Jump On In: 12 Swimming Holes That Will Keep You Cool in North Georgia This Summer

Written By: Lissa Poirot

Growing up with the simple rule of being home when the streetlights came on, I spent most of my summertime youth outdoors. Whether with friends from my neighborhood taking a 20-mile bike ride adventure with our baskets filled with sloppily made PB&J sandwiches; searching the woods for wildlife and bringing home turtles, frogs and whatever else I could find with my younger brother and sister; or simply spending time alone under the shade of forest trees, I was the child covered in mud with scraped-up knees and an unruly head of curls messily pulled into a ponytail. (My family likened me to the character of Jo on “The Facts of Life.”) If I ever stumbled upon a creek or waterfall, I was all in, allowing myself to dry off in the sun after a dip.

The first time I ever took my children to a swimming hole was on the advice of a local at a restaurant. He simply told me to follow the road to the third switchback, make our way through the trees and we’d find some great rocks to jump off into a cool pool of water deep enough to ensure our safety. At the time, we weren’t dressed for a swim but feeling my kids spend far more time in structured activities and playdates, I decided to show them the simple pleasure of jumping on in, fully clothed, and giving them a taste of old-fashioned summer fun.

They are now teens and, thankfully, still the type to jump on in when we find a swimming hole, most often at the bottom of a small waterfall. It’s a rite of childhood passage and when the heat and humidity of summer in Georgia become nearly unbearable, there is nothing more pleasurable than finding a spot to cool off. If you plan for it, you can have towels and dry clothes rather than doing as we had done on our first swimming hole as a family. Here are some fantastic swimming holes to enjoy when the heat of summer is at its peak.

DICKS CREEK FALLS, Dahlonega

Also known as Waters Creek Falls as the falls are located where Dicks and Waters creeks converge, this ledged waterfall creates cool pools with rockslides to enjoy in the heart of the Chattahoochee National Forest.

HOW TO GET THERE: Head north of Dahlonega on US 19 to Mt. Pisgah Church Road. Follow the sign to Waters Creek Campground, about 2.5 miles.

CONASAUGA SNORKEL HOLE, Georgia-Tennessee State Line

The Conasauga River is so clear that those who swim at this swimming hole bring snorkel gear to check out all of the fish and wildlife, from bass to turtles. You don’t have to hike to reach this snorkel spot; it has its own parking lot and is operated by the Forest Service. You do need to bring your own snorkel gear, but it’s not required to enjoy a swim.

HOW TO GET THERE: Take 411 N to Cisco, turning right just before the Cisco Baptist Church onto Old Highway 2, which will become a gravel road. Once you pass Hopewell Church, head left to follow Forest Service Road 16/Chable Road. Turn left onto Forest Service Road 221/Sheeds Creek Road and you’ll find a parking lot to the left.

If there are too many people already occupying Blue Hole Falls, continue along the trail another half mile and you’ll find High Shoals Falls. There isn’t as large of a pool here and no cliff jumping but it’s still a nice spot to cool off, and the waterfall here is taller than Blue Hole.

SLIDING ROCK, Tallulah Gorge State Park

Bridal Veil Falls gets tons of glory for its beauty but if you haven’t visited yet you’ve been missing out. Hike 2 miles to the Tallulah Gorge and find a large swimming hole where Bridal Veil Falls tumbles. You need a permit to reach this spot and the hike is not for the weak, but good things don’t come easy, and this workout will be pay off.

HOW TO GET THERE: Google directions to Tallulah Gorge State Park’s interpretive center for directions. You’ll need to register for a free permit. (One hundred are offered each day.) The park can provide a map trail to reach Sliding Rock.

BLUE HOLE FALLS, Hiawassee

Take an easy 1-mile hike in the Chattahoochee National Forest to Towns County’s Blue Hole Falls and its swimming hole that comes complete with a rope swing to soar into the water. The falls cascade over a 25-foot cliff and the brave take a leap into the water below.

HOW TO GET THERE: Follow Ga-75 Alt N to GA-348 near Smithgall Woods State Park. The road is actually Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway and you’ll see a sign for Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area.

PANTHER CREEK FALLS, Clarkesville

Be prepared to hike for this secluded swimming hole—3.5 miles each way, in fact. The trail is currently closed as bridges crossing Panther Creek got washed away, but we’re keeping it on our list for when the Forest Service repairs and reopens the pathways to this beautiful spot.

