During the “doggiest” days of the year, nothing feels quite as good as chilling your body in a cool, cool pool. The Hudson Valley has more than a few, and several that reflect the wild spirit of the country. You may have to investigate your map, maybe ask a local
for a lead, but the payoff is worth the adventure. Through some woods, past a clearing or after a moderate hike, you’ll find a picturesque swimming hole where locals cavort and cool off on a scorching summer afternoon.
We have famous holes (Peekamoose Blue Hole is an example of one that became too famous), but we have many more secret holes worthy of further exploration. The following list highlights popular and relatively accessible holes with amenities such as restrooms and picnic areas, but Will Soter of Upstate Adventure Guides says the key to a great swimming hole is to make it your own and keep it clean.
“Find a map, look for blue, hike to it and enjoy what you find,” Will says. “There are so many treasured spots out there waiting to be discovered. Just remember, we are the ones that have the potential to keep them special.”
Also, Will says, be mindful of river currents and hazards. And don’t go it alone—bring a friend (or more) to enjoy the dip. Here are some great places to cool off in the Hudson Valley.
Big Pond: A quieter spot up in Andes, Big Pond nonetheless gets a crowd, as it’s more accessible than most holes. There’s a decent hike that starts at Big Pond, taking folks six miles over to Alder Lake (where you can take another dip). No lifeguard on duty. From Route 30 East, before the road crosses the Tremper Kill, stay straight to head onto BWS Road No. 8. That becomes Barkaboom Road, which becomes Big Pond Road.
Little Pond: Obviously smaller than Big Pond, Little Pond has a beach but no lifeguard on duty. Camping permitted on site. 549 Little Pond State Campground Road, Andes. 845-439-5480.
Nearly two miles up Route 78 from the East Jewett Post Office (off Route 23A in Tannersville), Colgate Lake—part of the Colgate Lake Wild Forest—is a well-protected friend of the Catskill swimmer and fisherman. It’s a shallow hole and popular with locals. No bathrooms, no lifeguards.
Close to Kaaterskill Falls is North-South Lake, part of the state-owned North-South Lake Campground. On Route 23A West in Haines Falls, make a right onto North Lake Road, then a quick right onto Route 18, which leads to the campground. North-South Lake has beaches, pavilions, and lifeguards on duty. Bathrooms on premises. No swimming without a lifeguard. Swimming hours change and are available via the campground. 518-589-5058.
A popular place for locals and tourists alike, Minnewaska State Park Preserve offers two main spots for swimming: Lake Awosting and Lake Minnewaska. Both are open when lifeguards are on duty and are gorgeous spots with widescreen views of evergreen trees. Lake wosting is the less popular of the two. Swimming season opens mid- to late-June (call for details). 5281 Route 44-55, Kerhonkson, 845-255-0752
Part of the Mohonk Preserve, Split Rock is a popular rock formation site with a small parking lot, so aim to arrive as early as possible. From Route 44-55 West, drive a mile and a half past the Preserve Visitor Center until you reach Clove Road. Make a right, then bear right at the fork. Turn left into the lot. You’ll need to pay a day-use fee if you aren’t a Preserve member ($15 for hikers, children younger than 13 are free). Split Rock doesn’t have lifeguards, but the swimming area is fit for both kids and adults, who can jump into the gorge for a thrill.
The creek can be too fast and ferocious for swimming, so beware, but there are a few spots along the Esopus fit for your fins. The Saugerties Village Beach (above) off Partition Street —located under the red bridge— is one option that also has a small playground. Another discreet spot is by the bridge inside Sleepy Hollow Camp Site (5636 Route 28, Phoenicia). Just park outside the entrance and walk up, but be respectful of the site.
This spot in Stuyvesant is somewhat historic, and locals have been swimming here for generations. Take Route 9J to Ferry Road. There’s a parking area and pull-off area farther up the road. Either way, a trail (the Federal Footpath) by that pull-off area leads to a beach and a calm swimming spot. Also on-site is the oldest icehouse on the Hudson River.
Off Route 82 in Ancram, Lake Taghkanic State Park offers plenty of amenities, including a beach with a lifeguard, grills, pavilions, showers, and campsites. A great place for family fun. Season runs through October. Call for swimming availability: 518-851-3631.
“There are so many treasured spots out there waiting to be discovered. Just remember, we are the ones that have the potential to keep them special.”
–Will Soter, Upstate Adventure Guides
Wilcox Memorial Park allows lake swimming 10am–7pm weekends and holidays only through June 11; starting June 12 through August 18 the lake is open 10am–7 pm Thursday–Monday; August 19–September 4 it is open 10am–6pm Friday–Monday. Lifeguard on duty. Paddle boats and row boats available. $5 vehicle entrance fee for residents of Dutchess County; $10 for non-residents. Off Route 199 in Milan. 845-758-6100.
Ore Pit Pond is perfect for kids (those who pass a swim test). Part of Taconic State Park on Route 344 in Copake Falls, the pond has a small swimming area with a lifeguard on duty. Swimming is open daily 11am–7pm from late-June to Labor Day weekend. Children younger than 11 must be accompanied by an adult. 518-329-3993.
river pool at beacon
Safely swim in the Hudson River at Beacon’s swimming spot at Pete and Toshi Seeger Riverfront Park. Standing in water that’s no more than 30 inches deep, swimmers are kept happy (and away from the slime) thanks to some underwater nylon netting. The pool is only 20 feet in diameter, meaning it can’t fit more than 20 bathers. There’s a lifeguard on duty, and it’s open noon–6pm Tuesday–Sunday from July to Labor Day.
We remind you to follow the rules of leave no trace as you enjoy these local spots: Plan ahead, stay on the designated trails, dispose of all garbage properly, leave behind what you find, respect the wildlife, and be considerate of those around you.