The South is known for a lot of things: sweet tea, country music, fried food, and hot, humid summers, to name a few. When the temperature starts rising, nothing compares to a dip in cool, clear water, especially if there’s scenery to boot. Fortunately for us, the Chattanooga area has its fair share of scenic swimming holes, both natural and man-made, that offer some respite and fun in the sun.
Ready to take the plunge? Here’s our guide to the area’s best swimming holes.
Disclaimer: These swimming locales are not monitored by a lifeguard. Swim at your own risk!
1. Big Soddy Creek Gulf
With easy accessibility, stunning mountain views, and plenty of room for exploration, Big Soddy Creek Gulf is a local hot spot when it comes to swimming holes. A 20-minute drive north of town and a short walk will lead you to the crystal-clear blue waters. While there’s plenty of water to go around, expect some company in the summertime, and get there early if you’d like a little R&R. If you’d like to make a day of it, pack a lunch to enjoy at one of several picnic areas dotting the trail to Big Soddy Creek.
2. DeSoto Falls
Although this destination involves a quick foray into Alabama, it’s still under an hour from Chattanooga and absolutely worth the drive. DeSoto Falls, one of the state’s most-visited waterfalls, is a part of DeSoto State Park and cascades approximately 107 feet into an inviting punch bowl of piercing blue water. Most folks only take in the view from the top of the falls, as it’s a scramble to descend down to the base, but the pool is sure to cool you off on a hot summer day. Don’t leave home without sturdy shoes, some snacks, and your camera!
3. Foster Falls
Foster Falls is a destination in and of itself, luring in outdoor enthusiasts year-round with the beauty of its 60-foot waterfall. Come summer, savvy visitors know to have their swimsuit handy – the deep, sparkling pool below the falls practically begs for you to dive in. To access the pool, you’ll need to follow the steep trail that descends down into the gorge; the trail is rocky, so make sure you’re wearing sturdy shoes. After crossing over a suspension bridge, you’ll be rewarded with waters perfect for swimming and relaxing.
4. Greeter Falls
If you’re already driving out to Foster Falls, you might as well make it a day trip and visit Greeter Falls, part of the Savage Gulf State Natural Area in Altamont, Tennessee. Greeter Falls is comprised of upper and lower falls, the latter of which flows into a shimmering turquoise swimming hole. The trail to get there is rated moderate and takes you through dense, lush forests and down a metal spiral staircase. At the base, there are plenty of rocks you can use for picnicking or lazing in between dips in the pool. Really immerse yourself in this picturesque setting by taking a swim underneath the waterfall!
5. North Chick Blue Hole
Soddy-Daisy’s North Chick Blue Hole is actually a series of swimming holes located in the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, just 20 minutes from downtown. This outdoor oasis consists of large boulders that break up the stream, forming the pools; in some places, these clear pools – which are fed by cool mountain water – boast depths of more than 10 feet. From the parking lot, you can reach your first swimming hole in 10 minutes, or hike longer to find even more (and likely less crowded) options. You might also encounter a rope swing or small cliffs perfect for diving off of.
6. Rainbow Lake
Seasoned hikers are already familiar with Signal Mountain’s Rainbow Lake, constructed in 1916 as part of the Signal Mountain Hotel (now Alexian Village). The lake is situated among a series of trails leading to different destinations on the mountain, including popular Edwards Point. Only a short hike – less than a mile from the parking lot – is required to reach the lake itself. Here, you’ll find a dam that creates a waterfall flowing into the swimmable, family-friendly waters below. Rainbow Lake remains relatively shaded in the summer, making it a cool spot to sit back, relax, and enjoy your surroundings.
7. Suck Creek
At the foot of Signal Mountain, Suck Creek provides welcome relief from the summer heat with a combination of pools and rapids. When traveling along Suck Creek Road, you’ll find multiple pull off areas for parking your car and walking the short distance to the water. Hike along the creek until you find that perfect spot, then jump in! Keep in mind that this is a wooded area, so it’s best to pack bug spray alongside your towel and sunscreen.
Honorable Mention: Chester Frost Park
While not a swimming hole in the traditional sense, Hixson’s Chester Frost Park is the place many locals head when vying to beat the heat. Located on Chickamauga Lake and Dallas Bay, the park is home to a great sandy beach for swimming and lounging. You can also take advantage of the park’s picnic facilities and a Rock/Creek Outfitters outpost renting out kayaks and SUPs by the day or hour. Beach area hours are 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. daily.