HOW TO GET THERE: Travel along Old Historic 441 and find the Panther Creek Recreation Area and Panther Creek Road within a few miles of the Chattooga River Ranger office in Lakemont.

HIGH SHOALS FALLS, Hiawassee

If there are too many people already occupying Blue Hole Falls, continue along the trail another half mile and you’ll find High Shoals Falls. There isn’t as large of a pool here and no cliff jumping but it’s still a nice spot to cool off, and the waterfall here is taller than Blue Hole.

HOW TO GET THERE: Heading north of Helen, find and follow the gravel Forest Service Road 283 to a small parking area.

DUKES CREEK FALLS, Helen

Found within the Chattahoochee National Forest and a short distance from Helen, enjoy an easy 2-mile out and back trail to reach Dukes Creek Falls. The falls here can be a bit rougher than other falls, so many people take a dip about halfway along the trail. And, bring your pup as pets are welcome.

HOW TO GET THERE: Follow Ga-75 Alt N to GA-348 near Smithgall Woods State Park. The road is actually Richard B. Russell Scenic Highway and you’ll see a sign for Dukes Creek Falls Recreation Area.

HEMLOCK FALLS, Clarkesville

It’s a 2-mile uphill hike along Lake Burton’s Moccasin Creek to reach Hemlock Falls, but the slope is gentle and the creekside scenery along the way makes it well worth the effort. It’s too rocky to jump from the top of the falls into the water below, but the collection of rocks creates wonderful little pools of varying depths to enjoy.

HOW TO GET THERE: Head to Moccasin Creek State Park off of Highway 197, where you’ll find parking and the trailhead.

EDGE OF THE WORLD, Dawsonville

It’s not really the edge of the world, but this Amicalola River swimming hole is one of the most beloved in the state. Follow the 2.5-mile loop trail to the outcrop of rocks under the sun with ample room for all of your friends and family, and even pets. You’ll have areas to set up a picnic and can slide along the rocks into the various pools of river water.

HOW TO GET THERE: Find the trail just off the Dawson Wildlife Management Area on Highway 53. Note: A hunting, fishing, or Georgia Lands Use pass is required to access the property from the parking area, which offers easy river access with an ADA-compliant trail system. Visit gooutdoorsgeorgia.com to purchase.

HELTON CREEK FALLS, Blairsville

It’s an easy 0.2-mile hike to this double waterfall set and swimming hole within the Chattahoochee National Forest. The two-tiered waterfalls are some of the prettiest in North Georgia and both you and furry pets can enjoy a dip in the pool, even getting under the falls’ cascade themselves. Be forewarned: the trailhead can be a little steep.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can find the trailhead just beyond Vogel State Park’s entrance from Route US 19, just turn onto Helton Creek Road. You can even drive through the creek!

POOLE’S MILL, Cumming

Poole’s Mill Covered Bridge is charming enough, but it also spans

Settendown Creek, perfect for cooling off in the summer. The creek has small waterfalls with rocks smoothed by the running water into natural rockslides to ride into the cool creek. Part of a park, there are picnic tables so you can even set up for a full day of fun. But this means others can, too, and on a sweltering weekend day, the creek can get a bit crowded and thereby lose some of its charms.

HOW TO GET THERE: You can Google directions to Poole’s Mill Bridge Park, off of Heardsville Circle in Cumming.

ALLATOONA FALLS, Woodstock

While Lake Allatoona welcomes swimmers, a hidden waterfall makes for a wonderful swimming hole. Since it’s surrounded by private property, you can’t hike in to see Allatoona Falls. Instead, you’ll need to kayak or canoe along Little River to Toonigh Creek, which can get so shallow you may need to walk your kayak to continue to the falls. If the lake is high, however, the water levels could mean a jet ski or small boat could make the run, so enjoy the swimming hole with less people by visiting when it’s low.

HOW TO GET THERE: Start at Olde Rope Mill Park near I-575. Head downstream and follow the right bank and its bends until you find the creek, at a widened spot along the river. Follow it upstream until you reach the falls. If the lake is low, you’ll see the 25-foot waterfall but if it’s high, much of the lower layers of the falls will be submerged.

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