Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

By Aila Boyd

July 25, 2023

Are swimming holes a thing in Virginia? You bet they are! In fact, the commonwealth has tons of them.

Instead of taking a dip in a boring old pool or even the ocean, opt for a refreshing swim in one of these 10 freshwater swimming holes. While they range in size and location, they’re all well worth the journey, especially the ones at the bottom of waterfalls.

Roaring Run Recreation Area

Location: Eagle Rock

Roaring Run Falls is a great place to go if you have a family with small children, given its accessibility. You’ll “find a couple spots where you can take a dip in the water and have some fun with a slide down the natural waterslide.”

To get to the water, you’ll want to follow one of two trails: either the Streamside Trail or Woodland Trail.

If you want to spend the day in the area, located inside the Jefferson National Forest, pack your lunch and enjoy it at one of several picnic areas.

Nottoway Falls

Location: Victoria

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Nottoway Falls, known locally as “The Falls,” is described by the town of Victoria as “Lunenburg County’s greatest secret.”

Open to the public, the area has many rock formations, natural waterfalls and a man-made dam. While you’re there, dip your toes into the cool waters of the Nottoway River.

You’ll need to follow a footpath along the east side of the river to get to the falls.

Cascades

Location: Pembroke

You don’t want to miss the Cascades in the Jefferson National Forest.

“The scenic cascade of cool pristine waters plummets from a narrow gorge within the same plateau that holds Mountain Lake, the only natural lake in the mountains of Virginia,” the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources said.

The 2-mile hike to the falls is of low to moderate difficulty. Once you make it to the falls, cool off in the swimming hole and allow your mind to drift as you watch the water flow down from the breathtaking 66-foot waterfall.

Pony Pasture

Location: Richmond

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

There are plenty of places to go for a splash in the 600-acre James River Park System, but Pony Pasture should be at the top of your list. Large, smooth rocks litter the river, forming countless natural swimming holes.

After you’ve had your fill of the water, relax by sunbathing on one of the rocks.

Fun fact: There’s an interesting reason why it’s called Pony Pasture. Prior to 1970, when the area was still part of Chesterfield County, locals used to graze their horses and ponies nearby.

Devil’s Bathtub

Location: Blackmore

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Joshua T. Moore via Virginia Tourism Corporation

Devil’s Bathtub, a naturally smooth swimming hole, is a standout destination for a dip given just how unique it is. The hole is a “crystal-clear, aquamarine color that is created by the algae on the bottom.” The waters are even said to be cold enough to quench Lucifer, hence the name.

To get to the Bathtub, you’ll have to hike the Devil’s Fork Loop Trail, which is classified as being difficult. Due to the popularity of the spot, you’ll likely want to go on a weekday so that you aren’t part of a crowd.

Whiteoak Canyon

Location: Luray

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Whiteoak Canyon is one of Shenandoah National Park’s most popular destinations, and it’s easy to see why: six waterfalls ranging from 35 to 86 feet high.

“There are swimming holes at the bottom of each waterfall, but do not expect much privacy because they are quite popular,” the Virginia Tourism Corporation said.

The hike up to the highest waterfall is 4.6 miles and quite steep.

Dismal Falls

Location: Pearisburg

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

Despite the name, Dismal Falls is anything but. The falls span 40 feet in width and drop 12 feet down into a single whirlpool.

“The sound and spray of the running water is as invigorating as it is beautiful,” the U.S. Forest Service said.

The hike to the falls is quite short and easy.

Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm

Location: Millboro

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of Virginia Tourism Corporation

If you’re looking for a more curated swimming hole experience, check out Fort Lewis Lodge & Farm. The 3,300-acre estate is described as a “country getaway.”

The swimming hole is on the Cowpasture River. “The 5-foot-deep pool makes it a family favorite and there’s a steady supply of skipping stones to bounce across the calm surface,” the venue said.

After you’ve taken your swim in the hole, relax in the wood-fired barrel sauna, which is said to relax sore muscles and cleanse your system.

Rates for the various accommodations vary by night.

Fridley Gap

Location: Keezletown

Fridley Gap is an “idyllic swimming hole” that is fed by a small waterfall on Mountain Run stream. Located on Massanutten Mountain in the George Washington National Forest, you’ll have to hike up a shady trail to get to the swimming hole. Luckily, the trail is perfect for beginners.

If you plan to spend the night, there’s even an informal camping spot that overlooks the swimming hole.

Warm Springs Pools

Location: Hot Springs

Are Swimming Holes a Thing in Virginia? Yes, and Here Are 10 Worth the Journey

Photo courtesy of The Omni Homestead Resort

While not a traditional swimming hole, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention one of the commonwealth’s most well-known swimming destinations: Warm Springs Pools.

The legacy of the crystal springs goes back hundreds of years to when Native Americans started using them. Throughout the past 250 years, the pools have been built up with the addition of a stone basin and bathhouses.

Late in 2022, a $4-million rehabilitation effort breathed new life into the pools.

You’ll want to “take the waters” yourself to see what all the fuss is about. Unaffected by changes of the season, the waters remain at a natural body temperature all year and flow at 1,700,000 gallons per day, according to the United States Geological Survey. The waters also contain an unusually high level of mineral content.

A 50-minute soak will cost you $30 per person.

 

READ MORE: 17 Dog-Friendly Beaches, Parks, and Rivers That Will Give Your Virginia Pooch the Zoomies

 

  • Aila Boyd

    Aila Boyd is a Virginia-based educator and journalist. She received her MFA in writing from Lindenwood University.

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