The Best Swimming Holes in Tennessee

Written by Kirstin Harrington
Updated: August 16, 2023
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There’s nothing more delightful than summertime in the South! Therefore, if you live in Tennessee, you should consider taking the day off from work to go swimming in a natural swimming hole in Middle Tennessee.

This is one of the nicest things to do in the area. The water is pure and crisp since the state essentially rests on a limestone bed. Whenever you visit one of these natural wonders, exercise caution. Keep a close eye on your companions at all times because there won’t be a lifeguard there to pull you out from the water.

Explore the Foster Falls Recreation Area of South Cumberland State Park to discover and take in one of Tennessee’s most beautiful and untamed locations.

Harpeth River State Park

Harpeth River, Tennessee

A popular location for swimming, fishing, and kayaking in Tennessee is Harpeth River State Park.


The 40-mile-long Harpeth River State Park is a linear area that looks after nine river access points. The sites include several natural, historical, and archaeological areas. It’s popular to kayak, paddle, fish, and hike in the park. At every site, there are canoe access points. 

Class I rivers include the Harpeth River. It is suitable for paddlers of all skill levels. People can bring their own kayak or canoe. Regional outfitters in and surrounding Kingston Springs offer rentals and excursion details.

In Tennessee’s Western Highland Rim, the Harpeth River has canoe put-in and take-out points that are close together, allowing for a 7-mile float around the river’s circular meander. If it gets too hot, simply take a dip in the refreshing and invigorating water! 

Old Hickory Lake

Old Hickory Lake, Tennessee Swimming Holes

A little over 25 miles north of downtown Nashville is Old Hickory Lake.


One of Tennessee’s most well-liked lakes for pleasure is Old Hickory Lake. You can find it in the counties of Davidson and Sumner at mile 216.2 of the Cumberland River. It is located around 25 miles upstream of downtown Nashville. On the Cumberland River, it is the main storage impoundment.

Popular activities at Old Hickory Lake include boating, hiking, and fishing. Numerous beautiful parks surround the lake. Additionally, there are many full-service marinas all around the lake. At Old Hickory Lake in Tennessee, there are enjoyable activities for all outdoor interests, including swimming. 

22,500 acres and 97.3 river miles make up Old Hickory Lake. The elevation of the lake is 445 feet above sea level. The pool’s lowest elevation is 442 feet. It’s the perfect place to relax with your family and beat the summer heat in Tennessee.

Rock Island State Park

Twin Falls at Rock Island State Park, Tennessee Swimming Holes

Twin Falls is one of the beautiful sights available at Rock Island State Park.

©Scott Alan Ritchie/

At the meeting of the Caney Fork, Collins, and Rocky Rivers, on the 883-acre headwaters of Center Hill Lake, sits Rock Island State Park. The Caney Fork Gorge, which is located beneath Great Falls Dam, is part of the park’s natural beauty.

Some of the most beautiful and notable viewpoints are along the Eastern Highland Rim. Great Falls is a 30-foot, horseshoe-shaped waterfall. It cascades down from the cotton textile mill it powered more than a century ago. In 1969, Rock Island was designated as a Tennessee State Park.

The Caney Fork River Gorge has beautiful vistas, waterfalls, deep waters, and limestone walkways that are great for exploration, hiking, swimming, fishing, and paddling. Freestyle kayakers who are professionals are drawn to the park’s whitewater parts from all over the world. Additionally, it has access to Center Hill Lake by boat and a natural beach with sand.

Here, the water levels are very erratic. They may rise abruptly if the floodgates at Great Falls Dam, which is close to the Old Mill, are opened, or if hydroelectric power is generated at the TVA Powerhouse near Twin Falls.

 Even if there are warning sirens in place, big releases can still happen at any time and can be quite dangerous. The gorge can swiftly fill with water during significant releases from the dam. Tourists should immediately leave the gorge area if sirens are heard coming from the dam at the top of the gorge.

J. Percy Priest Lake

J. Percy Priest Lake in Nashville, Tennessee, Tennessee Swimming Holes

Percy Priest Lake is formed by Percy Priest Dam, about ten miles east of downtown Nashville.

©David Newbold/

Millions of visitors use Percy Priest Lake every year for a range of outdoor leisure activities. Guests have a wide variety of things to choose from, including angling, hunting, camping, picnics, rowing, kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, and more, thanks to the mild climate and comparatively extended recreation season.

