Whether you’re looking to jump right in — or just take in the view — we’re making your search to cool off this summer easier with our list of water-wonderful places. Many are less than two hours from Charlotte.
by Sharon Smith
MAKE A SPLASH
Carrigan Farms, Mooresville – head north 1 hr.
Swimming in this deep, naturally made quarry is an unforgettable experience. Kids and adults alike love swinging from atop a perch into the water. Open swim is available through reservations, and lifeguards are on duty. Everyone entering the water must wear a life vest or pass a swim test, and a signed waiver is required. Burgers and sandwiches are available for purchase. Cost is $15 to swim at Carrigan Farms. 1213 Oak Ridge Farm Hwy., Mooresville
Sliding Rock, Brevard – head west, 2 hrs., 45 min.
This mountain waterfall along Highway 276 in Pisgah National Forest is a worthwhile drive. Expect crowds during the summer, but the adventure is worth the wait. The cool, clear water is refreshing and the “ride” down this natural waterslide is a thrill. During the summer, it’s open seven days a week, with lifeguards on duty. Restrooms and changing rooms are easily accessible at Sliding Rock. Tip: bring shorts you don’t mind getting some wear and tear.
Skinny Dip Falls, Canton – head west 3 hrs., 15 min.
If you make it to Sliding Rock, Skinny Dip Falls is not much farther. Pull off near mile marker 417 along the Blue Ridge Parkway, near the Looking Glass Rock overlook. A short hike will take you to a natural waterfall and swimming hole on the Yellowstone Prong of the Big East Fork of the Pigeon River.
Take a cool dip and dry off under the sun on the rocks.
Romare Bearden Park – Uptown
This 5.4-acre park across from Truist Field is always a great spot to people watch. Kids gravitate toward the waterfall wall for some fun splashing around. 300 S. Church St.
Hanging Rock State Park, Danbury – head north 2 hrs., 15 min.
Yes, Hanging Rock State Park is known for the iconic hanging rock formation that attracts seasoned hikers to the top for a sweeping view. There’s also Lower Cascade Falls, an easily accessible spot to cool off and splash around. For bigger water, the park also has a public beach, swimming area, paddle boats and canoeing, with public access to the Dan River. Don’t leave without checking out Tory’s Den, a historic cave. Swimming fees are $6 for adults, $4 for children under 13. 790 Hanging Rock Park Rd., Danbury
Ramsey Creek Park, Lake Norman – head north 45 min.
The beach at Ramsey Creek Park is a little patch of shoreline a few miles up Interstate 77. There’s plenty of sand and room to swim. Besides swimming, this 46-acre waterfront park offers boat launching and docks, a playground, picnic shelters, nature trails, a fishing pier, enclosed dog park and a volleyball court. Complete your day trip by dining lakeside at Hello, Sailor; North Harbor Club; or Port City Club. 18441 Nantz Rd., Cornelius
Green River Gorge, Saluda – head west 2 hrs.
A top spot for tubing, the Green River also offers a range of whitewater experiences. Those with a more adventurous spirit can reserve a guided kayaking tour. Many families enjoy the slower, calm pace of tubing along the Lower Green. Wilderness Cove Tubing is one option to book reservations. 3772 Green River Cove Rd..
Left: Skinny Dip Falls. Middle: Riverwalk in Rock Hill, S.C. (photograph by Jennings Cool Roddey). Right: Green River Gorge.
JUST THE VIEW, PLEASE
Riverwalk, Rock Hill, S.C., – head south, 30 minutes
Piedmont Medical Center Trail is an easy, wide walking path along the Catawba River, with a dining district and water activities nearby.
Riverside Park and Greenway, Cramerton – head west, 45 minutes
This paved greenway has picnic areas, water access and views of the South Fork River.
McDowell Nature Preserve – head south, 45 minutes
The oldest preserve in Mecklenburg County has winding trails through the forest along the banks of Lake Wylie.
Featured photo courtesy of Carrigan Farms.