The heat of summer is on and there is no better way to beat it than by heading to the cool, refreshing Smoky Mountains of Haywood County, NC. There are so many reasons why Haywood is the best vacation spot to cool off in during the summer, so we’ll just throw out a few of our favs. For starters, Haywood County has 25 total mountain peaks soaring to elevations of over 6,000 feet which makes it the county with the highest mean elevation east of the Rocky Mountains. And we all know the higher the elevation the cooler it gets, so start climbing!
Haywood County is also one of the only “headwater” counties in the state, meaning all of our rivers, creeks, and streams are our own. They originate high in our mountains and flow down to the communities below before moving out of the county to other areas. None of our water flows in – meaning we have some of the freshest and coldest natural waters around!
So with that said, we thought we’d round up the wettest and wildest ways to beat the heat this summer while you visit Haywood County. We hope you enjoy these epic cool downs on your next trip to the NC Smokies!
Take a dip in a local swimming hole
We’ve all cooled off at the neighborhood swimming pool but you haven’t truly cooled off until you have taken a leap into one of Haywood County’s natural swimming holes. Swimming holes are natural pools of water created by our local streams and rivers that are perfect for swimming. Haywood County is home to many awesome swimming spots, so we will just share a few of our favorites.
- Sunburst Swimming Hole – Hwy 215 South from Canton, just a couple miles above Lake Logan on the Pigeon River – With easy access right on Hwy 215 going towards the Blue Ridge Parkway, Sunburst is one of the easiest swimming holes to get to with plenty of parking. It’s the perfect spot to unload a cooler and grill, due to the easy access. You’ll find an upper and lower swimming hole, as well as plenty of rocks and beach areas to relax. Sunburst Campground is located across the road and offers a great picnic area.
- Skinny Dip Falls – Milepost 417 on the Blue Ridge Parkway – The trail head is located across the road from the Looking Glass Overlook parking area – Don’t let the name fool you – clothing is strongly suggested at this popular swimming hole! Located high up on the Blue Ridge Parkway, this picturesque, not to mention very cold, swimming hole offers several jumps and great places to wade in more shallow waters. The beautiful setting alone is worth the short hike down to the hole.
- Graveyards Fields – Mile marker 418 on the Blue Ridge Parkway – The perfect combination of hiking and swimming. This 3.2 mile hike offers multiple waterfall features and swimming areas to splash around in. The is a very popular hiking area so make sure you plan for heavier crowds on hot summer days.
A word of caution, as these swimming areas are often remotely located and do not offer the reassurance of a lifeguard on duty. Please swim and jump at your own risk. We advise you to always do your research on the particular hole you plan to visit and test the waters before jumping – NEVER dive, as you may not be aware of how shallow the water is. But if you keep safety in mind, spending the day cooling off at one of theses area swimming holes will be a blast!
Lake Junaluska is known for it’s beautiful setting but it also offers many ways to cool off on a hot summer day. The Lake Junaluska Aquatic Center is open daily from Memorial Day to Labor Day each year. The center is open to the public and includes an outdoor pool and boat rentals. Boats include canoes, kayaks and pedal boats and stand up paddle board rentals, so take your pick of watery adventure! Daily and weekly pool passes, boat and equipment rentals may be purchased at the Lake Junaluska Rec Hut, located next to the Kern Center. If you’re staying at Lake Junaluska, pool admission is FREE for lodging guests. You can’t beat that!
Tackle a Trout on the Mountain Heritage Trout Waters – And by tackle, we mean with a tackle box! Purchase a 3-day, $5.00 fishing license to fish in the designated Mountain Heritage Trout Waters in Waynesville and Maggie Valley. This special 3-day license can be purchased online at www.ncwildlife.org or by telephone Monday – Friday, 8am-5pm at 888-248-6834. Did you forget your fishing pole and tackle box? Don’t fret! Stop by the Maggie Valley Visitor Center at 1110 Soco Rd. and pick up a free tackle box filled with lures/flies and you can borrow either a fly rod or a spinner rod. Just put down a deposit for $5.00, which you will get back when you return the poles, and grab a Mountain Heritage Trout Water map. And guess what? The tackle box is yours to keep so get out there and hit the streams!
Go on an Epic Waterfall Quest – Western North Carolina is home to hundreds of waterfall, and there is no exception here in Haywood County. You can check out these many waterfalls located in and around on Haywood County while you’re here. While some of our falls may be a little off the beaten path, they are well worth the quest!
You can also take the “Waterfalls Ride” starting in Maggie Valley to experience the most easily accessible falls in the area. As with swimming holes, we ask that you to please practice caution when visiting these beautiful place and do not climb or walk on or near a waterfall due to VERY slippery conditions.
We don’t know about you, but just reading about all these wet and wild adventures is already starting to cool us off. Now it’s your turn! Plan your visit to the NC Smokies and get ready for one of the most memorable cool downs around!