Aside from the hiking, breweries, farm-to-table deliciousness, and being a borderline parody of itself, Asheville, and WNC (Western North Caroline, to those of you non-locals) is also known for an over-abundance of waterfalls, including one that would be considered famous if I cared about the Hunger Games. What doesn’t get as much shine, but what according to my half-assed internet research is still largely prominent is an over-abundance of swimming holes.
I’m not going to be a hypocrite and say that I dislike waterfalls, because it just takes one look at my Instagram account to know that’s a lie, but if I had to pick between a waterfall and a swimming hole, I’m usually going to pick a swimming holes every time, even though the best swimming holes are at the bottom of waterfalls.
I ventured to my first southern watering hole recently, which was indeed fed by a small waterfall. It was the Midnight Hole, located just inside the Great Smoky National Park, just outside the Tennessee border (in fact, you have to briefly drive into Tennessee to get to this little woodland treat from Asheville).
The trail to Midnight Hole is located at the Mouse Falls Trailhead down the end of a dirt road just a couple miles off 40. It’s about an hour drive from Asheville, but a really easy one. The hike itself is very easy too. It’s three miles round-trip with almost no elevation gain, but a very scenic walk along the Big Creek. The swimming hole itself is bigger than I expected, but not huge, though I didn’t venture into the water on this trip. It’s definitely deep enough to jump off the rocks next to the falls into the titular hole.
I’d hazard a guess that on very hot summer days this swimming hole may get over crowded. We got there just after 11 on a decently warm, but not hot, Sunday morning. When I first arrived, there were two other groups of people on the hole’s shoreline. I guess one con of this particular swimming hole setup is that said “shoreline” is rather meager and isn’t really conducive to sitting and hanging out. We didn’t find that to be a huge problem as we walked down stream a bit and found a large rock to sit and hang on. After an hour or so, it started getting crowded and the little bits of area around the hole almost appeared unmanageable. Had I been up there looking for a relaxing float or lay, I admittedly would’ve been annoyed. Though we were removed from the hordes, and had no intention of getting into the water, we ended up leaving around 1 once things really got popping (aka once large families with chairs, floats, and screamers arrived).
Having to leave wasn’t a bad thing. There are quite a few other small trails leading off the main trail down to the creek on your way back. None of them have any swimming holes you could jump in, but a few of them definitely have smaller pools you could sit and cool off in, without the crowds. We parked ourselves at one of those for a solid hour and just relaxed. It was a really great way to spend a Sunday.