We mostly swim at the Blue Ridge Pool, but we also venture out twice a week at camp to any of a number of area swimmin’ holes, such as the hole at Riprap Run shown below.
Due to popular demand, I have provided directions for each of the swimming holes and a few other select Field Camp hikes below. All are within an hour of Charlottesville. For more information, see www.swimmingholes.org.
Snake Hole – Named by Field Campers in 2001. Go west on Barracks/Garth Road and make a left on Sugar Hollow Road (Rt. 614) in White Hall. Take this all the way past the reservoir and as far as you can go (you’ll likely see other cars parked there). Hike up the North Fork of the Moormans River. The hole is at the second river crossing, so named because of the abundance of Northern Water Snakes there. This swimming hole did not exist before the Flood of June 1995 that washed out the North Fork valley. The flood was quite a mess, but it left us with a jewel of a swimming hole.
Rip Rap Run – It used to be that you could get to Rip Rap from the bottom of the mountain, but as of the Summer of 2020, it’s not accessible that way any more. A landowner there has fenced off the road, and presumably that won’t change. So you hav to reach it from inside the park and along the parkway. Rip Rap features the most beautiful (and cold) little swimming hole in all the Blue Ridge Mountains, about a mile and a half up from the parking area. Also, in the half-mile above the swimming hole are a series of beautiful waterfalls.
Paul’s Creek – Take 250 west to 151 South at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains and follow 151 toward Nellysford. Make a right at Rt. 615 at the first entrance to the Stony Creek resort development, then a left on Rodes Valley Drive. Follow Rodes Valley up into the woods and make a left on Crawford’s Climb. Another mile up the road, make a right at Paul’s Creek Drive and park at the end of the short drive. Follow the trail down and then up, crossing the stream once before you find the first of the famous water slides. Try the upper slide into the “bathtub.” But venture another quarter mile up the river (being careful to avoid the poison ivy and the bees) to find the best slide. The round-trip hike is probably no more than 2 miles, although a little strenuous due to its steepness.
Rapidan River – Although there are many hikes along the Rapidan at various places, we usually hike the section that leads directly into the park. There may be quicker routes to get there from Western Albemarle, but from Charlottesville, it’s probably quickest to take 29 north through Ruckersville and make a left on Route 662 before Madison. Take 662, passing through Wolftown, and following it all the way to the gate on the road at the edge of the park. Hike up by the river for about a mile at which point you can follow an adjoining trail up a tributary to a nice falls and swimming hole area. The Rapidan was also washed out in the flood of 1995, and evidence of its ravages abound through the river bed.
St. Mary’s River – Take 64 West to Route 11 South. Make a right on Route 56 at Steeles Tavern, and another right at on Route 608 before Vesuvius. Then take a right on FR (“Forest Road”) 42, and another right on FR 41, past the red caboose, taking you into the Saint Mary’s Wilderness Area. A hike of about 2 miles up the river leads to a beautiful, deep swimming hole below a falls area. This is the longest drive from Charlottesville among the hikes listed here, but it is worth it if you have a little more time.
Blue Hole – Follow the directions for Snake Hole above, parking just above the reservoir with all the other cars. Then cross the river immediately and find the old fire road leading west. Blue Hole is a very deep swimming hole about 2 miles up the river. Practically everybody in Charlottesville has been there.