Monday, June 5, 2017

Swimming holes in Upstate SC

On these hot, lazy summer days there is nothing better than packing a few beach towels and your bathing suits and heading to a nearby swimming hole to cool off! It’s light outside until after 8pm, which is great for those who want to avoid the hottest hours of the day and spend a lazy afternoon on the beach of one of the refreshing lakes in the Upstate. Meanwhile visitors to one of the dozens of mountain creeks will find cool temperatures in the forest shade, enchanting waterfalls, and plenty of places to splash away the longest days of the year. Whether you’re headed to one of our beautiful State & County Parks, or to the rivers of the nearby National Forest, you’ll want to jump right in to these swimming holes in the Upstate!

Bull Sluice on the Chattooga


The closest lake with a public swimming area is in Paris Mountain State Park. Access to the swimming area at Lake Placid is included with the park entry fee, and a lifeguard is on duty while the swimming area is open; for hours see the State Park website. Swimming is not allowed in any of the other three lakes in the park.

Carrick creek cascade

Another State Park that has a lifeguard on duty is Table Rock. The Pinnacle Lake swimming area features a high dive board, low dive board and sandy beach. Wading is also allowed at your own risk in Carrick Creek near the observation deck (Table Rock State Park 2017 beach & swimming hours). Oconee State Park a little further down Highway 11 also has a designated swimming area with a lifeguard on duty, and low & high diving boards. However, the park’s main lake has been drained for emergency maintenance, so check with the park directly to check if open.

Swimming is permitted in Lake Keowee, but there are no designated swimming areas within Keowee-Toxaway State Park and lifeguards are not present. We enjoy hiking the Natural Bridge Trail loop and finding a spot to cool down in Poe Creek as an alternative to swimming in the lake! There are a dozen small pools and rapids that are perfect for some water fun. Nearby Devil’s Fork State Park also has no lifeguards, but a popular swimming spot in Lake Jocassee is near concessions on Buckeye Drive. A strip of beach with shallow water attracts a crowd on hot days, or if exploring Lake Jocassee by boat head out on the water to swim in one of the many waterfalls.

Lake Jocassee

For swimming on Lake Hartwell, head out to Twelve Mile Recreation Area, managed by the US Army Corps of Engineers. In addition to the sandy beach, you’ll find a playground, drinking water, and flush toilets.


One of the top destinations in the Upstate for summer water fun is Long Shoals Wayside Park. Here Little Eastatoe Creek flows through flat, gently sloping shoals to form a natural waterslide – complete with plunge pool at the base! Located just off the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway, you can bring a picnic and spend the entire day exploring. The facilities are very primitive, but do include a picnic area.

Long Shoals Wayside Park

Another popular spot is Wildcat Wayside. The pool beneath the 10-foot cascade can get pretty crowded during the weekends, but your visit can be combined with a trip to nearby Caesars Head or Table Rock State Parks for a full day of fun.

Bull Sluice on the Chattooga River is a challenging rapid for kayakers, but a few hundred feet below the rapids is a sandy beach area. This beautiful region is part of the Andrew Pickens Ranger District of Sumter National Forest; amenities include parking, restrooms and drinking water.

Also on Sumter National Forest you’ll find one of our favorite swimming holes, Riley Moore Falls. The huge pool, a large sandy beach with gradual entry, and the 50 feet wide waterfall make it a one-of-a-kind summer destination. However, you’ll want to prepare for the hike in to the falls; bring a picnic and plenty of drinking water in addition to your swimsuits on the two-mile round trip hike.

To the southeast of Greenville, 10-foot high Horseshoe Falls on Cedar Shoals Creek has long been popular with the locals as a picnic area and swimming hole. Part of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, the falls are just a short hike from the parking area on Horseshoe Falls Road.

Horseshoe Falls in Musgrove Mill Historic Site
There are dozens of waterfalls in the Upstate, but exercise extreme caution when wading and splashing. While you’ll often see other visitors climbing the waterfalls, venturing off the path is dangerous and can result in injury and death. In addition to swift currents, slick rocks and steep drops, other hazards include poison ivy, snakes and ticks.


The smaller county parks scattered across the Upstate don’t have designated swimming areas and lifeguards, but they do have plenty of creeks, waterfalls and shoals for water play. From sandy beaches to small rapids, Chau Ram County Park in Oconee County is a great destination for water adventures. There is a good swimming hole on Ramsey Creek at the bottom of Chau Ram falls, and swings and playground equipment provide a break from the water play.

Campbell’s Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in the state, and in addition to the historic bridge and grist mill foundations you’ll find Beaverdam Creek, a small creek that is great for cooling off on a hot summer day. Nearby picnic tables make it a convenient picnic-and-play spot.

Campbell's Covered Bridge

Pleasant Ridge County Park is better known for its bike trails, but Leroy Smith Nature Trail offers easy access to Pleasant Ridge Falls – a great spot for splashing around.


However appealing the Reedy River may be on a hot day, it is not safe for swimming. Bacteria levels are tested regularly, and results from sections in Travelers Rest all the way to Lake Greenwood are in excess of federal standards. Despite its pleasant appearance, the Reedy River is contaminated with high concentrations of harmful bacteria that can cause serious infections to humans. For these reasons wading, swimming, and climbing on the rocks in Falls Park and Cedar Falls Park are prohibited, and you would be smart to keep children and pets out of the river.

Sandy beaches, natural sliding shoals, waterfall pools – it’s easy enough to stay out of the Reedy when you’ve got all these options! Whether you need a break from the sweltering humidity, are looking for a day trip with a cool-down at the end, or just want to take a refreshing dip without the chlorine, there’s something in the Upstate for everyone. Did your favorite swimming hole make the list? 

1 comment:

  1. Too bad about the Reedy River... It is such a pretty area--at least the parts we have seen...

    Great list of possible swimming areas in and around your area... We've never been to Table Rock ---so need to do that sometime...

    We do enjoy watching the kayakers at Bull Sluice.... Have never been to the swimming area...

    Thanks for sharing.


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