In the midst of a Chattanooga summer, there’s often nothing more appealing than going for a swim to escape the blazing heat. While we love that Southeastern sunshine, a good cool-down is a must-do when the mercury rises. Luckily, swimming options in Chattanooga abound, from lakes and rivers just outside of town to pools and fountains within city limits. Grab your suit, your sunscreen, and your favorite of group fun- (and sun-) loving friends for a refreshing dip in these awesome Chattanooga swimming spots.
1. Rainbow Lake
It’s no secret that this spot on Signal Mountain offers stellar hiking opportunities. But when summer arrives, so do the swimmers and sunbathers. From the parking lot in the historic district of Signal Mountain, it’s about a half-mile downhill hike to the creek that forms Rainbow Lake. The spot is woodsy and shaded, and there’s even a charming swinging bridge over the creek that’s totally photo-worthy.
2. Chester Frost Park
A few minutes outside of town in Hixson, this expansive county park is exactly what comes to mind when you think of a fun, family-friendly summer day on the lake. Lush green lawns, picnic facilities, and a fantastic beach area make Chester Frost—as wintry as its name sounds—the go-to spot for lakeside lounging when temperatures soar. If you want to explore further on the lake, Rock/Creek Outfitters has an outpost at the park where visitors can rent kayaks and SUPs by the day or the hour. Or just bring your floaties and spend a lazy afternoon bobbing in the cool, clear water.
3. Coolidge Park Fountain
Have little ones joining you? This interactive fountain is a surefire way to make their day in Chattanooga a memorable one. Located on the Tennessee River, right in the heart of the trendy Northshore neighborhood, Coolidge Park boasts large in-ground fountain spouts that go off at random intervals for shrieky, splashy fun. Once your little ones have had their fill of the water, towel off and head over to Clumpies for a scoop of delicious handcrafted ice cream—we can’t think of a better combo on a hot summer day.
4. The Edwin Hotel
Chattanooga’s newest boutique hotel features fanciful decor and fabulous amenities, including two spectacular restaurants and a gym that looks out over downtown. But come summer, the real star of the show is The Edwin’s rooftop swimming pool. The chic, modern pool area offers cabanas, plenty of space for sunbathing, and a stunning view of the surrounding city.
5. Nickajack Lake
Formed by two dams on the Tennessee River, Nickajack Lake is a 46-mile reservoir that encompasses the “Grand Canyon of Tennessee,” otherwise known as the Tennessee River Gorge. The lake is popular for boating, fishing, waterfront camping, and, of course, swimming at its many beaches. Some visitors, however, are surprised to find that the lake has a fascinating wildlife component to it. From April through October, Nickajack Cave hosts roosting gray bats, which fly out of a partially flooded cave and darken the sky every evening at sunset. People drive from miles around to see this intriguing phenomenon during the summer and early fall months.
6. Maclellan Island
This 18-acre wooded island is located smack in the middle of the Tennessee River, parting the waterway just as it flows through downtown Chattanooga. Despite its central location, the island has remained undeveloped, thanks to protection by the Chattanooga Audubon Society. Because it’s only reachable by water, it’s a prime place to stop and explore during a day of paddling on the Tennessee River. For a convenient way to access it, rent a stand-up paddleboard from L2 Outside in Coolidge Park and head over to the island. Leave your boat on shore while you check out the 1.5 miles of hiking trails, enjoy the primitive picnic areas, or go for a swim at the island’s little beach—the ultimate way to cool off from the day’s adventure.
7. SOAKya Water Park at Lake Winnie
This water park is a thrilling extension of Chattanooga’s beloved family amusement park, Lake Winnepesaukah. Its on-site waterpark, SOAKya, features activities for all ages, including four different water slides, an interactive play pool for kids, a huge mat racing slide, and even a not-so-lazy river. Spending a hot day splashing and sliding at SOAKya is arguable one of the most fun ways to beat the heat in Chattanooga.
8. The Westin
Guests at the chic Westin Chattanooga in Chattanooga’s trendy West Village neighborhood will love relaxing by the outdoor swimming pool. Enjoy the day chillin’ like an A-lister in a cabana, or just grab a lounge chair and kick your feet up—either way, it’s a fabulous way to spend a summer day. (And, if you visit in winter, the water is heated so you can still enjoy a relaxing, refreshing dip.) Afterward, head up to the rooftop for a cocktail and a spectacular view at Alchemy, the upscale bar inside the hotel.
9. North Chick Blue Hole
Just 20 minutes from downtown, the North Chickamauga Creek Gorge is a little wilderness oasis with plenty of great swimming holes. Walk a few minutes along an old Jeep road and you’ll find the first of a series of pools formed by impressive boulders that are strewn throughout the creek. You can continue along this wooded path until you find the perfect spot to take a dip—but prepare to be refreshed, as the water is infamous for being pretty bracing, even in the summer. Hike far enough in, and you may just find the most delicious of summer throwbacks: the rope swing.
10. The Passage
This urban swimming hole is tucked between the magnificent Tennessee Aquarium and Ross’s Landing on the riverfront. A series of steps leading down alongside the aquarium end in a shallow splash pool, which is ideal for kids to play the afternoon away. The aquarium itself is also surrounded by small man-made creeks that are perfect for dipping your feet on a hot summer day.
11. Chattanooga Choo Choo
Chattanooga’s most beloved landmark has been transformed into a spiffy new hotel and residences, and one of its amenities is a lovely indoor pool. It’s a great spot to cool off after exploring the surrounding Southside neighborhood, which is brimming with bars, restaurants, and unique Chattanooga experiences. Visiting in the winter? The pool is heated year round, making it an excellent choice no matter when you come to the Scenic City.