When summer days become so stifling that you want to (literally) dive into an ice cold glass of water, head to one of these refreshing watering holes where the H2O is cool and shady trees abound.

14722179198_266493ed77_zPhoto: Jed Record via Flickr

Cascade Lake
Nestled among 70 acres of rolling hills and woods, Cascade Lake is a pay-to-play ($10-$15) 6-acre spring-fed lake with a gently sloping sandy bottom. It features swimming, waterslides, and driving platforms, all guarded by certified lifeguards (in a smoke-free zone, to boot!).

Cost: $8-$15/person
2844 Snydersburg Rd. (Hamstead, Md)
Online: cascadelake.com

Shenandoah National Park
Swimming is allowed in all park waters, but most of the streams you will find in Shenandoah aren’t deep enough for the breast stroke (but perfectly suitable to cool off your toes). If you want to submerge yourself in the (often) ice cold waters, you’ll need to head to Whiteoak Canyon, heralded as having the prettiest falls in the recreational area. Six drops stretch along almost a mile of terrain; each fall is under a mile and a half from the parking lot (and, yes, these are kid-friendly paths).


Cost: $25/vehicle
3655 U.S. Highway 211 East (Luray, Va)
Online: nps.gov

Lake Anna
There’s a reason Lake Anna is one of Virginia’s most popular vacay spots. Okay, several reasons: 1) It’s big and beautiful with 13,000 acres of gorgeous blue water; 2) it’s extremely family-friendly with a children’s fishing pond (that’s also wheelchair accessible), a life-guarded swimming area with a sandy beach, a playground, a concession stand, and a boat launch.

Cost: $5-$7/vehicle
6800 Lawyers Rd. (Spotsylvania, Va)
Online: dcr.virginia.gov

Photo: Virginia State Parks via Flickr

Beaver Dam Swimming Club
This old marble quarry was flooded and turned into a swimming destination in the 1930s. The 40 feet deep waters still offer the type of old-timey fun you see in movies (think rope swing, rolling logs and floating platforms). The thirty-acre park also has two swimming pools, a volley ball park and picnic tables.

Cost: Starting at $15 for adults;  $12 for kids
10820 Beaver Dam Drive (Cockeysville, Md)
Online: beaverdamswimmingclub.com

Cunningham Falls State Park
A park that boasts mountain streams, a lake, a waterfall and a beach? And just over an hour away from the city? Yes, please! Nestled in the Catoctin Mountains in Maryland, Cunningham Falls offers three distinct swimming areas around Hunting Creek Lake. Lifeguards are on duty 11 am to 6 pm Memorial Day to Labor Day. Swimming is not allowed around the Falls. The park closes when filled to capacity, so be sure to arrive early!

14039 Catoctin Hollow Road (Thurmont, Md)
Online: dnr2.maryland.gov

Photo: Virginia State Parks via Flickr

Lake Arrowhead
This man-made lake feels anything but unnatural; set against the Blue Ridge Mountains, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more idyllic backdrop. The lake offers fishing, boating and swimming. Stretch out on the white sandy beaches and don’t forget to pack a picnic (there are six shady shelters on-site).

Cost: $2.50/adults; $1.50-$2/kids 3 and up
265 Lake Arrowhead Road (Luray, Va)
Online: townofluray.com

Patapsco Valley State Park
This park is best known for its beautiful hiking trails (not to miss: the swinging bridge on the Grist Mill trail); lesser known is the fact that the lake is swimmable! There are no lifeguards on duty (read; swim at your own risk), but there are several shallow points where you and your wee crew can wade in, splash around and enjoy a quick, cool dip.

Cost: $2 per car/weekdays;  $3 per person/Maryland resident (weekend), $5 per person/out-of-state;  kids in carseats are free
8020 Baltimore National Pike (Ellicott City, Md)
Online: dnr2.maryland.gov

Greenbriar State Park
Located in the Appalachian Mountains, visitors can swim, fish or paddle their way across this man-made, freshwater lake. After a dip in the water (or a nap on the beach), enjoy a hike along a portion of the Appalachian Trail!

Cost: $3 Maryland residents/weekday, $5 Maryland residents/weekend; $5 out-of state/weekday $7 out-of-state/weekend
21843 National Pike (Boonsboro, Md)
Online: reservations.dnr.state.md.us

Do you have a favorite watering hole nearby? Tell us about it in the comments section below. 

–Meghan Meyers and Ayren Jackson-Cannady