There’s just something about taking a dip in a Southeastern swimming hole. It's exhilarating. It's borderline clandestine. It makes every part of you feel alive. And it's really what Tennessee summers are all about—hiking through thick forests of virgin hardwoods, and even thicker layers of humidity, and arriving just in time at a gorgeous waterfall or a deep blue hole perfectly pooled just for you. Here, we’re offering up four of our all-time favorite swimming holes near Nashville. We'll see you out there.
1. Foster Falls
Foster Falls is a part of the South Cumberland State Park and it pretty much has it all—camping, climbing, world-class hiking, and of course, an incredible place to cool off after all of the activity. To get to the falls and the swimming hole, you’ll take the Climber's Access Trail. When you’re heading down to the falls it will be a steady yet rocky descent, so watch those steps. The swimming hole is wide and welcoming with the spray from the falls adding to the allure. The trek out is basically a straight climb so be prepared to work at the end of the day. There’s a good bit of nearby primitive camping sites that are shared with the Fiery Gizzard Trail; just be sure to register with the rangers if you’re planning on staying overnight.
2. Rock Island
A fairly crowded weekend go-to is Rock Island State Park. The waterfall here stays steady all year round because of the dam and while there is a designated natural sand beach swim area in the state park, you can swim in the chilly gorge water, according to the rangers, as long as you are aware of their precautions. The water can rise quickly but with good observation and some common sense this swimming hole is one of the best in the Southeast.
3. Narrows of the Harpeth
The Narrows are where the Harpeth River loops around on itself and provides both downstream and upstream access. Slicing through the rock, there is a 100-yard tunnel, which was hand-cut in 1818 by Montgomery Bell to connect the two sides of the river. Pouring out of this tunnel is a unique and picturesque cascade that dumps into a swimmable pool below. It’s not recommended to actually go through the tunnel, but climbing and sitting on the small falls that come through the tunnel is great on a mid-summer day. It’s located within Harpeth River State Park, so it can, at times, be a bit crowded. And towards the end of summer the water gets mucky and brown as any good, pooling river water would, but if you’re looking for a convenient natural dip, look no further.
4. Cummins Falls
As hard as it is to narrow down favorites, it’s even more difficult to pick a single swimming hole that we favor over all others, but Cummins Falls might just take the cake. A couple of years ago this low hanging falls, with its perfect shelves of rocks and its crystal clean water, was on private land. Today, it is open to the public, and unsurprisingly, the masses have come flooding in. So if you visit on a weekend, it's typically a crowded affair. There are two ways to get down to the falls, the first is a 1.5 mile hike full of long switchbacks and the second, and faster way, is to pretty much climb down at the overlook. It’s doable for most, even the pups, but be sure to wear good hiking shoes and follow the well-used path.