Surround your family in the natural beauty of the Smoky Mountains with a trip to the Townsend Y swimming hole. Here, your family can enjoy a day filled with picnicking, swimming, and tubing. And, it’s all free!
(You know your limitations and the limitations of your children and family best. Although this activity was appropriate for my family, it may not be appropriate for you or your family. Please use your best judgement in deciding whether or not to participate in this activity. Neither Mom Explores The Smokies nor the blog owner are responsible for any damage, mishap or injuries (physical, mental or otherwise) that may occur while you and/or your family/children are at this location or anywhere in the Smoky Mountains. When in doubt, opt out.)
Kid Friendly Smokies: Townsend Y Swimming Hole
To date, the Townsend Y is our favorite spot in the Smokies for free entertainment. This natural swimming hole has a lot to offer families with kids of all ages. There is an official parking lot for this area just before the road fork in Townsend that splits towards either Gatlinburg or Cades Cove. In the parking lot, there are port-a-potties for your convenience. PS bring hand sanitizer.
Although alcoholic beverages are not allowed, feel free to pack a picnic lunch with drinks in a cooler. Please remember to dispose of all trash in the park-provided bear proof trash cans. This is for the bear’s protection AND yours!
There are 2 different halves of the swimming hole. 1 half has a sunny grassy shore with a drop-off entry into the water. On this half you will need to bring a popup tent for shade. Don’t forget your beach towels and a blanket for laying out.
The other half of the swimming hole has a shady pebbled beach area that allows gradual entry into the water. Here you will be more comfortable with chairs and there is no tent needed.
We set up on the pebbled beach side becasue we wanted to keep baby A out of the sun and allow him to splash and play in the shallow water. There were several other babies waddling around in the same area as well as some older kids who were playing a little further out. One family was smart enough to bring their pack and play. Why didn’t we think of that?! My son refused to nap on the blanket-covered pebbles. Can you blame him? So, we will definitely be bringing our pack and play in the future.
For your children’s safety, it is important to note that the water does get continually deeper, all the way out to the rock wall on the other side of the river. About mid-way out, it gets to the point that grown men cannot stand. Here is my no-so-little little bro treading water & the sign stating that there is no climbing on the rocks. Since we didn’t swim on the grassy side, I really can’t speak to the water levels there.
Another awesome bonus is that this swimming area is also great for tubing. Several tubing companies drop off in this location. Cowboy and River Rage are both $10 for all day tubing. There are also other pricier options. Maybe the tubes are fancier? I haven’t compared so I really can’t say for sure.
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You can also use your own tubes if you have them. If you don’t already own them, you can buy your own tubes for around the same price as the tubing companies charge. But, if you are going to tube on your own, you need 2 cars so that you can leave one at the exit location. Or, I guess you could just stay close enough to the Y that walking back is doable. But, I do worry that it may be hard to judge an appropriate distance from in the water.
Whether tubing or not, a visit to the Townsend Y is sure to be a thrilling and affordable addition to your Smoky Mountain vacation!