Sliding Rock in North Carolina is the most unique waterslide I’ve ever been on. I grew up going to water parks at Disney World and other theme parks, but this natural waterslide is unlike anything else I’ve ever tried. Located in Pisgah National Forest near Asheville, kids and adults alike will love taking runs down this waterfall turned playground. This quick guide will include everything you need to plan the perfect visit to Sliding Rock.
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What is Sliding Rock?
Well, I’m glad you asked. Sliding Rock in North Carolina (there are other places with the same or similar names in the US) is a natural water slide formed where a shallow creek flows downhill over a smooth rockface, ending in a pool at the bottom before continuing on. The water is chilly, but refreshing on a hot summer day and visitors of all ages were having a blast. It’s the kind of thing I could imagine kids from generations past flying down with reckless abandon, but as someone who grew up in the age of bubble wrapping everything, it hardly seems real that this could still exist. But exist it does – and it was an absolute blast.
Visit Sliding Rock in North Carolina
I had no idea that Sliding Rock existed until I showed up in Asheville for a week of work. By a stroke of luck, I had accidentally brought a bathing suit that I’d forgotten to take out of my suitcase after vacation (…three or four weeks previously), so I left straight from my client’s office and headed up into the mountains to take a few runs down it. The scenic drive into Pisgah National Forest is worthy of a visit itself, and even if you don’t plan on taking a plunge, the overlooks and waterfalls you’ll encounter along the way are well worth the drive.
Because of its popularity, Sliding Rock has a large parking area, but even with that it can fill up during busy summer weekends. During peak hours – 10am-6pm for most of the summer with shorter hours during the shoulder season, there is a $3 fee per person. For your money, you’ll also have access to bathrooms and the additional protection of a lifeguard on duty. Outside of these hours, there is no fee for visiting, but the bathrooms are closed and there is no lifeguard. I arrived about five minutes after the lifeguard left, so while I saved a few bucks in park fees, I had to wriggle into my swimsuit in the backseat of my rental car. It was a bit awkward.
From the parking area, there is a short trail leading toward the base of Sliding Rock. It’s a great vantage point to watch other visitors enjoying their runs down the smooth rockface or take pictures of friends and family. The trail ends at a flat area with stairs leading down into the deeper water near the base of the slide or a more natural entry to the shallow creek. This is where I left my towel and shoes.
To get to the top of Sliding Rock, you have to wade across the creek to get to the other side. There is a dryer area on the left side as you look up from the bottom, and railings have been installed to make it easier to climb up. During summer weekends, I’m told that the lines can get pretty lengthy, but on the evening I visited there were only two other families there so things moved quickly.
Once you’re at the top, you can walk out into the flowing stream – be careful not to slip here – and wait for the person/people who went before you to clear out. Once they’re out of the way, you can sit down and push off. The ride to the bottom is surprisingly smooth for a rocky surface, having been polished by the flow of the water for years and years, though wearing shorts is still recommended – though more on that later.
At the bottom, you’ll find yourself dumped into a relatively deep pool of water. Be warned – it’s pretty chilly even at the peak of summer. The water is around 50-60 degrees during summer. I was not prepared for this on my first run and ended up swallowing a whole mouthful when I gasped in shock. In hindsight, having waded through the exact same stream on the way up should’ve clued me in, but no one’s perfect.
Tips for visiting Sliding Rock in North Carolina
- Kids under the age of 7 have to slide with an adult.
- The pool of water you land in at the bottom is 8 feet deep, so knowing how to swim is a requirement.
- If you need assistance swimming, life jackets are allowed.
- You can bring light snacks and drinks, but full-on picnics aren’t allowed.
- Sliding Rock will close when there is lightning in the area or when water levels are too high. They have a Twitter account https://twitter.com/SlidingRockNC that posts up to date info on closures, so you’ll definitely want to check that out before you hit the road. There is also a hotline you can call at 828-885-7625.
Sliding Rock hours
Though it’s technically open 24/7 year round, if you want to visit Sliding Rock with a lifeguard on duty, arrive during these times:
- Memorial Day weekend-Labor Day: 10am-6pm
- Weekends from Labor Day-October: 10am-4pm
One source also says that there are lifeguards on duty during weekends in April and May from 10am-4pm, but I couldn’t find confirmation of this on the Pisgah National Forest website.
How to get to Sliding Rock
You’ll almost certainly lose GPS signal as you enter the forest area, so jotting down these directions will help you locate it. Bringing a physical map can come in handy too, and make sure you also know how to return to your starting point or get to your next stop.
If you’re coming from Asheville, Sliding Rock is just about an hour away by car. The easiest way to get there will be heading out of town on eastbound I-40 to NC-280 (exit 40). This is also the exit for the Asheville airport, so it should be easy to spot. Take a right onto NC-280 and follow that for 16 miles into Brevard. Once you get into town, you’ll turn right onto US 276 North. There will be signage pointing you to Pisgah National Forest and the Blue Ridge Parkway. You can also keep an eye out for the Walmart as a landmark as you’ll make your turn right after that. Once you’re in Pisgah National Forest, Sliding Rock is just about 15 minutes away, though you’ll likely want to make a couple stops to check out waterfalls and scenic views. The Sliding Rock parking lot will be on your left in about 8 miles.
What to bring to Sliding Rock, North Carolina
This one’s pretty important since you’ll be swimming. For ladies, I’d highly recommend a one-piece suit (this one comes in lots of fun prints) so you’re not worried about losing a bikini top when you take the plunge. Men will definitely want swim trunks rather than a Speedo.
Gym shorts (for ladies or Speedo-wearing men)
Because you’re sliding over the surface of a rock, it’s recommended that you wear a pair of light shorts over your swimsuit. (Guys in swim trunks can skip this since they’re already pretty much shorts.) I sacrificed my gym shorts for the week (I like this soccer style) and liked having the extra protection for my butt and bathing suit and was pleasantly surprised by the fact that they didn’t seem to sustain any damage. Still, I’d stick with shorts on the cheaper end of the spectrum so you won’t feel too bad if they get torn or snagged.
These were the one thing I didn’t have with me that I really wished I’d had. Water shoes just aren’t part of my usual business trip packing list. The part of the creek that you have to wade through to get to Sliding Rock is pretty rocky and was uncomfortable and slippery to walk on. Don’t let not having water shoes deter you – I’m still very glad that I went – but you’ll be happier if you have them. These come in so many fun colors and patterns I kind of want them all.
I love my microfiber packable towel for traveling, but any regular old beach towel will do.
Later in the evening when I was there, the sun was low enough that the trees cast shadows over the whole area. Which was great for me because I don’t usually pack sunscreen for my business trips. If you’re visiting earlier in the day, you’ll want to be sure to pack some of this though.
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