I spent a lot of time goofing off in the outdoors my freshman year in college (doing flips into the river from a giant rope swing, climbing down caves, hiking and camping in the mountains). Going to a natural water slide (Alpine Water Slide) was one of the most memorable outdoor activities from that year (perhaps because I actually have a photo unlike most of the other activities) . Growing up in Texas did not prepare me for the shockingly cold water, hence the involuntary scream in the above photo.
While not every natural rock slide is suitable for all ages, here's 3 slides the entire family can enjoy. So if you're going to be traveling this summer (and will miss your backyard water slide), consider visiting one of these rock slides to cool off with the family while getting in some heart pumping active play.
Pisgah National Forest, NC
I'm partial to Sliding Rock because it’s only 3.5 hours from our North Carolina office. The natural rock water slide is equipped with railings, observation platforms, lifeguards, and most importantly, lots of cold water running over 60 feet of smooth, sloped, slippery rock.
Location: Pisgah National Forest - Brevard, NC (closest large town near Sliding Rock is Asheville, NC)
Slide Rock State Park, AZ
I've driven past Slide Rock (between Sedona & Flagstaff) twice on road trips. We didn't stop either time because the park was packed with people. As with most high-use areas, the early worm gets the fish (or something like that) so plan your family's visit for early in the day to avoid a long wait for parking. Spectacular views, short cliffs for diving, and warm red sandstone for drying off make the area perfect for families (besides the natural sliding rock of course).
Location: Oak Creek Canyon - Sedona, AZ (a short, windy, & beautiful drive down from Flagstaff).
Ohiopyle State Park, PA
If you're planning to tour Fallingwater this summer, the natural slide on Meadow Run Creek is only 5 miles away. It's a weird combination for a road trip but compromises often are (I'll join your stuffy architecture tour if you'll ride the slide with me afterwards ...). All that will be washed away as you ride this fast 200 foot chute just upstream from the Youghiogheny River. When you're ready to move on, consider visiting the other 6 wonders of Ohiopyle State Park
Location: Southern edge of Laurel Ridge - Ohiopyle, PA
You can find information on Pennsylvania's Ohiopyle State Park site.
Bonus: Rere Rock Slide
Wharekopae River, NZ
The natural rock slide near Gisborne, New Zealand is a bit farther from home if you live in the U.S. but it's an amazing natural water slide (over 3 times the length of Sliding Rock). If you're headed to the North Island, this is one attraction you shouldn't miss (along with nearby Rere Falls).
Location: Rere, NZ (North Island, 50 KM from Gisborne).
Off the Beaten Path
If you're willing to do a bit of hiking, there's natural waterslides all over the United States. Not every location is suitable for families (or riders of all ages) so be sure to thoroughly research your destination before going. Here's a few hike-in slides worth considering:
- Cedar Run Natural Water Slide - Shenandoah National Park, VA
- Kern River Slide - Sequoia National Forest, CA
- Bridal Veil Falls - Tallulah Gorge State Park, GA
If you do hike to a slide, please be considerate and don't litter, brawl, ignore warnings, or otherwise junk up the natural setting. Both University Falls near Auburn, CA and Alpine Sliding Rock in Alpine, UT have been closed during the past year by private landowners after tolerating decades of mis-use. Access to Talulah Gorge has also been limited to reduce human impact on the area. Also, unlike our custom water slides, natural rock slides can be a bit harsh on your swim clothes so be sure to wear something that can take some wear (or use a sliding surface like a tube, boogie board, or water mat).
Here's a few resources to help you discover additional natural sliding areas:
Of course if you fall in love with water slides this summer, we'd love to help you set up a slide going into your own river, lake, or pond.
Have a favorite natural water slide? Share your experience in the comments below.