Even if there’s a lifeguard there, play it safe: Don’t jump or dive in unless you’re certain of the depth, and watch your footing on slippery surfaces.
There’s nothing as refreshing as leaping into the water when the weather’s hot, whether you bring a picnic and a sunbrella and set up camp for hours or just stop off for a quick, cooling dip after a hike or a shopping spree. The Hudson Valley offers tons of places to splash—and we’re sharing some of our favorites.
We’re listing only spots that have infrastructure set up for public swimming, such as restrooms where you can get changed. Other places may look tempting, but you can run afoul of irate property owners or park rangers, which can sour a lovely afternoon pretty quickly. And public swim spots have been vetted thoroughly for hazards. Nonetheless, even if there’s a lifeguard there, play it safe: Don’t jump or dive in unless you’re certain of the depth, and watch your footing on slippery surfaces.
Etiquette at public swim spots is pretty much what you’d expect. Keep the dog (if permitted) leashed. Don’t crowd anybody, don’t splash anybody, and if smoking is permitted (it usually isn’t) and you wish to indulge, make sure no one is downwind and that no kids are watching. If you must have music, headphones are a good idea, or set up away from the crowd and keep the volume under 5-ish. And always, always carry out what you carry in.
All you really need is your towel and a cold beverage, but it’s kinda fun to bring a diving mask and explore the depths. Don’t worry, there’s nothing down there in the river or the lake that will mistake you for a snack.
A NOTE ABOUT POOLS
There exists a long list (too long to publish here) of towns, and several counties, that maintain lovely public pools for residents and neighbors. Check with your local government and they’ll steer you to the closest one; some offer day passes and others require seasonal membership. Taxpayer-funded pools need to accommodate taxpayer priorities; hours and days of general admission are often subject to the needs of swim lessons for kids, lap swimming for seniors, and swim team meets. Always call ahead and verify the hours before you jump in the car.
For those of us who like our water with a smidgen less chlorine, here’s a list of wonderful, pretty places where you can cool your heels (and the rest of you) in fresh, natural water: Many also offer campsites, nature programs for kids, and a plethora of other recreational possibilities.
WEST OF THE HUDSON: Bear Spring Mountain Park in Downsville allows day guests to use its campground’s sandy swimming beach and nearby picnic area with tables and grills, and there’s a bathhouse for changing. The beach isn’t guarded, so please swim only in the marked area, and abide by the leaflet of safety rules you’ll be given when you arrive.
Little Pond, located in Andes, is a 13-acre lake with camping and day use areas. There’s a picnic area with tables and grills, an accessible pavilion and restrooms (there’s an accessible path to the sandy beach, too), and rowboat, paddle boat, kayak, and canoe rentals. Here, too, you’ll find no lifeguard but you’ll be given a list of safety rules.
Mongaup Pond in Livingston Manor, at 120 acres, is the largest body of water in the Catskill Forest Preserve that isn’t a reservoir for New York City. (Can’t swim in those.) The beach is open for swimming when lifeguards are on duty, so you’ll want to call ahead to get the hours right. Like Bear Spring and Little Pond, Mongaup offers robust DEC amenities: access for the disabled, restrooms with flush toilets and showers, a picnic area with tables and grills, and you can rent rowboats and canoes.
North South Lake in Haines Falls offers a designated swimming beach that’s open during lifeguard hours. Besides the picnic areas (there are two), flush toilets, and hot showers, you’ll find a playground and rowboat, canoe, kayak, and paddle boat rentals; and there’s a nifty short hike to a glorious view. Good access for folks with disabilities.
Minnewaska State Park Preserve is a gem in the heart of the Shawangunks; an easy trail around the lake offers gorgeous views, so consider taking it eastward (hang a left from the parking lot) and you can savor this with the reward of a refreshing dip at the end. You can swim or scuba dive, or do some bouldering between dips. Dogs aren’t welcome on the small sandy beach, but leashed ones can explore the trails with you.
