These 20+ Natural Swimming Spots Are Both Beautiful and Refreshing Near Greenville, SC

Looking for a swimming hole to cool off in all this Greenville, South Carolina heat? Local mom Liene shares her list of natural swimming and wading spots in and near Greenville. These lakes, rivers, and creeks are the perfect spots to get wet on a hot summer day.

On these hot, lazy summer days there is nothing better than packing a few beach towels and your bathing suits and heading to a nearby swimming hole to cool off! It’s light outside until after 8 pm, which is great for those who want to avoid the hottest hours of the day and spend a lazy afternoon on the beach of one of the refreshing lakes in the Upstate. Meanwhile, visitors to one of the dozens of mountain creeks will find cool temperatures in the forest shade, enchanting waterfalls, and plenty of places to splash away the longest days of the year.

This article includes:
Lake Keowee public access parks
Lake Jocassee public access parks
Lake Hartwell at Twelve Mile Recreation Area
Long Shoals Wayside Park
Wildcat Wayside
Riley Moore Falls, Sumter National Forest
Cedar Shoals Creek, Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
The Quarry at Carrigan Farms
Midnight Hole
Graveyard Fields
Chau Ram County Park
Campbell’s Covered Bridge
Pleasant Ridge County Park
Schoolhouse Falls
Silver Run Falls
Sliding Rock in Cashiers
Gorges State Park
Lake Placid, Paris Mountain State Park
Pinnacle Lake, Table Rock State Park
Oconee State Park
Lake Murray
Do not swim in the Reedy River!

If you’re looking for more options, don’t miss our huge guide Where to Cool Off, Splash and Swim in Upstate, SC. It also includes splash pads, water parks, and pools.

Pinnacle Lake
Pinnacle Lake at Table Rock State Park

A note about safety: While there are hundreds of waterfalls within a short driving distance of the Upstate, exercise extreme caution when wading and splashing. While you’ll often see other visitors climbing the waterfalls, venturing off the path is dangerous and can result in injury and even death. In addition to swift currents, slick rocks, and steep drops, other hazards include poison ivy, snakes, and ticks.

Be sure to check the websites for hours of operation and current safety information.

Lake Keowee, Keowee-Toxaway State Park

Swimming is permitted in Lake Keowee, but there are no designated swimming areas within Keowee-Toxaway State Park and lifeguards are not present. There is a small parking area down by the boat ramp in the park where you could take a dip. The better option, in our opinion, is to hike the Natural Bridge Trail loop and find a spot to cool down in Poe Creek as an alternative to swimming in the lake. If you take the Raven Rock Trail, you can swim in the lake through access points on the trail. There are a dozen small pools and rapids that are perfect for some water fun. Admission to this park is free.

Keowee-Toxaway State Park
108 Residence Drive, Sunset, SC
864.868.2605

Distance from Greenville: 50 minutes

You can also swim in Lake Keowee at High Falls County Park and South Cove County Park in Seneca. Both parks have a beach area but there are no lifeguards on duty. There is a parking fee of $2. Mile Creek County Park is another great option with a small beach and a parking fee of $5.

High Falls County Park
671 High Falls Rd, Seneca, SC
864.882.8234

Distance from Greenville: 50 minutes

South Cove County Park
1031 S Cove Rd, Seneca, SC
864.882.5250

Distance from Greenville: 50 minutes

Mile Creek County Park
757 Keowee Baptist Church Road, Six Mile, SC
Distance from Greenville:
50 minutes

Lake Jocassee at Devil’s Fork State Park

Nearby Devil’s Fork State Park also has no lifeguards, but a popular swimming spot in Lake Jocassee. A strip of beach with shallow water attracts a crowd on hot days. Get there early as the parking lot fills up and then you have to wait to get into the park.
$8/adults, $4/kids 6-15, free/children under 6 years old

Devil’s Fork State Park
161 Holcombe Circle, Salem, SC
864.944.2639

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Lake Jocassee
Lake Jocassee

Lake Hartwell at Twelve Mile Recreation Area

For swimming on Lake Hartwell, head out to Twelve Mile Recreation Area. In addition to the sandy beach, you’ll find a playground, drinking water, and flush toilets.

Twelve Mile Park
113 12 Mile Park Rd, Clemson, SC
888.893.0678

Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes

Long Shoals Wayside Park

One of the top destinations in the Upstate for summer water fun is Long Shoals Wayside Park. Here Little Eastatoe Creek flows through flat, gently sloping shoals to form a natural water slide – complete with plunge pool at the base.

Located just off the Cherokee Foothills National Scenic Highway, you can bring a picnic and spend the entire day exploring. The facilities are very primitive, but do include a picnic area. Check SC DHEC for swim advisories.

Long Shoals Wayside Park
Just off Scenic Highway 11 between Table Rock and Lake Jocassee, Pickens, SC
864.654.6738

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour

Wildcat Wayside

Another popular spot is Wildcat Wayside. The pool beneath the 10-foot cascade can get pretty crowded during the weekends, but your visit can be combined with a trip to nearby Caesars Head or Table Rock State Parks for a full day of fun.

