Whether it is for a sense of peace and tranquillity or for a sense of adventure, we love to be close to water whilst on holiday. Below is a round up of some the most spectacular waterfalls, hidden swimming holes, paddle trails and lakes to explore in the USA and to inspire holiday plans for the coming year.
Known as the “Land of Waterfalls,” the Brevard area is home to more than 250 waterfalls, Pisgah National Forest and the endless beauty of North Carolina’s Great Smoky Mountains. Some of the area’s waterfalls have starred in blockbusters like The Hunger Games and The Last of the Mohicans. DuPont State Recreational Forest was put in the spotlight during the filming of The Hunger Games in the summer of 2011. Triple Falls, Bridal Veil Falls and the covered bridge at High Falls all served as backdrops for scenes from the film.
Others offer more secluded spots to reflect and re-energize during a memorable hike. Discover three waterfalls (Rainbow, Turtleback and Hidden falls) in just one hike in Gorges State Park. A half hour north in Jackson County, a short-but-steep hike leads to Paradise Falls hidden inside the walls of the Tuckasegee Gorge with swimming holes at both the top and bottom of the falls.
Find one of the best swimming holes east of the Blue Ridge Mountains at Sennett’s Hole, a Durham hidden gem. Legend has it there’s an elusive pot of gold at the bottom; hang your hammock to lounge in and then decide for yourself if it’s true or not. Or kick your lazy day up a notch by visiting Carrigan Farms, a mountains-meet-white-sandy-beach natural quarry, in Mooresville. The 70-foot granite walls and floating dock make for a fun, relaxing adventure in an unparalleled setting. Book a sunset slot if you can, then stay for dinner at its farm-to-table restaurant.
The Nantahala Outdoor Center celebrates its 50th season in 2021. The nation’s largest outdoor recreation company, NOC offers more than 120 different river- and land-based itineraries at its main location on the Nantahala River in Bryson City and along seven other Southeastern rivers. Special offerings for 2021 will include a women’s white water kayaking retreat and a “Week of Rivers” in five different national forests as well as wilderness first aid and survival. NOC, whose resort amenities include three restaurants and multi-tiered lodging, has been recognised in the USA by The New York Times as the “America’s Premiere Paddling School,” Outside as “The Best Place to Learn” and National Geographic Adventure as “One of the Best Outfitters on Earth.”
In Tennessee, cool water streams down from the mountains and summits can reach 5,000 and 6,000 ft. above sea level, naturally offering places to cool off during the warm spring and summer months.
There are approximately more than 8,350 caves recorded in Tennessee, offering plenty of chances to escape the heat above for the coolness below. The famous Ruby Falls in Chattanooga is America’s largest underground waterfall topping at 145 ft. high. You can explore the cave during a daytime tour or, book a lantern tour on Friday nights January to November.
Craighead Caverns in Sweetwater is where you can find the largest underground lake in North America, the Lost Sea. Walk through the caverns and then glide on the lake in a glass-bottom boat.
In Townsend, travel below the earth’s surface to tour the Tuckaleechee Caverns, located under the Great Smoky Mountains and estimated to be 20-30 million years old. Inside, you’ll see the Big Room that can fit a football field and Silver Falls, cascading 210 ft. from top to bottom.
Stay on the surface with hundreds of waterborne options. Norris Lake has more than 34,000 acres of water and more than 20 marinas that offer hotel, condo, home or campground accommodations along with ski boats, fishing, pontoon boats and jet ski rentals. It also has 809 miles of shoreline. Watauga Lake is the highest-elevated reservoir in Tennessee and, because of this, it’s usually a few degrees cooler than similar locations. The lake covers 6,430 acres and has depths of 305 ft. at most. It’s perfect for families or individuals who want to leisurely float down its 50 miles of slow-moving Class I water with occasional Class II spots. The Holston River runs 274 miles and is home to 47 species of fish, perfect for a leisurely afternoon waiting on a bite. With a large amount of rainbow trout, redline darter and smallmouth bass, you won’t be waiting long.
For a day of non-stop river adventure, head to the Ocoee River where you’ll find some of the best white-water in the country with more than 20 continuous rapids in a gorge that flows through the Cherokee National Forest. The Duck River is the longest river located entirely within the state of Tennessee. The 269-mile river flows through Middle Tennessee and is a great spot for paddling and fishing for smallmouth bass. A challenging kayak or canoe trip can be found at the Wolf River right outside of Memphis. The sunken cypress trees and conservation efforts to keep the river as natural as possible will make the twists and turns of your expedition an adventurous one.
Paddling Louisiana’s waters, you’ll pass under mysterious canopies, see elegant birdlife and even brush past the occasional alligator. Here you find quiet exploration in the labyrinthine bayous, rivers and sloughs that cover the state in a liquid network.
