The dog days of summer are here and many of us are begging for relief from the sticky midsummer heat. While it is tempting to follow the rest of the flock to the closest public swimming pool, nothing beats wading into the clear waters of a natural swimming hole. This summer, leave those frying pan pool decks behind and head to secluded natural swimming holes complete with waterfalls, rope swings, and deep, cool pools.
Peekamoose Blue Hole, Sundown
When you hear the term “swimming hole,” this is what comes to mind. Sun leaks through a canopy of leaves and spills into shockingly cold water along Rondout Creek in the Catskills. This area would undoubtedly be more crowded if it weren’t for a healthy 3.5-mile hike from the Peekamoose Mountain Trailhead to the Blue Hole area, but as is, there’s usually plenty of space to splash around. If a 7-mile hike (3.5 in, 3.5 out) is too strenuous for you and your group, there are also numerous spots to swim along Roundout Creek which runs parallel to Peekamoose Road.
Robert H. Treman State Park – Enfield Falls
Enfield Falls – often called the Lower Falls – at Robert Treman State Park in Ithaca, can get a bit crowded, especially on holiday weekends, but it’s only because it’s such an idyllic, and easily accessible place. The swimming area is at the bottom of a gorge, fed by a waterfall, and flanked by a flat grass beach with slate steps leading to the water. Also, unlike many swimming holes, the Lower Falls are handicap accessible – a real blessing to families with special needs. The swimming area is also surrounded by 9-miles of hiking trails.
Split Rock Hole
Split Rock Hole on the Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz doesn’t have a spacious pool like Blue Hole or Enfield Falls, but it has its own great feature: a cliff to jump from. Well, technically it’s a gorge, but either way, the height of the drop is enough to take your breath away. It’s high enough that a belly flop would be ill-advised, but not high enough to be very dangerous. But if cliff-jumping isn’t your style, the creek empties into a slightly larger pool further downstream where swimming is allowed. Parking is $10 for the day.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve – Lake Minnewaska and Lake Awosting
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is located just west of I-87, halfway between Albany and New York City, and features two peaceful lakes perfect for a summer’s day dip. Both lakes have pristine swimming beaches, though it’s noteworthy that swimming is only allowed “in-season”; that’s when lifeguards are on duty. Most of the preserve offers fantastic vistas of the surrounding mountains and the Minnewaska beach faces high stone bluffs covered by evergreens on the opposite shore. Lake Awosting is the more secluded of the two, reached either by carriageway or hiking trail. Swimming in non-approved locations has been cracked down since a recent change in ownership, but the beaches are more than adequate for a day of fun and refreshment.
Stony Kill Falls – Hole 32
Hole 32 is the name given to the spot beneath the 87-foot water fall in Kerhonkson, approximately 30 miles northwest of Newburgh. It’s no surprise that the spot is a local secret because it is gorgeous and naturally well hidden – enough so that a pool above the falls has been playfully dubbed “nudist pool.” The area below the cascade is popular as well and visitors commonly cool themselves in the falling waters and lounge in the mist on the rocks. You can also hike upstream along the river for several miles and explore numerous other falls and pools.
Hole lot of fun.
Swimming holes are great, and not just for their novelty. You have to really work to get to many of these places, and after your hike you have a nice cold pool to dive into. There’s also the fact that in New York, many natural swimming areas are surrounded by scenery that is among the most beautiful in the country. If you’ve never experienced a good old-fashioned swimming hole, do yourself a favor and try one of these. If you have, you’re probably already halfway out the door.
Jeffrey Ferraro is a travel enthusiast and expert. He is the Director of Marketing of Diamond Tours, the leading provider of charter group bus trips in the US and Canada, including bus tours in New York City. Jeffrey loves uncovering lesser known travel destinations and sharing them with his customers.