Belleayre Beach in Pine Hill has a two-rope system; when no lifeguard’s on duty, you’re asked to stay within the first rope. There’s boating, kayaking, stand-up paddleboarding, picnicking, horseshoe pits, volleyball, and fishing here, too; you can buy a season pass and make this your summertime base of operations. Check the calendar for craft activities.
There’s nothing as refreshing as leaping into the water when the weather’s hot.
EAST OF THE HUDSON: Canopus Lake at Clarence Fahnestock State Park in Carmel offers a wide, flat, sandy beach against a gorgeous backdrop. The parking lot fills up quickly on beautiful days, so get here early; there are rowboats to rent and shady picnic groves, and the 14,000-acre state park full of trails to explore.
Harriman State Park in Sloatsburg has two beaches among its 31 lakes, so you can pick a favorite or alternate your scenery while you explore 200 miles of hiking trails, two public camping areas, miles of streams, and much more.
Rudd Pond and Copake Falls, both in Taconic State Park, are sandy beaches with clear water swimming, fishing, boat rentals, and the full array of state park recreational options including fascinating trail networks along the Taconic Mountain Range with a wide variety of terrain and spectacular viewsheds.
Wilcox Memorial Park in Stanfordville features two small refreshing lakes surrounded by a sandy beach set within 614 acres of rolling hills, serene woodlands, and open fields. There are restrooms with hot showers, picnic tables and pavilions, boat rentals, and fishing along with athletic fields, a playground, nature trails, and a disc-golf course in case you want to get heated up before you jump in and cool down.
Lake Taghkanic State Park, located in Ancram, offers swimming in a gem of a lake amid lush forests and rolling hills. There are hot showers and hiking, fishing, biking, picnicking, playgrounds, and rowboat and paddleboat rentals.
Thanks to a wonderful human being named Pete Seeger, a determined bunch of fisherfolk, and their friends and admirers, the big, beautiful Hudson is a clean, safe place for a dip. Here are the spots:
WEST SHORE: Ulster Landing County Park – A sandy beachfront offering hiking trails, grills, a boat launch, playgrounds, lifeguards, and sports areas. Kingston Point Beach, maintained by the City of Kingston, was once an amusement park where city residents spent many a happy weekend. It’s a good bit quieter now; though it still draws crowds on a hot day, there’s room for plenty of fun-seekers. You can swim or launch a kayak or canoe in this protected cove; note the water-smoothed chunks of red brick mixed with the sand, relics of this shoreline’s industrial past.
EAST SHORE: The River Pool in Beacon is a unique, kid-friendly enclosure that makes the river every bit as safe as a backyard pool. It’s also the home of the most serious river-swimmers of all; in August, there’s an organized swim from Newburgh to Beacon, escorted by kayaks. Last year, 143 swimmers made the crossing, raising funds to keep the Pool splashing.
Croton Point Park is a 508-acre park peninsula on the east shore of the Hudson River offering year-round events and activities with facilities for camping, hiking, and swimming. Open weekends and holidays only beginning Memorial Day weekend. 10am-6pm. Lifeguard on duty. Admission $8; $4 with Westchester County Park Pass. Croton Point Avenue, Croton-on-Hudson. 914-862-5290
MISCELLANEOUS MOISTURE: You can take a dip in the Esopus Creek at Saugerties Village Beach, where you’ll find a well-maintained sandy area, a dock to swim out to, and lifeguards watching over everyone from 10 am-6 pm. There’s a kayak/boat launch, a fishing area, and restrooms.
SplashDown Beach in Fishkill bills itself as “America’s Biggest Little Water Park” and has a Travelers’ Choice “Best of the Best” award to prove it. Spend the day enjoying 14 attractions ranging from a tot-friendly “Shipwreck Lagoon” to zero-gravity half-pipes and four-story-high slides for the thrill-seekers among us.