DIVE IN: 5 DC-area swimming holes to hit before summer is over

- With summer heat coming into full swing this week, one thing is for certain: D.C. residents are going to be looking for fun ways to stay cool. Local pools are great (and free for D.C. residents!), but lack that "out in nature" feel that some certainly crave.

With most natural waterways in the immediate D.C. metro area being too polluted for swimming safely, we have to look mostly outside the Beltway for these locations. However, if you are willing to take the short drive, you can find some beautiful places to swim without the added chlorine.

Here's my list of 5 DC area swimming holes you simply must hit before the summer is over:

#5: Sandy Point State Park
Location: 1100 E College Pkwy, Annapolis, MD
Distance: 55 minute drive from D.C.
Cost: $7/Person ($5/person for Maryland residents)

Growing up in Maryland, this was always a must-visit at least once a summer. Whether you like hiking, fishing, boating, camping or swimming in the cool waters of the Chesapeake Bay, this state park has it all. Lifeguards are on duty from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on weekends. The location offers beautiful views of the Bay Bridge in the distance, and is all the fun of the beach without the extra two hours of driving.

#4: Elizabeth Furnace Recreation Area
Location: Fort Valley RD, Fort Valley, VA
Distance: 1.5 hour drive from D.C.
Cost: Free unless camping

A little over 80 miles to the west of Washington lies the beautiful Washington and Jefferson National Forests. Miles upon miles of hiking, biking, fishing, camp grounds and beautiful mountain scenery for those that want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. Miles of rivers and streams run through this wilderness, all open to swimming. The closest and one of the most popular swimming spots is in the Passage Creek at the Elizabeth Furnace recreation area just south of Front Royal, Va. Admittedly it takes a little time to get there, but the journey is a near straight shot down Interstate 66. While the waters are shallow and refreshingly cool, note the creek bed is mostly rocky so water or tennis shoes are recommended when swimming.

#3: Cascade Lake
Location: 2844 Snydersburg Rd, Hampstead, MD
Distance: 1.5 hour drive from D.C.
Cost: $10/person weekdays, $15/person weekends

Another location that takes a bit of time to get to, but well worth it for two words ... water slide. This six-acre large lake has a water park feel with a side of nature. Multiple water slides and jumping platforms scattered throughout the lake provide hours of fun. For the non-swimmers in the family who don’t mind getting a little wet, a no standing water “spray and play” area is the prefect amenity. Fishing, hiking and paddle boating is also offered, as well as places to grill and enjoy a picnic.

#2: Cunningham Falls State Park
Location: 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd, Thurmont, MD
Distance: 1.5 hour drive from D.C.
Cost: Free unless camping

Another park in Northern Maryland that seems to have it all. Acres upon acres of biking, fishing, hiking, picnicking, camping and even horseback riding! After working up a sweat, cool off in one of three designated swimming areas along Hunting Creek Lake which covers 44 acres. If you prefer more shallow waters, miles of streams can be found on the park grounds as well as a 78-foot tall waterfall that you can play under!

#1: Beaver Dam Swimming Club
Location: 10820 Beaver Dam Rd, Cockeysville, MD
Distance: 1.5 hour drive from D.C.
Cost: $15/person weekday, $17/person weekend

I'm making this my personal #1 because of how many fun memories I had there as a kid, going several times each summer. Located on the remnants of an old marble quarry (some of which was used to build the Washington Monument), the 30-acre play area features picnicking, volleyball and basketball courts. The swimming area itself contains numerous jumping platforms, and an extremely popular rope swing. The grounds contain two separate shallow pools for weaker swimmers, but the quarry itself is recommended for stronger swimmers as it has an average depth of 40 feet.

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