I found nothing more freeing as a child (or, honestly, an adult) or exciting than an outdoor activity that sparks pure, unadulterated joy. The feeling of my first sand volleyball game in a decade. Or grabbing that dusty longboard and kick-pushing down a stretch of pavement, experiencing something new that you love immediately, is unbeatable.
That is the exact feeling that surged through my body the first time I slid down my first natural water slide.
You may be asking yourself, "did she just use 'natural' and 'water slide' in the same sentence?" Why yes, yes, I did. Today, I am not talking about your typical, run-of-the-mill plastic slides in the backyard or the artificial tubes at your local waterpark. Today, I am talking about mother earth's natural rock slides that pepper our country.
They're essentially slip-n-slides in nature. These fantastic spots all over the United States provide the perfect fusion of a smooth, wet rock and just the ideal angle, creating a remarkable experience when conditions are spot-on. Let's hope you have one of these places within driving distance. Grab your swimsuit and your pals, and check out one of these notable waterparks strictly found in nature (and for a much lower price).
Meadow Run in Ohiopyle, Pennsylvania
Located on the southern side of the Laurel Highlands in the Ohiopyle State Park, this natural slide is an easily accessible and incredible natural waterslide sure to ignite the stoke in you. Depending on the water level, you have to get lucky to hit it when the conditions are right. Riders want to wear a shirt and shorts for protection, as this is not the smoothest ride of the bunch. Don't let that deter you, though, as this 100-foot slide is worth visiting. At the end of this slide, cascade into a deep pool of water for that refreshing dip end.
Another perk of Meadow Run is that it's easy to find on Google Maps and offers an entire parking lot for more convenience. If you want to add a nice hike on either side of your sliding, take the main trailhead to Cucumber Falls for a 2.8-mile stroll leading to the gigantic sandstone slab snaking through the gorge.
Water Sliding at Slide Rock, Arizona
Continually ranked as one of the country's most-loved swimming holes, Slide Rock State Park has been putting smiles on people's faces for decades and decades. Nestled in Oak Creek Canyon just outside of Sedona, the natural beauty of this red-rock canyon will have you thirsty for more adventure (and water, too).
This Arizona StatePark's main feature, of course, Slide Rock, measures 80-feet-long and 2.5 by 4-feet wide, with a gentle angle sliding riders down from top to bottom. Unlike Meadow Run, SlideRock'ss surface is more slippery, encouraging riders to be extra cautious on this faster ride. Pro tip: stop for lunch at the charming and delicious Indian Gardens Cafe & Market after your fun-filled morning (just a 5-minute away)!
Giant Sequoia Water Sliding, California
Sandwiched perfectly between the Pacific shores of Morro Bay and the vast desert of Death Valley lies a small town called Johnsondale. A remote creek blankets a smooth granite slab, which tails into a small pool north of this quaint town. Of course, we humans made the slide area our slip-n-slide playground. As this hidden gem is not as well-known, the directions take a committed amount of determination.
Your journey begins at the parking area off of Lloyd Meadow Road (Forest Route 22S82). Take the dirt fire road (Route 22S90) uphill from the west (left) side of the road for about three-quarters of a mile. As you curve left, Alder Creek starts to come into eyesight, pouring its waters over the exposed bedrock perfect for your tushy to slide down. Just below the natural water slide, you will find that Alder Creeks merges with Dry Meadow Creek. Suppose you are lucky enough to experience this slide in ideal water conditions. In that case, we hope you have as much fun as possible.
Trailhead address: Forest Route 22S82, Sequoia National Forest, Springville, California 93208
Trailhead coordinates: 36.02745, -118.5153 (36° 01? 38.8?N 118° 30? 55.1?W)
Lionhead Natural Water Slide, Idaho
Suppose you find yourself in the harder-to-reach parts of northern Idaho. In that case, you can navigate to stunning views and an epic natural slip-n-slide that will have you grinning all day. Tucked away at one of the far edges of Priest Lake at the Lionhead campground, the slide plunges riders over a flat rock via ice-cold alpine water.
This wonderfully secluded natural attraction offers more privacy, making for a truly unforgettable experience. On this slide, we recommend cutting leg holes into a large plastic bag and using it as a "seat" to ride down the rock's surface. That's assuming you make the long journey to arrive at the slide.
The drive to Lionhead Campground is 2.5 miles from Spokane. Instead of turning into the camp, you will turn right and drive on the gravel road for about five miles. You leave your car in the parking area near the trailhead. You hike approximately 1.5 miles through old-growth greenery, crossing creeks and witnessing waterfalls along the expedition. Hikers can genuinely get lost in the natural beauty of this Narnia-like paradise, which boasts not just these slides but great swimming holes, hiking trails, and wildlife.
San Isabel Natural Water Slide, Colorado
If you are looking for a somewhat leisurely hike and a smaller water slide adventure, we recommend this epic spot near Rye, Colorado. Nestled in the sprawling million-acre San Isabel National Forest, hikers and thrill-seekers can shoot down this legendary natural waterslide. It's one of our favorites.
Found along the crystal waters of St. Charles Creek, this aquatic haven be found by driving through Colorado City and Rye into the National Forest for 15 miles. At mile marker 19, there is a parking lot to the left of the Lake San Isabel dam. Walk across Highway 165 and locate the unmarked trailhead that parallels the spillway from the damn. This All Trails map is super helpful for this one.
Franconia Falls Water Slides, New Hampshire
Although a year-round family paradise, Franconia Falls and surrounding falls provide an especially welcome retreat on summer days. Throughout the 3-mile hike, there is only a 300-foot elevation gain, making for a leisurely walk for all ages.
The slide is only rideable when the brook runs at a low enough level. But when it is, Franconia is sprinkled with a handful of small swimming pools, huge slabs perfect for sunbathing, and forested hiking trails to wander. The more popular of the two slides is twenty feet long and slips into a 7-foot pool near the base of the falls. This one demands a little more attention to safety protocols. Ensure that the water levels are okay to ride the chute or opt for the smaller, 3-foot slide into a safer swimming area.
Sliding Rock in the Pisgah, North Carolina
One of the most popular natural slip-n-slides in the country, Sliding Rock is situated in the exquisite natural realms of the Pisgah National Forest. Thousands of families visit each year, anxiously awaiting their turn to propel down this iconic 60-foot boulder, which sees 11,000 gallons of water pumping down the rock every minute. About an hour from downtown Asheville, Sliding Rock leads fun enthusiasts into an eight-foot-deep pool below before they can (carefully) head back up and do it again.
An avid adventurer and lover of all things outdoors and travel, Sydney Paschall has explored and discovered as many beautiful places as she can, with extra time spent in Oregon, Colorado, and driving up and down the west coast. Now based in Austin, Sydney focuses her time on writing, social justice, activism, living more mindfully, and staying active to optimize the mind, body, and soul. Instagram: @_sydshine
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