Metcalf Bottoms Swimming Area
This picnic area located between Gatlinburg and Townsend offers great access to the Little Greenbrier River. Several shallow swimming holes are scattered along this picnic area. The area is wide and makes for a perfect spot to throw a tube into the water and relax. It’s also the perfect swimming area to have a nice picnic, with many tables sitting along the water. If you visit Metcalf Bottoms in summer and spend much time at the river it is likely you will spot at least one water snake (especially if you’re looking for them). The good news is that they are not poisonous and are actively afraid of people. So if you have a strong aversion to snakes you may want to stay out of the water here.
Just across the bridge from the picnic area is a trail that leads to the Little Greenbrier schoolhouse. The trail is only a half mile or so and leads through the woods. If you don’t want to walk off your picnic lunch you can also drive to the school. Just cross the bridge and follow the road about half a mile to a gravel road on the right leading to the Little Greenbrier Schoolhouse.
The schoolhouse still contains the desks and blackboard left there when it was last in use in the 1930’s. Grades 1-8 were taught at Greenbrier school by a single teacher. During summer months in the past the National Park Service has offered presentations on mountain schooling. Information on the schedule should be available by the end of March. On the hillside just outside the schoolhouse you will find an old community cemetery.
If you have a few extra hours to spend in Metcalf Bottoms visit the Walker Sisters’ home site. The trailhead to their home is located off the parking lot for the Greenbrier Schoolhouse. The sisters were some of the last living residents inside what is now the National Park. When the federal government decided to establish a national park in the Smokies the five sisters refused to sell their land. They eventually came to an agreement with the government whereby they sold their land but retained a lifetime lease on the property. The Walker sisters claimed their land produced everything they needed except sugar, coffee, soda and salt. And until the last sister passed away in 1964 they farmed the land while supplementing their efforts with the sale of souvenirs to tourists.
The Metcalf Bottoms are also close to many other attractions in the area, so you can fit in a swim, a picnic, a hike and even some antique shopping. To get in some shopping before heading back to the cabin, take Lyons Spring Road to Wears Valley. Here you will experience beautiful mountain views, cute antique stores, and some small local shops.
Directions: Take US-441 into the park. At the Sugarlands Visitor Center turn right onto Little River Rd. toward Elkmont. Travel about six miles to the Metcalf Bottoms picnic area on the right.
Greenbrier Swimming Holes on the Little Pigeon River One of the clearest mountain rivers in the park, the West Prong of the Little Pigeon River flows through the Greenbrier area of the Great Smoky Mountains. This is a favorite spot for tubers and swimmers to splash and play in the pristine pools that collect below small rapids.
Directions: From Gatlinburg at light #3, head east on Hwy 321. Travel for approximately 7 miles and turn right on Greenbrier Road. Swimming pools are located on your left along the road before you reach the ranger station.
Local legend has it that there once was a logging train that derailed here and plummeted into the Little River. No train was ever recovered and since the mysterious crash occurred this area has been referred to as The Sinks. This is one of the easier swimming holes to access and as such is usually popular on hot summer days. The Sinks offers visitors a beautiful waterfall with small cliff and rocks that flow down into a reservoir below. This swimming hole is a mix of rapids and deep pools. Remember this area is very rocky,the waterfall is massive and there are often strong currents; be cautious and never go behind or around the waterfall as this is very dangerous. The Sinks is a very rocky area with massive waterfalls and is a very dangerous swimming area. This it the Smokies’ deepest swimming hole!
Take a relaxing drive through the mountains and enjoy your views on your way to. The view alone is worth the drive.
Directions:From the resort head southeast on Powdermill Rd toward Elk Spring Way, turn right to stay on Powdermill Rd, take a right onto Glades Rd for about 1.7 miles then turn right onto East Pkwy. Take a left onto US-441 S/Parkway until you reach Little River Road where you will turn right onto it.
The Chimney Top Trail
This swimming hole is for the adventurer and skilled hiker. The Chimney Top trail is one of the most popular hikes in the area and is great spot to enjoy a swim, beautiful mountain views, and a challenging 1,700 feet climb in a two mile radius (for more advanced hikers in good shape and not afraid of heights). For those of you who are just looking for a place to cool off, this is where you can enjoy the refreshing Little Pigeon River. There are plenty of rocks to jump off into the river, however, be sure that the water levels are high enough for jumping (average level runs about six to eight feet deep). Glide into the nice cool waters and enjoy a lovely picnic with your family. The cascading waters are calming and a great relax. If you’re there for the hike follow the trailhead and be prepared for an exciting and challenging excursion. This 2 mile hike is filled with a rocky ridge-line and once you reach the top a near 360 degree view that is stunning.
Directions: Head southeast on Powdermill Rd toward Elk Spring Way, Turn right to stay on Powdermill Rd, Turn right onto Glades Rd, Turn right onto East Pkwy, Turn left onto US-441 S/Parkway, Continue to follow US-441 S into the park and past the visitor center. Continue on the 441 S until you reach the entrance to the Chimneys picnic area and trailhead.
The Townsend WYE Swimming Area
The Townsend Y is where the Little River and the Middle Prong of Little River join. Probably the most easily accessed and popular swimming hole, this wide pool is located provides fun for the whole family. Located just after the Townsend entrance to the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, this swimming area provides plenty of water to play in. Visitors can also sunbathe or enjoy a great picnic on the sloping hill above the pools and watch as sightseers enter the park. The road is curvy and narrow in spots.
Directions: From Gatlinburg head North on US 441 for 8.4 miles. Take a left on Wears Valley Road and follow for 12 miles. Turn left on TN-73 until you reach the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek Road.
Abrams Falls Swimming Hole
This waterfall and creek are named for Cherokee Chief Abram, or Abrams, whose village once stood several miles downstream. Located in Cades Cove, this swimming hole is a Kodak moment waiting to happen. Although Abrams falls is only 20 feet high, the large volume of water rushing over the falls makes up for its lack of height. The water plunges into a large 100-foot pool at the base that sparkles with laughter and light. While there is a bit of hike to this swimming hole, 2.5 miles from the trailhead, viewing Abrams Falls and lounging in the swimming hole make your arduous hike worth the effort. Don’t forget your camera and swimsuit for this picture perfect spot!
Directions: The turnoff to the trailhead that will take you to Abrams Falls is located past stop #10 on the Cades Cove Loop Road. To get to Cades Creek Loop Road from Gatlinburg head north on US 441 for 8.4 miles. Take a left on Wears Valley Road and follow for 12 miles. Turn left on TN-73 and follow into the park. When you reach the intersection of Little River and Laurel Creek Road turn right onto Laurel Creek Road and follow until it dead ends into Cades Cove Loop Road. http://www.pigeonforgetourism.com/swimmingholes#
Midnight Hole NC
The magical Midnight Hole in North Carolina has long been a secret swimming spot for locals and travelers alike. Located in the Big Creek area of the Smoky Mountains, getting there involves a short but worth it hike. Many people love to take a dip here in the heat of summer as the mountain-fed water stays pretty cool year-round.
Follow Big Creek Trail from the parking area. The trail flows you through dense wilderness and in the late spring and early summer wildflower blooms add an extra treat to the scenery. In about 1.5 miles you’ll reach Midnight Hole. https://blueridgemountainlife.com/midnight-hole/
Midnight Hole is also located near Mouse Creek Falls. If you continue to follow Big Creek Trail for 0.5 miles after Midnight Hole, you’ll stumble upon a side trail that will lead you to Mouse Creek.