This North Carolina National Park Has A Beautiful Hidden Gem

Spending time in nature can leave you feeling relaxed and rejuvenated, and provides a welcomed alternative to touring a bustling city when you're searching for peace and quiet. The Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina and Tennessee is a popular destination that offers stunning aerial views, lush forests, and ample opportunities to spot native wildlife on trails that are suitable for experienced backpackers and novice hikers alike. If you're searching for the perfect outdoor hideaway, the short hike to Midnight Swimming Hole is worth the trek.

Midnight Hole is a destination is known for its crystal green waters, serene surroundings, and peaceful atmosphere. Nestled within the Great Smoky Mountains, Midnight Hole is a natural pool situated between large boulders, and that settles below a scenic 6-foot waterfall. Requiring only a 3 mile out-and-back hike, this beautiful oasis is highly accessible and perfect for people who want to swim in the Smokies.

How to get to Midnight Hole

According to Visit NC Smokies, the trail that leads to Midnight Hole is considered an "easy" hike, which makes the swimming hole a friendly spot for both beginners and families. Travelers seeking to visit this mini-oasis hidden in the Smokies must follow Big Creek Trail, an old railroad grade used for logging at the beginning of the 20th century. The trailhead begins on the road, just before a free parking area that has restrooms. 

Aside from the historical value, Big Creek Trail is a densely wooded but well-traveled path that offers tons of beautiful sightseeing for nature buffs. Once you cross a small wooden bridge and see a small white circle painted on a tree just to the right of Big Creek Trail — around one-and-a-half miles into your hike — you'll know you've reached your Smoky Mountains escape. Unlike other hiking spots in the national park, dogs are not allowed on this path (horses are!), so you'll have to leave Fido at home for this hike. 

Given the short length of the journey, Midnight Hole is a perfect destination to add to even half-day itineraries. Though the trek to Midnight Hole is relatively short, bring all your day hike essentials. If you plan to take a dip in the swimming hole, be sure to bring a towel, water shoes, and bathing suit, as well as an extra set of quick-dry clothing.

What to expect once you reach the swimming hole

Once you arrive at Midnight Hole, you'll be greeted by emerald water. Be mindful that the swimming hole is quite chilly, even in July and August. This can be a refreshing reprieve you need following a hike on a hot summer day. In addition to swimming, a popular activity is jumping off the surrounding boulders into the deep pool. While Midnight Hole is generally considered safe, it's important to note that, per Blue Ridge Mountain Life, there is a strong current, and parents are advised to keep a close eye on their children. 

So, when should you visit Midnight Hole? While summer may seem like the obvious and only answer, the swimming hole is typically packed on any given weekend summer day. If you enjoy a private and quiet atmosphere, this will be difficult to achieve in hotter months. That said, each spring and summer, a plethora a wildflowers bloom and blanket the surrounding landscape — making this gem all the more beautiful. During the colder months, you may not be able to swim, but you can still enjoy the scenic view of the waterfall and lagoon. During any season, you can walk just a little farther up Big Creek Trail to view the gorgeous Mouse Creek Falls, an even bigger waterfall. Whenever you choose to go, you're guaranteed to be in awe of the natural wonders in the Smokies. Take a dip and truly enjoy what Mother Nature has to offer.