The Coolest DC Swimming Holes You Need to Visit This Summer

Come on in, the water’s fine.

This summer, many pools are closed or operating under a limited status due to COVID-19 safety measures, which means finding a place to cool off and take a dip can be challenging. Thankfully, Mother Nature is here to help. There are plenty of scenic watering holes and lakes within an hour or two of Washington DC that make for a perfect summer day trip. Whether you want to swing on a rope-like Tarzan, swim laps in a fresh-water lake, or get soaked underneath a secret waterfall, these swimming holes are your best bet for summer fun in socially distanced times.

Beaver Dam Swim Club
Beaver Dam Swim Club

Cockeysville, Maryland
Just north of Baltimore sits Beaver Dam Swimming Club, which covers about four acres of open-freshwater swimming in an old quarry. The watering hole is known for having a rope swing that would make Tarzan proud. If you're terrified of heights, you can opt to relax in one of two fresh-water swimming pools.

Thurmont, Maryland
It’s a short hike to reach Cunningham Falls, Maryland’s largest waterfall, which tops out at 78 feet and features several cascading waterfalls. The pool at the bottom of the falls is perfect for frolicking, and the swimming lake nearby is where you can relax on a pool float in much calmer waters.

Raystown Lake
Raystown Lake | Christian Hinkle/Shutterstock

Hesston, Pennsylvania 
About three hours north, in Pennsylvania's Alleghenies region, sits an 8,300-acre lake set in a wilderness area that includes two public swimming beaches. The Seven Points Recreation Area Beach is the larger of the two beaches. In addition to swimming, there is a federal campground, private marina, picnic areas, nature trails, and a mountain bike skills park. Meanwhile, the smaller beach, Tatman Run, is quieter and less developed offering solitude beautiful views and just a few minutes away from hiking in Trough Creek State Park.

Harrisonburg, Virginia
Just outside Harrisonburg, Virginia, you’ll find several mountain streams, including along the Fridley Gap trail, a secluded hike that takes you past a somewhat secret waterfall and watering hole. Dip your toes in or dunk yourself to cool off. But warning: These mountain streams run ice-cold, which means it might be an eye-opening plunge.

Lake Anna
Virginia State Parks/Flickr

Spotsylvania, Virginia
Lake lovers can head south of DC to this large man-made lake, offering sandy beaches, swimming areas, and a healthy stock of largemouth bass. You can also cruise around on a pontoon boat, or rent one of the sprawling log houses that line the lake.

Greenbrier State Park
Greenbrier State Park | dpbirds/Flickr

Boonsboro, Maryland
This man-made lake is near the Appalachian Trail and features crystal-clear water on a 42-acre site. In the summer months, it’s ideal for swimming, canoeing, and fishing. If you're looking to get out on the water, there're also boat rentals available.

Friends of Seneca Creek State Park
Friends of Seneca Creek State Park

Poolesville, Maryland
Skip the pool and head straight to Poolesville, Maryland. This small town is located in Montgomery County’s northern farm belt region and features a babbling creek that’s extremely kid-friendly. The water only reaches your knees, and you can pick a shaded spot to picnic or quietly read a book with the sounds of the Seneca Creek in the background. It’s also an easy and accessible option for social distancing -- just an hour outside DC.

Capon Springs, West Virginia
Travelers have been coming to Capon Springs since the late 1700s to take in a relaxing and restorative dip. This private resort is about a two-hour drive west of DC. The springwaters constantly flow, and it even powers a water wheel on a nearby creek. The facility is classified as a “bathing beach” of pure water instead of your chemically-laden pool, and it’s a third-generation owned resort with many historic and quaint touches.

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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer from Washington, DC. And has been going to Cunningham Falls State Park since he was 5 years old. Follow him on Twitter @TimEbner.