
Moratock Dan River Park
Location: Danbury, NC
Description: From this park you will have access to the Dan River, where you can enjoy tubing, kayaking, canoeing, beach area, and wading. Danbury General Store is within walking distance and provides tube rentals. Of course there is plenty of space for picnics and recreational activities to be enjoyed before and after your water fun! Reader tip: weekdays are more family friendly – not as crowded, bathrooms cleaner, grill availability, and fewer large parties.
Additional Info: visitnc.com/listing/yfhi/moratock-park
Reynolda Gardens of Wake Forest University
Location: Winston-Salem, NC
Description: This location is more of a good fit for exploring and taking in the beauty than actually enjoying the water, but I felt remiss in not adding it to this list. Beautiful wooded trails surround the Historic Reynolda House and Gardens. Park in the Reynolda Village Shopping Center close to the silo. You’ll see an open grassy area which bodes well for a picnic, kite, or frisbee. As you follow this trail, watch for creeks and pools of water hidden in the trees where you can sit or wade. There is also a waterfall to enjoy if you take the paved path leading from the village to the Wake Forest University. (Behind the shops.) Along that same paved path you’ll cross a cute stone bridge with a small pond where kids can dip their toes in the stream and enjoy. (First photo below) Please note that none of these areas are for swimming! Pets on leashes are allowed on the paths, but not the formal gardens.
Additional Info: reynoldagardens.org, TMoM Outing blog here
Rich Fork Preserve Watering Holes
Location: High Point, NC
Description: Rich Fork Preserve is mostly used for hiking and mountain biking. There are three different trails in this preserve. It is only a few minutes from Main Street, but very peaceful and serene. Adults and kids will enjoy the beautiful stream to wade in and enjoy. Water is usually very clear and shaded by trees. There are also boulders in the stream that can make a perfect spot for a picnic.
Additional Info: guilfordcountync.gov or FB page here
River Park at Cooleemee Falls (The Bullhole)
Location: Woodleaf, NC
Description: River Park is a community park that has a local swimming hole created by a dam in the South Yadkin River. This is one of the Triad’s favorite watering holes according to social media! It’s a great place to picnic, fish, swim and tube. But we will warn you that this spot is one of the more dangerous swimming holes in our list. The current can be strong, the water’s floor is rocky, and accidents can happen if you are not careful. Please be sure to read our TMoM blog here for safety tips! There is a fee to enter.
Additional Info: Facebook page or cooleemee.org/riverpark
Location: Eno City Park, Durham
Description: Absolutely gorgeous hidden swimming hole about a half mile into the woods along a hiking trail. You will also pass a beautiful dam and waterfall on the way. The swimming hole itself is about the same size as one of your local pools. The water can be deep in certain areas, so little ones need life jackets and parents with them. I loved this blog written about the hike to Sennet Hole and all of the beauty surrounding it. (Photo credit also goes to fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com.)
Additional Info: mountainstoseatrail.org
Shacktown Falls (Shore-Styers Mill)
Location: Yadkinville, NC
Description: Follow the directions on the website provided, and you will be able to see the falls from the gravel lot where you will park. The walk to the creek area is short and just takes you down a dirt path. Water is fairly shallow, but can get maybe four feet deep in some areas, so keep smaller ones close by or in life vests. It’s a great spot to relax, splash, or take a picnic lunch to enjoy on nearby rocks or trails. If you are looking for a short hike, you can enjoy that as well!
Additional Info: yadkincountync.gov or TMoM blog here
Stone Mountain Watering Holes
Location: Roaring Gap, NC
Description: Most of us know Stone Mountain as a great spot for hiking and camping, but it’s also the perfect place to splash in the water while surrounded by absolute beauty. The lower part of the trail follows along a creek where there are numerous places where kids can play in the water. There is also a beautiful waterfall which sits close to the “Upper Loop” trail parking lot. The watering holes are fairly shallow and perfect for even young ones.
Additional Info: ncparks.gov/stone-mountain-state-park. You can also get great tips in our TMoM blog here.
Yadkin River (Yadkin Island/Bean Shoals/Corridor Trail)
Location: Pinnacle, NC
Description: This area has many different names, so I listed them all! You can enter at the Bean Shoals Access, follow a long gravel road over three creeks (best to arrive in an SUV for this reason) and park at the top of the mountain. Then you follow a fairly simple trail down the mountain, past railroad tracks (active!), over to the river and can enjoy the sand and water as shown below. The river can get very rough, so I would only attempt this with seasoned swimmers if you decide to go into the river and explore the islands. Another option is parking at the entrance marked “Pilot Mountain State Park Corridor Trail.” From here it is a beautiful hike, but takes about 45 minutes to get to the river’s edge. Call the Pilot Mountain State park phone number on the website below and ask whether or not the gate at Bean Shoals is open. If not, you’ll still have a great time, but prepare for more time to arrive, as well as a good hike!
Additional Info: fbwg-hiking.blogspot.com or ncparks.gov/pilot-mountain-state
Do you know of other local watering holes that we didn’t mention? Comment below with your ideas!
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Hopefully they have cleaned up River Park. I had each kid wear water shoes with a hard bottom soles and I was glad they did. Some thoughtless people had broken bottles in several places making walking on the beach and small streams dangerous.
I totally love this directory we are new to NC from Oregon and love to be outdoors near water and hiking!!!
This directory is amazing! Thank you so much. I can’t wait to start exploring!