Wildcat Wayside
US 276/SC 11, Cleveland, SC

Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes

Waterfall at Wildcat Wayside
Wildcat Wayside

Riley Moore Falls, Sumter National Forest

In Sumter National Forest you’ll find one of our favorite swimming holes, Riley Moore Falls. The huge pool, a large sandy beach with gradual entry, and the 50 feet wide waterfall make it a one-of-a-kind summer destination.

However, you’ll want to prepare for the hike in to the falls; bring a picnic and plenty of drinking water in addition to your swimsuits on the two-mile round trip hike. If you don’t have a 4×4 vehicle, you may want to park on the gravel road and hike up the logging road instead of driving. It adds maybe another half mile to the hike.

Riley Moore Falls Trail
Westminster, SC
864.638.9568

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Riley Moore Falls

Cedar Shoals Creek, Musgrove Mill State Historic Site

To the southeast of Greenville, 10-foot high Horseshoe Falls on Cedar Shoals Creek has long been popular with the locals as a picnic area and swimming hole. Part of Musgrove Mill State Historic Site, the falls are just a short hike on a paved path from the parking area on Horseshoe Falls Road.

Musgrove Mill State Historic Site
398 State Park Road, Clinton, SC

864.938.0100
Distance from Greenville: 50 minutes

The Quarry at Carrigan Farms

Enjoy a pool with natural, spring-fed water at Carrigan Farms in Mooresville, North Carolina. They have open swimming dates over the summer and every person 12 and under are provided with a mandatory life vest. Water is 25-feet deep so adults can use life vests as well.
Prices range from $22-$35/person

Carrigan Farms
1261 Oakridge Farm Hwy, Mooresville, NC
704.664.1450

Distance from Greenville: 2 hours

Quarry at Carrigan Farms

Midnight Hole

Hike the three-mile round trip trail to the emerald lagoon swimming hole. Lots of space to play in the water but be sure to be careful around the slippery rocks. Free parking. The Big Creek Trail is closed from May – July 14, 2022 for trail maintenance except for Friday-Sunday. No dogs are allowed on the trail.

Type in “Big Creek Trail” on your GPS. The trail head is in the Great Smoky Mountains in NC, right past Waynesville
Distance from Greenville: 2 hours

Midnight Hole

Graveyard Fields

Sounds like a strange name for a swimming hole, but don’t let that scare you. Graveyard Fields swimming hole right off the Blue Ridge Parkway has everything you need in a swimming hole (including paved parking and restrooms!).

Mile marker 418.8 on the Blue Ridge Parkway
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 45 minutes

Graveyard fields
Graveyard Fields

Chau Ram County Park

From sandy beaches to small rapids, Chau Ram County Park in Oconee County is a great destination for water adventures. There is a good swimming hole on Ramsey Creek at the bottom of Chau Ram falls, and swings and playground equipment provide a break from the water play.
$2/car

Chau Ram County Park
1220 Chau Ram Park Road, Westminster, SC
864.647.9286

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 10 minutes

Chau Ram

Campbell’s Covered Bridge

Campbell’s Covered Bridge is the only remaining covered bridge in the state, and in addition to the historic bridge and grist mill foundations you’ll find Beaverdam Creek, a small creek that is great for cooling off on a hot summer day. It’s not really a swimming hole, more like a wading area. Nearby picnic tables make it a convenient picnic-and-play spot.

Campbells Covered Bridge
171 Campbells Covered Bridge Road, Landrum, SC

Distance from Greenville: 40 minutes

Campbell's Covered Bridge creek stomping
Campbells Covered Bridge

Pleasant Ridge County Park

Pleasant Ridge County Park is better known for its bike trails, but Leroy Smith Nature Trail offers easy access to Pleasant Ridge Falls – a great spot for splashing around.

Pleasant Ridge Park
4232 Highway 11, Marietta, SC

Distance from Greenville: 45 minutes

Schoolhouse Falls

This swimming hole is awesome because you can walk behind the waterfall. Schoolhouse Falls is located in Panthertown Valley just north of Cashiers, North Carolina.

The hike to the falls is 2.5 miles round trip and not very hard. It’s mostly downhill on the way there so the hike back is a little more difficult.

Park at Cold Mountain Gap in Panthertown Valley
(precise directions)
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 40 minutes

school house falls
Schoolhouse Falls

Silver Run Falls

This hidden swimming hole in North Carolina near Cashiers is a little harder to find than others and is located in Nantahala National Forest. You have to pay attention to the road and look for a sign that says “Silver Run Falls”. The hike to the falls is around a quarter-mile and pretty easy. The waterfalls flow into a tranquil pool, perfect for smaller kids.

