If ever there was a time to play in the water, it’s July. While there are good times to be had in man-made pools, there’s nothing quite like going for a dip the way our great-great-grandparents did—in a good, old-fashioned swimming hole. Check out these 5 can’t-miss swimming holes, all within a two-hour drive of Nashville.


Image:  Deborah Glover/AllTrails

Imagine a dip in clear, COLD water at the base of this beautiful waterfall. Doesn’t that sound refreshing on a hot July day? To get there, park at the Rutledge Falls Baptist Church and take a short (0.3 mile) hike to the base of the falls. The trail can be slippery, so wear non-slip shoes for your hike. It’s open year-round from dusk to dawn and is free of charge to visit.

Bonus: The Short Springs Natural Area with three (3!) more waterfalls is just a short drive away.

Know before you go:  The route to the falls is located on private property, but the owners allow the public to visit from dusk to dawn each day. Please be respectful, stay on the path and take anything you bring with you when you go.

Plan your visit. Rutledge Falls Baptist Church, 349 Rutledge Falls Rd., Tullahoma, TN  37388.


Image:  Only in Your State

Spend a day at the beach without that long drive to the coast. Old Hickory offers a sandy swimming beach, a playground for the kids, a large reservable shelter and boat ramps.  Old Hickory Lake is a 22,500-acre reservoir created by the Old Hickory Lock and Dam on the Cumberland River and named after former president Andrew Jackson. Bonus: If you fancy a stroll, you can explore the 1.1-mile Old Hickory Lake Nature Trail, featuring three loops (the Woodland Loop, Willow Swamp Loop and the Wildlife Loop) over a variety of terrains.

Know before you go:   There is a $5 fee per vehicle for day-use facilities; parking is limited.

Plan your visit.  Old Hickory Beach, 876 Burnett Road, 37138 Old Hickory, TN. For campground inquiries, please call: 615-847-8091


Image:  TN State Parks

There are options to suit all kinds of swimmers in the Caney Fork River Gorge, including:

  • The Cold Hole – Dubbed “the premier swimming hole” for the Caney Fork River Gorge.
  • The Warm Hole – A large, shallow basin of water, heated by the sun and not subject to colder water temperatures coming from the lake above the Great Falls Dam.
  • The Swim Beach – a natural sand-silt beach on the Caney Fork River with a boat ramp, reservable picnic pavilion, and restrooms.
  • The Great Falls – a 30-ft horseshoe-shaped waterfall below the Historic Cotton Mills offering an excellent swimming location. 

Know before you go:  Swimming is strictly prohibited in some areas due to hidden and deadly currents. Also, the Gorge may close without notice depending on hourly water release predictions. (Learn more here.)

Plan your visit. Rock Island State Park, 82 Beach Road, Rock Island, TN 38581. Reservations:  888-TN-PARKS (888-867-2757)


Image:  South Cumberland State Park

You’ll find a man-made beach just four miles from the South Cumberland State Park visitor’s center, perfect for lounging in the sun. There’s also a swim-up dock for sunbathers and jumping children. But that’s not all this park has to offer…

For what the park describes as “a little more adventure” you can escape into the forest and cool off in cold creek water under one or more of the many waterfalls along their trails, including:

  • Foster Falls
  • Sycamore Falls
  • Blue Hole Falls
  • Hanes Hole Falls

Know before you go:  No matter how tempting it is, do not jump from falls. The water beneath the falls is shallow and there are often submerged dangers such as rocks and trees. There are no lifeguards on duty at any swim areas. Please swim with caution and check with a ranger about uncertain conditions.

Plan your visit. Grundy Forest State Natural Area at South Cumberland State Park, 131 Fiery Gizzard Rd, Tracy City, TN 37387


Image:  TNStateParks.com

This one is not for the faint of heart (or foot) but if you’re up for a strenuous hike that includes climbing rocks and more, your reward is the chance to dip in this gorgeous pool at the base of the waterfall.

Know before you go: A Gorge Access Permit required to visit the base of the waterfall. USCG-approved life jackets are advised if you plan to get in the water below the falls. Children 12 and under must wear life vests at falls and be accompanied by an adult. The park recommends that children 5 and under not go to the falls.

Plan your visit. Cummins Falls State Park, 390 Cummins Falls Lane, Cookeville, TN 38501.  Reservations & Information:  1-888-TN-PARKS (1-888-867-2757)

Whether you visit one or more of these spots or decide to swim at home or the neighborhood pool, please stay safe, wear sunscreen, and have a happy, healthy summer!

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