by Joan MacDonald
Jumping into cool water on a sweltering day sums up the definition of refreshing. It’s a treat to splash around while staring up at the bright, blue sky. Fortunately, the area offers so many options, there’s barely enough summer to try them all. Here’s a partial list of Hudson Valley swimming holes, pools, and lakes.
Down By The Old Swimming Hole
If you were lucky enough to grow up near a real swimming hole, you know there’s nothing quite like this blissful combination of beautiful scenery and clear water. If not, you can get lucky. Here are a few to explore:
Big Deep, Woodstock
Also called Tannery Brook, this out-of-the-way swimming hole has varying depths of water, plus huge rocks for sunning on. Going north on Route 212, it’s about 1.5 miles before downtown Woodstock. When you see a plant nursery on the right side of Route 212, look for a wooded driveway on the other side. Park and follow the trail down to the swimming hole. Walking further downstream will take you to more remote places.
Esopus Creek runs the length of Route 28 throughout the Catskills with several spots for swimming and tubing. Take I-87 to Exit 20 (Route 32), then go south through Saugerties. Go right on to 9W when Route 32 forks. Proceed three miles to the parking lot on the left. Cross the road and follow the trail through the woods to the shore. From the shore, you can walk south through shallow waters to cascading falls.
Kaaterskill Falls are the state’s tallest falls, and the Palenville swimming hole is about halfway up the trail. It’s a steep climb but the view is beautiful. Bathing suits are optional, depending on the crowd. Continuing to climb above this level is not advisable. Take I-87 north to Exit 20. Go north on Route 32 for 6 miles, then north on Route 32A, then west on Route 23A. For more information, contact the NYS DEC Ranger at 518-589-0216.
Millstream Creek, Woodstock
Millstream Creek runs through Woodstock and there are several places to swim. To get there, take Route 212 to downtown Woodstock then turn south (left) on Tannery Brook Road (Route 41). Keep right to stay on Route 41 to the intersection with Millstream Road. Here go either left (on Millstream Road) or right (onto Ohayo Mountain Road), and you will be parallel to Millstream Creek.
Otter Falls, Sundown
These spectacular falls cascade about 30 feet to a large basin that is six feet deep. From Route 28 in Phoenicia, drive west through Shandaken to Big Indian. Turn south (left) on Route 47 and go six miles to a telephone pole with milepost #167 1/2 on it. Look for yellow DEC signs. It’s the only state land on the west side of Route 47 in Big Indian Valley. Park at the Giant Ledge trail parking area, and walk down the hill to the swimming hole, using the telephone pole numbers to find the path.
› Check the Depth
› Watch the Current
› Don't Swim Alone
Peekamoose Blue Hole, Sundown
This swimming hole may be named Blue Hole because of the clarity of the water, but many swimmers say it’s so cold it can turn you blue. From I-87 Exit 19, go west on Route 28, past the left turn for Route 28A. Go another 10 miles. In Boiceville, go left on Route 28A about two miles to West Shokan. At the intersection of 28A and Route 42 in West Shokan, turn right on 42 toward Sundown. Go 10 miles on Route 42 until you see a sign for the Peekamoose Mountain area. Park here, and cross the road to the creek.
Rondout Creek, Ellenville
Along Route 209 between Ellenville and Accord, you can see several swimming places from the road. To get here from intersection of Route 44/55 and Route 209, turn left towards Ellenville (or right towards Accord) on Route 209.
Rondout Creek, Rosendale
A large swimming hole in a bend of the Rondout Creek that feeds directly into the Hudson River offers clean water, rocks to dive off, and beautiful scenery. To get there from New Paltz, take Route 32 north to Rosendale. In Rosendale, go left on Route 213 (Lawrenceville Road) then look for the baseball field. Parking is on the left. There is an opening in the bushes, which leads to a trail to the swimming hole.
Split Rock, Mohonk Preserve
The creek here falls into small gorge and runs out the other end into a luxurious pool. You can swim there and jump into the gorge, or just swim between the two rock faces. The entrance fee is $12 per person. From New Paltz, take Route 299 through New Paltz, over a bridge and to the end at Route 44/55. Turn right on Route 44/55, then turn right at the second road on the right (Clove Road) after the top of the mountain. Keep right on this road until you get to the parking area on the left. Pay fee here and walk down to the swimming hole. For more information, call 845-255-0919.
Stony Kills Falls, Warwasing
After a mile and a half hike, this swimming hole is above a spectacular 87-foot high waterfall. The river can be followed upward for several miles to many pools and small cascades. From New Paltz, head west on Route 299. Turn right on Route 44/55. 4.3 miles after you pass Lake Minnewaska State Park on your left, take a left onto Minnewaska Trail, then an immediate left onto Rock Haven Road. Near the end of Rock Haven Road, bear left on to Shaft 2A Road. Follow Shaft 2A Road until you come to the gate that blocks your way. Park on the side of the road.
Vernooy Kill Falls, Kerhonksen
Also called “Trails End,” it takes a 45-minute hike to reach this swimming hole and gorgeous waterfall. From 209 in Kerhonkson, turn onto Samsonville Road. Go for 3.5 miles. Bear left onto Lower Cherrytown Road and go for 1.4 miles. At the intersection with Cherrytown Road and Upper Cherrytown Road, bear right onto Upper Cherrytown, and go 3.1 miles to a parking area on the right.
