By Joe Van Acker, Men's Journal Water slides don't have to involve long lines, crying kids, and suspiciously warm water. There are plenty of natural water slides scattered throughout the country that offer relaxation and exhilaration, not to mention a view and a campsite.
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America's Most Thrilling Roads More from Men's Journal: • 24 Best Adventure Trips to Take Right Now • 50 Great American Places to Visit This Summer • America's Best Roller Coasters Meadow Run ( Ohiopyle State Park, PA) This slide is colossal: a long, fast chute that twists and drops through slabs of bedrock where Meadow Run dumps into the Youghiogheny River in the rolling Laurel Highlands (only a few miles from Frank Lloyd Wright's masterpiece Fallingwater). The stream gets pushy after heavy rains, making for a freakishly fast ride, but even on an average day the flume will hustle you 200 feet or so, in a spray of whitewater, into one of many shallow pools. Photo: John Blough/ Flickr Kern River Slides, Sequoia National Park The waterslides in Sequoia National Park fly a bit under the radar (they're not even mentioned on the park's website), with most visitors coming for the giant trees that the park its name. But don't let the lack of hype put you off. Just north of Johnsondale, California, the slides are fast and easily accessible via a short hike to a tributary of Kern River. The river swells with icy meltwater in spring and early summer, meaning the pools at the end of the slides can be especially brisk. Some portions have formed with dips and rises that allow adventurous types to catch some air before splashdown. Photo: monikomad/ Flickr Slide Rock State Park Slide Rock State Park is named for a slick section of Oak Creek Canyon just outside Flagstaff, Arizona. Jimmy Stewart, Charles Bronson, and John Wayne all filmed westerns here and the place definitely looks like something out of a movie. The steep, tree-rimmed canyon walls give way to level stretches of sandstone perfect for catching some rays when you're ready to dry off. The park can get extremely busy during the summer, meaning there may be a long wait for a spot in the parking lot. Get there early if you can, and enjoy some of Slide Rock's sights until you're ready to cool off in the creek. Photo: David C Tomlinson/ Getty Images Alpine Sliding Rock, Alpine, Utah Alpine Sliding Rock in Alpine, Utah is about a mile out of town and despite the fact that the area is fenced off, is open to the public. The slide is about 25-feet long and spits visitors out into a clear, fairly shallow pool that's safe for swimmers of all ages. You'll have to climb up the rocks to the right of the waterfall, which are obviously pretty slippery so watch your step. If you want to make a day of it, there are trails around Box Elder Peak that offer beautiful views of scenic Utah Valley. Photo: Mike Kemp / Getty Images Ledge Falls, Baxter State Gently sloping down an expanse of granite in Maine's Baxter State Park, Ledge Falls' biggest drop is only four feet, making it popular with families. The trip down the slide might not get your pulse pounding, but the relaxing ride is longer than others on our list and there's a parking lot only a stone's throw from the falls. Toss an inner tube in the car and bob along like a true man of leisure. Photo: Getty Images Franconia Falls, White Mountain National Forest The brook along Franconia Falls trail features a number of water slides and swimming holes of various sizes, capped off by a narrow, 20-foot long granite chute shooting into a rectangular pool. From the Lincoln Woods parking lot, it's an easy, three-mile hike to the falls that starts off with a suspension bridge spanning the Franconia branch of the Pemigewasset River. The area is open year-round and doesn't cap the number of visitors, so expect crowds in the summer. Photo: Danita Delimont/ Getty Images Cedar Run, Whiteoak Canyon, VA The trails that lead to the water slides in White Oak Canyon, VA can be fairly strenuous, gaining 1,500 feet in elevation in less than two miles on the return trip, but the trip is well worth it. White Oak Canyon has at least five waterfalls, some of which are steep and fast, especially after a good rain. The longest slide drops about 20 feet and leads into a cool, deep pool, which is particularly refreshing on a muggy Virginia summer day. You can take Cedar Run Trail or do the White Oak Canyon/Cedar Run Loop for more waterfalls and a better workout. Photo: Deb Snelson/ Getty Imagesumn in White Oak Canyon Sliding Rock (Pisgah National Forest, NC) ome of the country's best natural waterslides are hidden in the thickets of the Blue Ridge Mountains, where millennia of rainstorms have carved smooth slides over great sheets of rock. The most popular is Sliding Rock, but if it's packed, head 40 miles south to the area's best-kept secret: Nantahala National Forest's Turtleback Falls, where a cold rush of water pushes riders over a slick granite dome and off a 20-foot ledge into a swimming hole. Warning: A few hundred yards downriver is the 200-foot Rainbow Falls, which you shouldn't go over without a death wish. Photo: Kennan Harvey/ Getty Images Tate Creek Slide (Rogue River–Siskiyou National Forest) It's a nine-mile hike along the scenic Rogue River, winding through Douglas firs on an old mule trail, to get to the mouth of Tate Creek. From there it's a quarter-mile scramble upstream, over boulders and logs, to a shady glade and a nearly vertical 20-foot chute. Haul yourself up with a tattered ladder patched together from about 20 different lengths of rope and hold on to your stomach: You'll hurtle down and then shoot off a lip at the bottom, plunging into a mossy pool. Photo: Getty Images Bridal Veil Falls (Tallulah Gorge State Park) Dams have tamed the river once called the Niagara of the South, but the sprawling falls at the end of the gorge is still one of the best rides in Dixie: a steady drop down a humpbacked rock face 30-feet long ("smooth and round like an ice-cream scoop," says Dave Hajdasz, a frequent visitor) that finishes with a 17-foot drop into a seemingly bottomless pool. In summer the park service restricts visitors to 100 per day, and closes the area during heavy rains. The falls is a little more than a mile from the park's interpretive center, which you'll need to get to by 8 am to guarantee a pass. Photo: Oliver Gerhard / Getty Images