Check out six of the state’s best swimming holes.
When the mercury climbs and the heavy heat of summer feels like a suffocating fist, it is time to embrace your inner child by grabbing an old-fashioned rope swing and leaping into one of the state’s best swimming holes. Cool down and chill out at one of these secluded, time-honored, and reader-tested oases.
Audra State Park in Buckhannon is a West Virginia favorite. Swimming is allowed in the Middle Fork River, where a pool carved from the earth invites everyone to take a dip. Kayaking is permitted, but is done at boaters’ own risks. Take exit 115 off of Interstate 79 and turn onto Route 20 South. After four miles, turn right to stay on Route 20 South for approximately 10 miles. Then turn left on Route 119 North for approximately five miles. Turn right on Audra State Park Road and follow for six miles.
Beat the blistering heat at this popular swimming hole, less than an hour from the Upshur County Courthouse. Buckhannon’s C.J. Rylands has been coming here since 1970. “You come down the side of a mountain to find the only sandy beach in Upshur County.” Leaving the courthouse, head south on Route 20, and turn left on Sago Road. Pass Sago Memorial on your right, and turn right at Big Bend Memorial Chapel and Cemetery. Travel three miles and turn left. Go less than a mile and turn right. You’ll pass the Indian Camp Normal School on your left. Turn left. Thirty minutes from the courthouse, you’ll come to Beans Mill Park before crossing a bridge. This swimming hole is about 50 yards downstream from the bridge.
This North Central West Virginia favorite earned a spot on National Geographic’s “Splash Tested: America’s Best Swimming Holes.” Reader Ricky Hussmann, of Morgantown, says, “Blue Hole is great because there’s a lot of fantastic swimming and little cell service. The drive out is very rough—you need a vehicle with high clearance like a truck or SUV—but it’s well worth it.” About 15 miles southeast of Morgantown, take State Road 7 southeast, 13 miles to Masontown in Preston County. Go a mile east on County Road 23. Turn north on County Road 21, toward Bull Run to reach the Cheat River. Cross a single-lane bridge, and you’ll find parking a couple of hundred yards uphill. Follow the trail less than 100 yards east to the swimming hole. Note: Some paths are narrow and steep.
WARNING: Do not jump from bridge. Submerged rocks are dangerous, and an ambulance cannot make it down the steep, unpaved, and narrow road. Preston County emergency officials have estimated that one fatality occurs at Blue Hole each year, with many injuries.
Named for its color, this secluded Mill Creek swimming hole in Fayetteville is where locals head when the temperatures start to creep up. The TreeTop Canopy Tour zips overhead. In June 2012, Adventures on the Gorge will become home to a man-made swimming hole, too—Canyon Falls Swimming Hole—that fits seamlessly into the landscape.
Reader Debra Dunn says the “chute” at Holly River State Park is a must, as it empties out into a large pool of water. From Buckhannon, take Route 20 South about 35 miles to Holly River State Park. From the park, continue south on Route 20 about one mile to Holly River Left Fork Road and turn left. Drive 4.1 miles to the road on the right marked with a small sign for Shupe’s Chute and Potato Knob. Park and walk, following the signs to the Upper Falls and to Shupe’s Chute. If you follow the Potato Knob path even further, you will come to Lower Falls, which are more isolated. WARNING: Do not swim here if current is strong.
This swimming hole located in Bemis in Randolph County is known for its natural beauty and wonder. “Its waterfalls and natural chutes are amazing,” says reader Lindsay Lambert. Take a swim in Shavers Fork River and sun yourself on large, flat rocks. From Elkins, go east on Route 33 to Alpena, then south on Route 27 to Glady, then west on Route 22 toward Bemis. To get to Mule Hollow, walk south along the train tracks in Bemis about one mile. Follow the tracks, which will begin to follow the river, until you reach a small trail on the left. The trail is steep, and some swimmers might want to bring a rope.
NOTE: Watch out for trains several times a day.