Cool Off Like a Local: Swimming Holes
Everyone has heard of that one secret location through a friend of a friend: the pool of crystal clear water hidden at the end of a winding trail with a rope swing that locals use to cannon-ball off, and a 24-foot waterfall that acts as a glorified diving board. Swimming holes have always held a mythical quality, but this summer, as Montauk, the Hamptons—and even Rockaway—have become increasingly crowded, New Yorkers have begun heading Upstate in search of that isolated spot, untainted by tourists. Here are some of our favorite swimming holes close by to cool off like a local.
FAWN’S LEAP & RAT HOLE,
KAATERSKILL WILD FOREST
If you’re driving from Scribner’s, continue past Kaaterskill Falls and down the winding mountain on 23A. Once you reach the next bridge, start looking for a parking spot along the road. Fawn’s Leap, with its 24-foot jump, is tucked away just west of the bridge, meanwhile Rat Hole, which, with its deep pool, rope swing, and laughing locals, is hard to miss just east of the bridge. Hike along the river to visit both spots—and don’t let the name fool you, Rat Hole is a swimmer’s paradise, with large smooth rocks for sunbathing and clean, cool water straight from the Falls.
PEEKAMOOSE BLUE HOLE, SUNDOWN
No other swimming hole boasts such deep, clear blue water. In the middle of Sundown Wild Forest, Rondout Creek pours through a rock gap to create a glistening lagoon, drenched in sunlight that is filtered through leafy canopies. From New York, take exit 19 off the I-87 N. Head west on RT 28. Pass the first left turn for RT 28A and in 10 miles, in Boiceville, turn left on RT 28A towards West Shokan. In two miles you will come to the intersection of RT 28A and RT 42 in West Shokan. Turn right onto RT 42, toward Sundown. Drive ten miles along RT 42 until you see a parking area on the right handside with a sign for the Peekamoose Mountain area. Park here and cross the road to the creek, where you will need to walk back the way you came about 30 seconds. You will see an entrance to a short path alongside the creek. The swimming hole is hiding at the end of the path.
VERNOOY FALLS, ROCHESTER
The beautiful swimming hole in Vernooy Kill, surrounded by pines and shrubs on state land, is close to Peekamoose Blue Hole by car, but requires an easy, two-mile scenic hike to get there. From New York, take exit 18 off the I-87 N. Head west towards New Paltz, where you will take a right onto Co Rd which you will follow for about ten miles. Turn left onto Lucas Turnpike, and in two miles take another left onto RT 209 South. In two miles make a right on Queens Highway, continue until you reach the intersection of RT 3 and make a right. In three miles on the left you will see Sundown Road. Follow Sundown Road for about half a mile, turning right at a slight fork. At the second fork (with a big tree in the middle island), turn left on Trail’s End Road (the sign is hard to see from the direction you’re coming from). Follow the steep road, until you reach the parking spaces at the end. Follow this main trail (it crosses the creek and becomes wide and grassy immediately afterwards) straight to the waterfall.
BIG DEEP, WOODSTOCK
Hidden off a gravel drive and down a winding path, Big Deep lives up to its name. This dog friendly and very big, very deep swimming hole is a favorite among locals. For some private sunbathing and wading, walk down the river to find smaller and clearer pools of water flanked by large rocks big enough to fit several towels. From Woodstock, at the intersection of RT 375 and 212, head east along RT 212 towards Saugerties. After about a half mile, look for the third gravel road on your right across from Gallo’s grocery store. There is no sign (at first glance it looks like a private driveway) but venture down and park amongst the trees. Follow the gated trail to the stream until you see a clearing.
ENFIELD FALLS, ITHACA
Just below Enfield Falls lies one of the Finger Lakes’ worst-kept secrets: the Robert Treman State Park swimming hole. With a diving platform at the foot of a natural waterfall, multiple pools of different depths, and plenty of lounge space for tanning, it’s a favorite summertime hangout. From Ithaca, go southwest on RT 96/13 for about eight miles (past Buttermilk Falls State Park), and simply follow signs to Robert H. Treman State Park.
By Olivia Fleming