Pools and Lakes
If you prefer a pool with a lifeguard or monitored beach swimming, the area offers more choices:
This six-lane, 25-meter pool has a bathhouse, picnic area and swim lessons available. Open Tuesday through Sunday. City resident: Youth $1; senior citizen $2; adult 18+ $3. Non-city resident: Youth $2; senior citizen $3; adult 18+ $5. Joys Lane, Kingston. 845-331-1682.
Beacon River Pool
This partially submerged pool offers a safe wading area, protecting bathers from boaters and currents. The twenty-foot diameter wading pool allows river water to flow through it and offers spectacular river views. A ramp from the river’s shore leads to the pool. Open early July to Labor Day, Tuesday through Sunday, noon-6pm. Free. For more information, call 845-784-1790 or visit riverpool.org
Belleayre Beach at Pine Hill Lake
Clean, crisp lake swimming provides a day of family fun. There’s also horseshoe pits, volleyball, and basketball, rowboats, paddleboats, and kayak rentals. Lifeguards on duty; no pets allowed on beach or in cars. Walk-ins are $2 each; $10 per car. Call 845-254-5202 or visit belleayre.com/summer/lake.htm
Kenneth Wilson State Park, Mount Tremper
Swimming is allowed at the campground when a lifeguard is on duty. From I-87, take Exit 18 to Route 28. Proceed 21 miles west on Route 28 to Mount Tremper. Turn right on to Route 212. Turn right on Wittenberg Road (Route 40). The campsite is four miles down on the right side. Or from Route 28 West, turn right at Route 375 and follow it to Route 212. Turn left off Route 212 at Bear's Café onto Route 45. Take Route 40 to the campground. For more information, call 845-679-7020.
› Wear sunscreen. Don’t spoil your swimming day with a painful sunburn.
› Don’t swim during thunderstorms.
Kingston Point Beach
This municipal beach offers swimming in the Hudson River, plus boating, windsurfing, and picnicking. There’s a playground, volleyball courts, and great bird watching. Open Friday through Sunday. Lifeguard on duty from 11am-5pm. Free. Located at 53 Delaware Avenue, Kingston. For more information, call 845-338-0670.
Lake Minnewaska & Lake Awosting
Lake Minnewaska's swimming area is surrounded by stunning views. Open June 18 to September 5, seven days a week from 11:15am-6:45pm. Lake Awosting’s beach can only be reached by a four-mile hike or bike ride. Open 11am-5:30pm, June 18 to June 24 weekends and holidays only. From June 27 to September 2, open daily. Swimming at both beaches is permitted only when lifeguards are on duty. Preserve admission is $8 per vehicle daily. Located at 5281 Route 44/55, New Paltz. For more information, call 845-255-0752 or visit nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/127/details.aspx
Moriello Pool in New Paltz is open weekends beginning Memorial Day and daily beginning June 25 through Labor Day at Mulberry Street in New Paltz. For more information, call 845-255-1700.
Saugerties Village Beach
This sand beach, bordering on a nature preserve, offers a docked swimming area on the Esopus Creek. There’s a playground, a fishing area, and a kayak/boat launch. Open July 4 through Labor Day with lifeguards. For information, call 845-246-2321, extension 1.
Sylvan Lake Beach Park
The private beach, set on 65 wooded acres in Hopewell Junction, offers family amenities such as camping, fishing, non-motorized boating, horseshoe pits, volleyball, and basketball hoops. For more information, call 845-246-2919.
Taconic State Park, Rudd Pond Area
The 225-acre park features a sandy beach and clear water swimming on a 64-acre lake. There are rowboat, canoe, kayak, and paddleboat rentals. Rudd Pond Area is open May 27 to September 4 from 8am-9pm. Parking is $7. Located at Rudd Pond Road, Route 62, Millerton. For more information, call 518-789-3059 or visit nysparks.state.ny.us/parks/141/details.aspx.
Town of Washington
The pool is really an old-fashioned beach basin that is drained seasonally, so it’s more like natural swimming. Open weekends June 4 through Labor Day and Monday to Friday from June 12 to August 22 from noon to 7pm. Located at 35 Merrit Avenue, Millbrook. For more information, call 845-677-8278; washingtonny.org.
Ulster Landing County Park
The sandy beachfront in Saugerties has hiking trails, grills, a boat launch, playgrounds, lifeguards, and sports areas. Open weekends only until June 13, then daily through Labor Day. 13 and over $3; 12 and under $1.50; seniors $1. For information, call 845-336-8484.
Wilcox Memorial Park
You can swim, rent boats and go fishing at the park’s two small lakes, which are surrounded by a sandy beach. There’s a children’s play area, picnic tables, nature trails, miniature golf, and 27 campsites. It’s open May 28 to June 26, from 10am-7pm on weekends and holidays only. June 27 to September 5, 10am-7pm Thursday to Monday; weekends and holidays until 8pm. Dutchess County residents $5 car; non-residents $10 car. Located at Route 199, Milan. For more information, call 845-758-6100.