hot summer days call for cool waters. Luckily we’ve got everything from crystal mountaintop lakes and streams to river beaches where you’re welcome to get your chill on. New York State is asking us to recreate close to home until the pandemic has fully receded, but chances are one or more of these spots will be near your neck of the woods.
take note: Swimming is officially permitted throughout the Catskill Forest Preserve, so plan your hikes where you see some blue on the map and feel free to dip at will. Most backwoodsy spots have no lifeguard, so bring a buddy and use common sense. And, please, please take your trash with you—we want these swimming holes to stay gorgeous and refreshing through future generations of summertimes.
The sandy belleayre beach at Pine Hill Lake is the state-operated summer face of Belleayre Mountain Ski Resort. Snacks, lifeguards, and restrooms are available, and you can rent several flavors of boat, including kayaks, stand-up paddle boards, and “aqua trikes.” minnewaska state park preserve has two crystalline lakes, lake minnewaska and lake awosting, both of which welcome swimmers in designated areas when lifeguards are on duty. You’ll want to get to the park early in the day to grab a parking space; the four-mile hike to Lake Awosting makes it less crowded, but both are glorious. split rock, located at the Coxing Kill trailhead of the Mohonk Preserve, is shallow but it’s a great place for both kids and adults to cool off in the gorgeous mountain stream. As with Minnewaska, go early if you want to find a parking spot on a weekend.
kingston point beach was once an amusement park; you’ll find river-polished remnants of the city’s once-vibrant brick industry mixed with the sand beneath your toes, and a chance to dip directly into the mighty Hudson herself.
You can also take a dip in the big water at ULSTER LANDING PARK in Saugerties, which features several scenic trails—one of them is ADA compliant—along with grills, horseshoe and volleyball facilities, playgrounds, and basketball hoops.
big pond in Andes is a 51-acre lake with a nice beach, and getting there takes you through an exquisite section of Catskills. Its ease of access means it can draw a crowd on weekends; a six-mile hike takes you to yet another swim spot, ALDER LAKE, that’s likely to be quieter.
little pond, another Andes spot, is only 13 acres; there’s a campground with amenities, but day-use guests are welcome to come dip, hike, and refresh. Neither Big Pond or Little Pond has lifeguards, so keep a close eye on little ones.
copake falls, located within Taconic State Park, features a beloved swimming hole at Ore Pit Pond, open when lifeguards are on duty. The pond is deep, but there’s an adjacent kiddie pool, and you can wander the Harlem Valley Rail Trail or hike just over the state line to Bash Bish Falls, the highest single-drop waterfall in Massachusetts.
wilcox memorial park in Stanfordville has a guarded beach, and you can rent a rowboat or paddle boat.
colgate lake, in the Colgate Lake Wild Forest, is located two miles down Route 78, past the East Jewett Post Office, and the shoreline offers several spots to take a dip.
north-south lake, is part of the campground of the same name and offers beaches, pavilions, restrooms, lifeguards, and some wonderful hikes. A great place for a family day in the sun.
Lifeguard-supervised swimming is available at mongaup pond campground, just outside Livingston Manor, and at lake superior state park in Bethel.
nutten hook, in Stuyvesant, is a Scenic Hudson property with a historic ice house, and a generations-long history of locals jumping in for a dip. Take the Federal Footpath from the Ferry Road parking area and you’ll find yourself at the beach.
lake taghkanic, off Route 82 in Ancram, is part of a state park with a wide guarded beach, grills, pavilions, boat and canoe rentals, and camping.