The lake is only 15 minutes from downtown Nashville, so lakeside enjoyment may easily fit into your other travel plans. At J, scuba diving is permitted. Lake Percy Priest Divers are required to fly a “Diver Down” flag above the dive site. Boaters need to be mindful of the “Diver Down” flag and maintain a safe distance. 

Three swimming places on J are managed by the Corps of Engineers. Anderson Road, Cook, and Seven Points Campground, according to Percy Priest. At launch pads, mooring locations, marinas, open docks, and designated areas, swimming is not permitted. 

Swimming is permitted elsewhere, but for your own safety, please stick to the approved locations. These regions are significantly safer because all types of boats are not permitted there. They are encircled by buoys marked “restricted area” and a moving yellow pipeline.

Foster Falls

Foster Falls in Sequatchie, Tennessee, Tennessee Swimming Holes

The Foster Falls Recreation Area is operated by Tennessee State Parks.

©Rob Du Bois/

Explore the Foster Falls Recreation Area of South Cumberland State Park to discover and take in one of Tennessee’s most beautiful and untamed locations. This recreation area, run by Tennessee State Parks in Sequatchie, Tennessee, and close to Tracy City, Tennessee, offers a secure and stunning starting point for experiencing the southern Cumberland Plateau.

Foster Falls is a magnificent 60-foot waterfall that cascades into a large basin. The splendor of this place is enhanced by the mountain laurel, azaleas, and hemlocks that grow above the waterfalls, along the sandstone viewpoint, and in the gorge below. 

You can reach the top of the falls by taking a short hike. For a lovely experience and observation, a trail will lead you from there down into the canyon and across the creek on a suspension bridge to the foot of the waterfalls.

North Chickamauga Blue Hole

North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, Tennessee Swimming Holes

North Chickamauga Creek Gorge is home to a number of swimming holes that make it worth the trip.

©Tim Daugherty/

In Chattanooga, July and August bring oppressive humidity in addition to days with highs above 100 degrees. When that time arrives, make sure to visit the Montlake Blue Hole for one of the top swimming experiences in the Chattanooga region.

The North Chickamauga Creek Gorge, also known as The Blue Hole, is only 20 minutes from the city center. With numerous creeks carving deep canyons into Walden’s Ridge and the Cumberland Plateau, this is some of the most picturesque scenery in the Southeast.

There are many swimming holes because of the huge rocks that litter the creek. These crystal-clear lakes can be deeper than ten feet in some locations. The numerous boulders offer good recreational bouldering as well. If you hike deep enough, you might even come across a fantastic rope swing.

After about ten minutes of following the trail upstream, swimming holes will start to appear. The trail will eventually lead you across the creek. Your first big swimming hole will be after you reach the creek. You won’t work up too much of a sweat, but the water will still be rewarding! 

Cummins Falls

Cummins Falls, Tennessee Swimming Holes

Nine miles north of Cookeville, Tennessee, is Cummins Falls State Park.


A picturesque but untamed 306-acre day-use park, Cummins Falls State Park is situated on the Blackburn Fork State Scenic River on the Eastern Highland Rim, nine miles north of Cookeville. 

The region, which is part of the Cordell Hull Watershed, has served as a picturesque location and swimming hole for people of Jackson and Putnam counties for more than a century. With a 75-foot height, Cummins Falls ranks ninth among Tennessee’s waterfalls in terms of water flow. 

Be aware of the dangers to help make your trip to the park as risk-free and pleasurable as possible. When determining whether you should hike down to the waterfall, use common sense and sound judgment. Please make plans to watch the waterfall from the overlook if you are unsure of your safety or swimming abilities.

Summary of the Best Swimming Holes in Tennessee

Swimming HoleLocation
1Harpeth River State ParkWestern Highland Rim
2Old Hickory Lake25 miles north of downtown Nashville
3Rock Island State ParkCaney Fork River Gorge
4J. Percy Priest Lake10 miles east of downtown Nashville
5Foster FallsSouth Cumberland State Park
6North Chickamauga Blue Hole20 minutes from Chattanooga
7Cummins Fallsnine miles north of Cookeville

The photo featured at the top of this post is © Rob Du Bois/

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About the Author

Kirstin is a writer at A-Z Animals primarily covering animals, news topics, fun places, and helpful tips. Kirstin has been writing on a variety of topics for over five years. She has her real estate license, along with an associates degree in another field. A resident of Minnesota, Kirstin treats her two cats (Spook and Finlay) like the children they are. She never misses an opportunity to explore a thrift store with a coffee in hand, especially if it’s a cold autumn day!

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