Townsend Wye: Spend a Day at This Gorgeous Swimming Hole in the Great Smoky Mountains

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Planning a trip in the Smoky Mountains this summer? Kidding Around’s Kristina Hernandez spent a few summer days in the Smoky Mountains. While she was there she visited Townsend Wye. This swimming hole is FREE and perfect for families. You’ll want to add this one to your vacation things to do if you’re headed up to the Smoky Mountains!

Townsend Wye Swimming hole

Imagine a super hot summer day in the mountains. The heat is blistering. The humidity has made your clothes stick to your body. There is nothing you’d like better than a dip in cool, mountain water – and maybe a chance to chill out in a tube down small rapids.

We’ve got just the place. If you’re headed out to the Great Smoky Mountains or just want an awesome day trip, the Townsend Wye swimming hole is the most perfect place to enjoy a hot day. And it’s free!

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Townsend Wye

The Townsend Wye, locally known as just the Y, is a huge swimming hole with a jump-off rock, small rapids, a few large pools, and enough space to spread out a picnic blanket and make summer memories with your family. 

We brought along tubes and my oldest floated down the easy rapids several times, enjoying the thrill of a natural waterpark, perfect for her level of comfort (and mine). Several people were jumping off a big rock into the refreshing water and I swam out into one of the deeper holes to cool off. It felt divine. 

There is a small parking lot and when that is full, you can easily park your car in the pull-offs nearby. There is a sidewalk to get to the little paths to walk down to the swimming hole as well as a huge grassy hill that overlooks the water where you can sunbathe. 

The swimming hole landscape is just stunning. The mountains hug the curves of the river and even though there were a lot of people the day we went, it was peaceful. Visitors were also respectful of nature and thankfully cleaned up after their time spent at the swimming hole, making it enjoyable for everyone.

Rapids at Townsend Wye

What to Bring to Townsend Wye

Plan like you are going to the beach so bring a lot of sunscreen, snacks, water, and a blanket or two. Camp chairs are great as well. We saw some people with portable grills, which seemed like an awesome idea. 

If you want to use a tube, bring a few. Life jackets are a good idea for non-swimmers or weak swimmers as there are several deep spots, currents, and some rapids. 

Alcohol is not allowed in the park.

Getting To Townsend Wye Swimming Hole

The swimming hole is located right at the entrance to the Great Smoky Mountains in Townsend, Tennessee, and in between Cades Cove and Gatlinburg. It’s about 45 minutes from Gatlinburg and a little over three hours from Greenville. 

We went there the same day we explored Cades Cove, an 11-mile one-way loop in the Great Smoky Mountains that was initially a settlement in the 1800s and is known for the high concentration of wildlife, especially black bears (we saw a mama bear and her two cubs on a recent trip!). Visiting these two places on the same day made for an exceptionally perfect time in the Smokies. 

Townsend Wye swimming hole

Swimming Caution

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park is one of the most visited in the country, with over 11 million visitors last year alone. The official policy of the park is that they never encourage visitors to participate in water activities as drowning is one of the leading causes of death in the park. 

There are numerous waterfalls and swimming holes in the Great Smoky Mountains and people swim and go tubing regularly throughout the summer months but it’s important to take note of the caution recommended by the National Park Service. They note that flash flooding can cause serious injuries if people don’t pay attention and give specific tips on how to avoid injuries, like closely supervising children, not diving into the water, and not climbing on or near waterfalls. 

While both my children can swim, I did put a life jacket on my youngest and closely watched her older sister as she had fun tubing the rapids. And I made sure I was in the water with both of them when we went swimming as well as watching the weather since spotty thunderstorms had been predicted that day. It’s awesome to visit these swimming holes but proper precautions should always be taken for safety.

Townsend Wye
Laurel Creek Road & Little River Road, Townsend, TN 37882

About the Author
Kristina Hernandez is a mom of two girls, freelance writer and photographer. Originally from New Jersey, she is in love with the Upstate and could not imagine raising her kids anywhere else. She enjoys hiking to waterfalls, kayaking, camping, cooking, and exploring all that Greenville has to offer. And she really loves baby goats. Follow her on Instagram at @scadventurer.

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Kaleah M Beasley
4 years ago

I love the Y so much, but it’s almost TOO cold for me lol,even on the hottest days. I stop on the way onto the park in Townsend, along the left side of 321 at the river there. Just as fun, but warmer and less scary for my 5 year old.

Andrea L Murr
2 years ago

Where exactly is it that you stop? Sorry, not from the area and warmer sounds great!

1 year ago

Coming to visit in a few weeks will have a few little ones with us , are there bathrooms near by?!?