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Great Lakes: Swimming Spots Near Washington

Washingtonian > Packages > Best of Washington

Tired of swimming pools choked with chlorine? Here are eight freshwater lakes—all within 100 miles of Washington—that offer a natural alternative. Each has a bathhouse, a snack bar, and picnic areas.

Beaver Dam Swimming Club 410-785-2323 beaverdamswimmingclub.com $10 to $16 10820 Beaver Dam Rd., Cockeysville, 20 miles north of Baltimore and 60 miles from DC Splash into the four-acre quarry from a rope swing, an anchored raft, or a diving board. The quarry is deep—50 feet on average—and has a steep drop-off, but there are also two swimming pools. Dry off on the beach, then find a picnic spot under a tree.
Cascade Lake Water Park 410-374-9111 cascadelake.com $5 to $11 3000 Snydersburg Rd., Hampstead, about 35 miles northwest of Baltimore and 65 miles from DC Spot blue herons and listen to frogs at this six-acre lake in a wooded setting. During summer, squeals fill the air as kids zip down a 150-foot water slide, jump from a high platform, or play in the splash park. You can also fish (catch and release; no permit needed) or tool around in a paddleboat.
Greenbrier Lake at Greenbrier State Park 301-791-4767 www.dnr.state.md.us (click “outdoor activities,” then “swimming”) $3 to $5 21843 National Pike, Boonsboro, 15 miles east of Hagerstown and 65 miles from DC In the Catoctin Mountains just off the Appalachian Trail, this 42-acre lake has a nice beach and rowboats and paddleboats for rent. Because of the elevation, the air is cooler here than in Washington. The lake is stocked with largemouth bass, bluegill, and trout (Maryland fishing license required).
Half Moon Beach Park 540-465-9537skylinepaintball.com $5 to $7 363 Radio Station Rd., Strasburg, about 80 miles from DC This privately owned, 16-acre limestone quarry is in the Shenandoahs on the grounds of a paintball park. You can relax on a white-sand beach, jump off anchored docks, explore the lake in a canoe or paddleboat, and play volleyball and basketball. The lake is stocked with catfish, bass, perch, and crappie, and you don’t need a fishing permit.
Hunting Creek Lake at Cunningham Falls State Park301-271-7574www.dnr.state.md.us (click “outdoor activities,” then “swimming”) $3 to $5 14039 Catoctin Hollow Rd., Thurmont, 15 miles north of Frederick and 65 miles from DC Enjoy a peaceful forest setting at this 44-acre lake in the Catoctin Mountains. You can swim in three roped areas or rent a canoe or rowboat. An easy half-mile hike brings you to a 78-foot waterfall; there’s also a strenuous 71⁄2-mile trail with great views. Fishing—trout, bass, bluegill, and more—is allowed with a license.
Lake Anna 540-854-5503 dcr.virginia.gov/state_parks/lak.shtml $2 to $4 for beach access; $4 to $5 for parking 25 miles southwest of Fredericksburg and 75 to 80 miles from DC. It’s adjacent to Route 601 and off Route 208. This 13,000-acre lake—created to supply water to a nuclear plant—is one of Virginia’s largest. Swimming is permitted in a small area tended by lifeguards. There’s a beach, 15 miles of hiking trails, and a fishing pond for kids (adults with permits can catch largemouth bass, crappie, and bream in the lake). Arrive early on sunny weekends; the park opens at 8 am, but once the parking lot fills up—usually around 10—access to the beach is limited.
Milford Mill Park and Swim Club 410-655-4818 $2 to $13 3900 Milford Mill Rd., Windsor Mill, just west of Baltimore Splash into a quarry via two zip lines, two rope swings, and a diving board. Swim test required. There’s also a sandy beach with a wading area. The park also has two swimming pools.
Oregon Ridge Park 410-887-1818 baltimorecountymd.gov $3 to $7 13401 Beaver Dam Rd., Cockeysville, 20 miles north of Baltimore and 60 miles from DC This large park features a quarry fed with cool spring water. You can swim to anchored rafts or play horseshoes and volleyball near the beach. The park also has good hiking, a large playground, and an amphitheater where the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performs in summer.

Did we miss any of your favorite swimming spots? Let us know about them in the comments! 

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