By Sashank Sankar
There are three types of people during the summer. The first choose to stay within the comforts of air conditioning. The second like to be outdoors, but not too far from civilization, only venturing to swimming pools and local parks. The third have an adventurous streak. And if you fall within that category, there are plenty of options for cooling off around Charlottesville.
The following swimming holes are tucked into the heart of nature, which means they require a few miles of hiking to reach them. And while the hikes vary in length and difficulty (although they’re all doable for novice hikers), they offer great views of the Blue Ridge Mountains—perfect for your next Instagram post. Plus, after a long hike, the best reward is diving into refreshing water.
Location: Parking is available at 6796 Sugar Hollow Rd., near the Charlottesville Reservoir. Walk along the trail for about 1.5 miles.
Hiking: 3 miles out-and-back. It is a little steep, so bring enough water and take your time.
Fun fact: Blue Hole is a common nickname for swimming holes, and this specific spot used to have a rope swing. Unfortunately, the tree that held the rope fell down a few years back, so it isn’t there anymore. But there are plenty of trees to create a new one, if you’re up to the challenge.
Location: Park at the Riprap Trail parking area at milepost 90 on Skyline Drive, in Shenandoah National Park.
Hiking: 9.8-miles round-trip. Recommended for more experienced hikers.
Fun Fact: Although a difficult hike, the swimming hole is located 3.4 miles into the trail, meaning you don’t have to complete the whole thing. More time for swimming!
Location: The trailhead (and parking) is located off Paul’s Creek Court in Nellysford.
Hiking: 1.2 miles round-trip, an easy hike.
Fun Fact: There are three natural water slides at Paul’s Creek.
White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run Trail
Location: Parking is available in the White Oak Canyon lower parking lot, off Chad Berry Lane, inside Shenandoah National Park.
Hiking: 7.3 miles round-trip. Difficult and recommended for more experienced hikers.
Fun Fact: There are five waterfalls on this trail—perfect for anyone who’s looking for picturesque views as well as a swimming option.
Location: Parking is available at 6796 Sugar Hollow Rd., adjacent to the Charlottesville Reservoir. It is the second river crossing you come across.
Hiking: 1.6 miles round-trip. A relatively easy hike, although a little steep.
Fun Fact: This swimming spot is in the same location as Blue Hole, but getting there is an easier hike and a shorter distance. Bonus points if you hit both in one day!
After a long hike, the best reward is diving into refreshing water.