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UPDATED JUL 14, 2020

The hike may be hard. You may get lost more than once. The water is probably freezing. But discovering your town’s natural swimming holes tops overly chlorinated pools any day. The secret is out, but these spots are 100% DC bucket-listers.




Submerge in these cascading mountain waters — beneath Maryland’s tallest waterfall. The half-mile hike to get there—and the sweat—is worth it once you see the falls. At 73 feet tall, the waterfall splashes over several ledges on the way down, and pools at the foot where you can caper under the surging water.

Looking for seclusion and quiet? Head to The Pool to bathe body and mind in peace and nature. Tucked away in the Sweathouse Branch Wildlands Area in Gunpowder Falls, MD, The Pool is a small, overlooked retreat where you can escape heat and crowds. A little over a mile walking will bring to the water, and a boulder by the water is great for sprawling over and taking an afternoon nap.

Swing into summer at Beaver Dam. Seriously, this place has a rope swing. From a high platform, give your best Tarzan impersonation before dropping into the 40-foot-deep waters below. This Maryland haven has enough to keep you staying all day, with a rolling log, diving board, and volleyball courts.

Nothing makes swimming more refreshing than after a workout, right? Hit these swimming holes after an 8.5-mile loop through Shenandoah National Park, VA — your reward is three different waterholes and one majestic waterfall. Not feeling the hike? It’s cool, you can get there from a one-mile walk from the parking area.

The name might not sound appealing, but the location sure is. This swimming hole is nestled in George Washington National Forest, VA. The swimming hole is nestled at the bottom of Buzzard Rock cliffs, where climbers and hikers clamber up the slopes.

How far can you swim? If you want to go the distance, head to Patapsco Valley, where the Patapsco River stretches out for 32 miles in this Maryland park, with swimming permitted most of the distance. If swimming isn’t enough of a workout for you, hit the trails, which offer paths for mountain bikers and hikers.

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