[This article was originally published online in July 2013. We updated and republicized it recently to much outcry. We have since updated the intro to address readers’ concerns.]
Upstate summers are notoriously hot and humid, with new temperature records being set almost every year. When the beads of sweat form before you’ve even had a chance to towel off from your cold shower, you know it’s time to find a swimming hole to immerse yourself in.
Laced with creeks, dotted by ponds and lakes, and bisected by the majestic Hudson, our region has an abundance of waterways. Longtime residents are understandably protective of their swimming spots. Aside from the riparian zones along streams and creeks being important and fragile ecosystems, in recent years, an influx of day visitors and tourists to the Hudson Valley has resulted in overcrowding, with its cascade of consequences—from trash build-up to parking issues.
As Roger Hannigan Gilson recently reported, “A big issue is garbage. At the end of the day, trash is everywhere, [Town of Hunter Supervisor Daryl] Legg says [of Kaaterskill Falls]. He blames the mess squarely on visitors from downstate. ‘Unfortunately, they don't take all the stuff they brought with them back. It is state land, and the land is for everyone to use, but it's not for everyone to abuse,’ he adds.’" The feature, titled Death by Misadventure, is not only about trash but also about the safety concerns when out-of-towners try to access hard-to-reach spots without proper information or preparation, often just based on an Instagram post.
The swimming spots we’ve included below are not secret, and they are accessible through state land. In some cases, access is permitted or managed through park admission fees. When COVID first hit and people flocked to the state parks, we wrote this little primer on trail etiquette in the time of COVID, but these principles are timeless. And whether you are heading to a public park or a quiet creek spot up the road that your neighbor told you about, it’s important to always follow the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.
With collaboration, stewardship, and respectful behavior, we can all continue to enjoy the Hudson Valley’s many natural wonders for years to come.
1. Lake AwostingIf you're a firm believer in working up a sweat before relaxing with a swim, Lake Awosting is a good pick. Whether on a bicycle or your two feet, work your way from the Minnewaska State Park Preserve through the challenging, hilly, approximately four-and-a-half mile trails to the secluded mountain lake. Make sure to spend some time on the Blueberry Run Trail for some mid-trip refueling.
2. Peekamoose Blue Hole
The swimming hole on the Rondout Creek gets its name because of the water's crystal-clear, cerulean hue. Brave the natural swimming hole's freezing temps, then warm up on one of the slabs of rock that surround it. There's free camping along Peekamoose Road in three different areas (upper, middle, and lower fields). Lounge waterside all day, then cozy up by a campfire when night falls. Due to incredibly high volumes of swimmers in recent years (think thousands per weekend), which have caused site damage and trash build up, the DEP is now requiring day passes to access the Blue Hole on weekends and holidays. Get your day pass.
3. Taconic State ParkLocated along 16 miles of the Taconic Mountain Range, sharing a border with Massachusetts and Connecticut, the oldest state park in the Taconic Region offers swimming at Copake Falls and Rudd Pond, where there are also rowboats and canoes available for rent. If you want to extend your visit, both areas of the state park offer camping, and there are extensive trail systems to explore, including hikes that lead over the border to Bash Bish Falls, the highest single drop waterfall in Massachusetts.