In north Louisiana, Bayou Bartholomew and Bayou Chemin-A-Haut offer some of the loveliest day floats in the state. Bayou Chemin-A-Haut is walled on both sides by what Ernest Herndon, author of the book Canoeing Louisiana describes as a “veritable gallery of cypress trees.” For Wagstaff, paddling is Louisiana’s answer to hiking. “To see a lot of the wild country in Louisiana, you have to do it by water,” he says.
In places like Blind River near Gramercy, and Lake Fausse Pointe and Henderson Swamp in the Atchafalaya Basin, you’ll spot gorgeous birdlife like egrets, herons and roseate spoonbills. The key to exploring these areas, Wagstaff says, is to point your boat into the less-travelled areas.
Within the Atchafalaya National Heritage Area lies the Bayou Teche National Water Trail. The Bayou Teche, a 135-mile-long waterway, was added to the National Water Trail System in 2015 as the 17th water trail in the country and the first in Louisiana. In Lafayette, check out the Bayou Vermilion Paddle Trail in the Bayou Vermilion District, where recreation areas, boat and canoe launches, and areas of historical interest are highlighted. Also in the Atchafalaya area, Lake Fausse Pointe State Park offers canoe rentals.
In the Southeast corner of the state, the Grand Isle State Park offers the opportunity to canoeing or kayak in the Gulf waters. For a purely urban paddling experience, check out Bayou St. John, where you can paddle through the calm water of a scenic waterway and enjoy the scenery right inside the city of New Orleans. The short route takes you through a historic residential area along both banks of the bayou with interesting neighbourhood views.
Spending the night on a houseboat is an unforgettable way to experience the wild beauty of the Cajun Coast. Hear the sounds of the swamps set against the backdrop of dense forests, with the comforts of home within arm’s reach. Fire up the grill, cast a line, go on mini-excursions into the bayous, and most of all — relax. Bayou Houseboats can get you set up.
In the midst of the White Mountains of New Hampshire, Franconia Notch State Park is a spectacular place to acquaint yourself with the watery surrounds. The highlight of the state park is the Franconia Falls, which features a series of small waterfalls cascading into deep pools. Visitors can take a leisurely hike along the Franconia Brook, where the water passes through a set of channels before emptying into deep pools. Natural waterslides make fun spots for the adventurous, while swimmers can take a dip in the 20 ft. basin, which is only just over 400ft from the main falls itself.
Gulf Hagas is a spectacular gorge that rewards trekkers who brave Mount Katahdin in Baxter State Park, Maine. Known as the ‘Grand Canyon of the East,’ the west branch of the Pleasant River drops some 500 ft. which creates unique, corkscrew-shaped waterfalls accessible by hiking along a rim trail. For a more serene experience, Buttermilk Falls is an enormous, Olympic-pool-size basin, so-called for the pillowy foam that the waterfall churns.
Slightly off-the-beaten-track, Lakewood Pond is the ideal place to escape for a swim. Within the spectacular setting of the Acadia National Park in Maine, large cliffs provide perches for jumping, while a nearby sandy beach is ideal for sunbathing. Keep an eye out of the wild blueberry bushes, which are dotted all around the pond and come to bloom in the summer months.
Despite it’s small-ish stature, Bellevue Falls in the Berkshires, Massachusetts, is still a fantastic place for any visitor to soak in. The falls itself stand at only 6 ft. but they tumble into one of the most attractive basins. Large enough to fit a great number of swimmers, the entire stream is attractive, and ledges are dotted around the edge of the basin which provide great opportunities to launch yourself into the water below.
Take a Kauai Discovery Tour and see the natural marvels of the Hawaii Island. With the majority of Kauai’s natural beauty inaccessible by ground transportation, the best views are from the sky.
Begin your journey over Hanapepe Valley, popular for its rich farmland and grand mountain ranges. Get intimate views of Manawaiopuna Falls, commonly referred to as Jurassic Falls, made famous for its scenes in the film, Jurassic Park. Fly over the lush and rugged terrain of the Na Pali-Kona Forest Reserve including Awini Falls and Waialae Falls. On this expedited Kauai flight, guests soar through Waimea Canyon, known as “The Grand Canyon of the Pacific,” stretching fourteen miles long and one mile wide. Conclude your tour over the Western Section of Kauai.
The islands of Maui and Molokai also provide spectacular water scenery for those taking a helicopter tour. The Molokai Voyage starts on the way to the world’s tallest sea cliffs. Fly over the Pailolo channel featuring some of the most scenic waters between the islands including Elephant Rock. Soar above breathtaking waterfalls, including Kahiwa Falls the tallest among all the Hawaiian Islands. Get bird’s-eye views of the remote north shore, Halawa Valley, Molokai Fringing Coral Reef and the majestic ancient fishponds located on the southern coast. Over Maui, enjoy intimate views of the vegetation covered lava rainforest of the West Maui Mountains and valleys then fly near the resort destinations of Kapalua, Lahaina and Kaanapali with views of the beautiful beaches.
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