From Greenville on your way into the Sapphire Valley, head west on Hwy 64 towards Cashiers and turn left on Hwy 107.
Parking is about four miles on the left.
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Sliding Rock in Cashiers

Not to be confused with the larger Sliding Rock in Pisgah Forest, the Sliding Rock in Cashiers is smaller but just as fun – and free. Located about 10 minutes from the heart of Cashiers in North Carolina, you can pull off the side of the road, grab a towel, and hike the short distance to the big granite rock and take your chances by sliding down into the frigid water.

From Cashiers on Hwy 64, take Hwy 107 south and turn right onto Whiteside Cove Road.
Limited parking available in just under three miles.
Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 25 minutes minutes

Sliding Rock
Sliding Rock in Cashiers

Gorges State Park

My kids love the Hidden Falls swimming area not far from Rainbow Falls (downriver – never swim above a waterfall, never) in Gorges State Park. The swimming hole is certainly hidden. It took me three tries to the park to find it. It’s off a little, unmarked trail maybe an eighth of a mile before Rainbow Falls to the left of the trail.

Gorges State Park
976 Grassy Ridge Road, Sapphire, NC
828.966.9099

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Hidden Falls swimming hole
Hidden Falls

Lake Placid, Paris Mountain State Park

The closest lake with a public swimming area to Greenville is in Paris Mountain State Park. Access to the swimming area at Lake Placid is included with the park entry fee; for hours see the website. Swimming is not allowed in any of the other three lakes in the park. Kayaks are for rent here for a small fee.
$6/adults, $3.50/kids 6-15, free/children under 6 years old

Paris Mountain State Park
2401 State Park Road, Greenville, SC
864.244.5565

Distance from Greenville: 0 minutes

Pinnacle Lake, Table Rock State Park

The Pinnacle Lake swimming area at Table Rock features a little sandy beach and picnic area. Kayaks and small boats are for rent here for a small fee. Wading is also allowed at your own risk in the Carrick Creek waterfall near the observation deck.
$6/adults, $3.50/kids 6-15, free/children under 6 years old

Table Rock State Park
158 Ellison Lane, Pickens, SC
864.878.9813

Distance from Greenville: 50 minutes

Oconee State Park

A little further down Highway 11, Oconee State Park also has a designated swimming area available Memorial Day – Labor Day weekend.
$5/adults, $3.25/ages 6-15, free for kids 5 and under

Oconee State Park
624 State Park Road, Mountain Rest, SC
864.638.5353

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour, 25 minutes

Lake Murray

Near Columbia, SC is Lake Murray. You’ll find a beach area with swimming, though no lifeguards are on duty. The area is roped off and relatively shallow. Pack a picnic and enjoy a day at the lake! There is a parking fee of $5 for the nearest parking lot.

Lake Murray
1832-1834 North Lake Drive 
Lexington, SC 29072

Distance from Greenville: 1 hour and 30 minutes

Lake Murray Park beach
Lake Murray

The Reedy River is Not Safe for Swimming

However appealing the Reedy River may be on a hot day, it is not safe for swimming. Bacteria levels are tested regularly, and results from sections in Travelers Rest all the way to Lake Greenwood are in excess of federal standards. Despite its pleasant appearance, the Reedy River is contaminated with high concentrations of harmful bacteria that can cause serious infections to humans. For these reasons wading, swimming, and climbing on the rocks in Falls Park and Cedar Falls Park are prohibited, and you would be smart to keep children and pets out of the river.

Something for Everyone

Sandy beaches, natural sliding shoals, waterfall pools – it’s easy enough to stay out of the Reedy when you’ve got all these options! Whether you need a break from the sweltering humidity, are looking for a day trip with a cool-down at the end, or just want to take a refreshing dip without the chlorine, there’s something in the Upstate for everyone.

Did your favorite swimming hole make the list? If not, add it in the comments.

Liene
About the Author
Mother of four young boys, Liene is constantly on the move since returning to Greenville in 2012. Whether she’s exploring the state parks and natural areas of the Carolinas or teaming up with other moms to organize activities for the kids, she’s always searching for the next adventure in the Upstate. For everything from hiking, travel, cooking and crafts to multicultural & global education posts, visit her blog, http://FemmeauFoyer2011.blogspot.com.

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Lisa
5 years ago

Thank you for informing people about the Reedy River. As a native, it worries me to see those who don’t know play in the water at Falls Park. If it’s mentioned, people think you’re being rude. Again, thank you!

Marcia
4 years ago

Please provide directions to Long Shoals Wayside Park. from downtown Greenville Thank you!

P B Williams
4 years ago

Lake Placid at Paris Mountain State Park does not have life guards.

3 years ago

Thank you so much for this, especially the note re: the Reedy River. I took my grandson to Rock Quarry Park this morning and we had a wonderful time. BUT I WONDERED whether the water was clean enough to play in. We took a good shower with Dial soap, so I hope he’s okay. Just wish I had seen your warning before!

Janet Foster
1 year ago

Thank you for taking the time to publish this list! It’s terrific!

Does anyone know if any of the parks, swim holes, etc allow dogs to swim? Thank you in advance!