What to do when summer rolls around? Head north — but not too far. We’re thinking of a day trip (or maybe, a weekend). There are plenty of swimming pools in the Atlanta area, and if you’re lucky, you might even have one at home. But there’s only so much charm to be found even in the fanciest of personal swimming locales — sometimes, there’s nothing quite like beating the heat in the wonders of Mother Nature.
Despite the hustle and bustle of the city, there are actually some charming, remote swimming holes that are actually really close by, with all the bells and whistles like waterfalls, rope swings, and high dives — fun for the whole family.
Location (from Downtown Atlanta): 80 miles NE
Address (for mapping): 34°40'46.2"N 83°56'13.3"W
Located just far enough outside the city to be “out of the city,” Dick’s Creek (a.k.a. The Falls on Waters Creek) has a fun waterfall that you can climb, as well as several separate swimming holes (the favorite is the large one, located just at the bottom of the falls). Plus, you won’t have to hike so far to get to the fun stuff — the swimming is located right next to the parking lot. Just make sure that you’re safe while hanging out here. There aren’t any sharks or anything, but the rocks can be a little slippery, and cell phone service is wishy-washy at best; the cost of the great outdoors.
Location (from Downtown Atlanta): 95 miles
Address (for mapping): 34°41'58.8"N 83°25'15.7"W
If you don’t mind going for a bit of a hike, the payoff in this exurban Clarkesville spot is more than worth it. There’s a wide, high bank of beautiful waterfalls in this location (one of the region’s most popular), and if you’re interested in spending a little more time than an afternoon, bring a tent and some burgers and camp out — there’s a campsite within earshot of the crashing water. Check for availability ahead of time: this spot used to be a secret, but it can get filled up in advance by like-minded Atlantans who are seeking some R&R.
Location (from Downtown Atlanta): 60 miles
Address (for mapping): 34°25'60.5"N 84°12'80.5"W
This is the type of locale where you can spend a whole weekend. There are hiking trails, some beautiful stretches of river, even some rapids — go ahead and check into one of the local rafting outfits if whitewater-ing is up your alley, because there are some sweet Class IV falls up here (“End of the World” is the nickname for this rafting course). Otherwise, between the rapids, there are some lovely places to take a dip, and some riverfront campgrounds that’ll round out the weekend nicely.
Location (from Downtown Atlanta): 60 miles NW
Address (for mapping): 34°06'19.2" N 85°20'6.0" W
There is an abundance of natural springs in this area that feed into a shallow stream — ideal for the kids to paddle around in. If you’d like an element of civilization to your nature, however, check out the enormous pool, fed by a natural spring. (it’s about a half-acre in size and has a cement bottom) which is flanked by a snack bar, some picnic tables, and a volleyball court.
Location (from Downtown Atlanta): 107 miles NE
Address (for mapping): 34°48'58.3"N 83°43'37.2"W
It’s a bit more of a trek outside the city than a lot of the other swimming holes on this list, but some things — like spending the day in the pristine foothills of the Appalachian Mountains — are worth the extra time (download a podcast for the drive; you’ll be fine). Once you’ve arrived at High Shoals Creek, park the car and go for a stroll. There are actually two swimming holes on the 2.5 mile trail, but the iconic deep, clear (hence the name) blue hole is so pretty, it practically begs you to jump in. And, hey, that’s why you’re here. If possible, make a long weekend out of the trip; there is a lovely resort only 20 miles away (the Brasstown Valley Resort), and the Bavarian-inspired Helen, Ga. isn’t too far away, either.
Location (from Downtown Atlanta): 90 miles NE
Address (for mapping): 34°45'09.2"N 83°53'44.5"W
The falls here are pretty steep, so you won’t be able to do too much climbing. The swimming hole located at the base, however, is just gorgeous, and there are plenty of places where you can stick you head under the cool, crashing water. The water here comes from high in the north Georgia mountains, so it can be pretty chilly — just the cure for the warmest days.