Growing up in the Adirondacks, my favorite summer activity was visiting swimming holes. Whether spending a lazy day in a river, cooling off after a hike, or the thrill of cliff jumping, nothing beats a dip surrounded by the beauty of the High Peaks region. Like any “best of” type list, this sample is subjective. That said, the swimming holes below are wonderful spots to cool off and explore while in the High Peaks region of the Adirondack Mountains.

Before taking the plunge, know that swimming in rivers, waterfalls, and other natural features is risky. Ultimately, it’s the responsibility of every individual to assess the danger, know their limitations, and follow safe practices. Over the years, many mountain swimming holes have been home to tragedy, often because people didn’t carefully evaluate the conditions or took unnecessary risks. Have fun and stay safe!

Five Must-Visit Swimming Holes in the Adirondack High Peaks Region

The Jay Rapids

This swimming spot on the Ausable River in the town of Jay features a series of rapids, small waterfalls, open rocks, and swimming pools just upstream from a scenic covered bridge. As a rule, the Jay Rapids are best during hot summer stretches when the water is low and the rapids and pools are more safely accessible. They can be dangerous in high water.

To get the Jay Rapids, take the new bridge from Jay town center to the south side of the river. In recent years, the covered bridge has been restored and is open for foot and bike traffic. Nearby is a small park that includes basketball and tennis courts, parking spots, and green space, all of which add up to a great place to take a break from the water or have a post-swim picnic.

Swimming in Jay Rapids
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

West Mill Brook

The West Mill Brook swimming hole is beautiful, remote, and requires a bit of hike to get to. It’s accessed via the West Mill Brook Trail, which is part of a 200-year-old road that connected the iron mines of Tahawus to Lake Champlain. The trail follows alongside West Mill Brook into the Dix Wilderness Area.

To get to this gem, travel either four miles south on Route 9N from Exit 30 of Interstate 87, “the Adirondack Northway,” or four miles north from Exit 29. Look for the Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) trailhead sign on the west side of the road. Most will park here and walk over a mile on the rough dirt road to the trail’s start. More daring visitors with high-clearance vehicles can drive the stretch of rugged road—crossing a shallow stream, passing underneath the Northway, and leading to a small lot.

Once on the West Mill Brook hiking trail, visitors will pass through an old gate and negotiate increasingly muddy and rocky terrain. After about a mile (two total from Route 9N), leave the trail and hike down the brook on the right. Slightly upstream is a beautiful chasm, a jumble of boulders, and deep crystalline pools. There’s even an informal campsite higher up on the far bank, perfect for those who want to enjoy the solitude and enticing waters of this quiet jewel for more than a day.

West Mill Brook Swimming Hole
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

North Fork Boquet River (Various)

The North Fork Boquet River area is well known to swimming-hole veterans in the Adirondacks, for good reason. It’s beautiful and convenient. The area located upstream and downstream of where the North Fork crosses Route 73 is loaded with beautiful roadside swimming options. To get there, park at any of the small pull-offs before or after the bridge over the North Fork, located on Route 73 about three miles north of Exit 30 off the Adirondack Northway or roughly seven miles south of Keene Valley.

Perhaps the best spot for swimming on the North Fork Boquet River is about a quarter mile downstream from the road and features a waterfall, pool, ledges, and swim-in cave. To get there, follow the river downstream from the bridge, or walk the road south and look for herd paths leading to the river and backtrack upstream along the river bank.

If this area is busy, two other great swimming spots are just a short hike away. Both are found upstream from the road. A 10-minute hike on informal trails takes visitors past several nice campsites en route to Boquet Campsite Falls and an excellent swimming option. Walk another 10 minutes upstream to find Shoebox Falls, another less-visited swimming hole that’s well worth the trek.

North Fork Baquet River Swimming Hole
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

Hanging Spears

Hanging Spears is remote and difficult to access. However, its grandeur, beauty, and isolation make it a must-see for daring and experienced swimming hole connoisseurs and an obvious inclusion on any list of the best swimming holes of the High Peaks Region. A series of rapids and cascades lead to the 70-foot hourglass-shaped waterfall located on the Opalescent River near Calamity Mountain.

To get there, take Exit 29 off the Adirondack Northway, head 17 miles west on Blue Ridge Road, then turn right on Tahawus Road (CR25) toward Tahawus. Follow Tahawus Road as it winds, eventually turns to dirt, and ultimately reaches the popular and recently upgraded Upper Works Trailhead and parking area.

Two routes lead to Hanging Spears. The first (and easier) option is a six-mile hike on the Calamity Brook Trail. The other (slightly longer, more rugged) route takes the East River Trail. Both routes reward those who make the trek with one of the most scenic swimming spots in the Adirondacks.

Know before you go that the trail to the bottom of the falls is steep and often treacherous. This is a remote spot, so take care and stay safe.

Hanging Spears Swimming Hole
Credit: Troy Tetreault

Split Rock Falls

Split Rock Falls is actually a series of three falls and offers options for all sorts of swimmers. Families will want to explore the lowest pool, as its comparatively calm waters offer a pleasant alternative to the rougher pools above. The middle pool is popular with more adventurous visitors and it’s common to see people jumping from its surrounding cliffs and rocks. That said, the middle pool warrants extreme caution; its deep and turbulent waters have been the scene of several fatalities.

Split Rock Falls is also located on the Boquet River. Parking is found on the roadside of Route 9 just South of New Russia. From the small parking area, follow a trail through a grassy area to a chain link fence with a hole cut in it. The approach is sketchy as it leads along a cliffside on often wet rock—hence the fence.

A better alternative is to hike to the small dirt pull-off next to the parking area. Near the “no parking” sign there are a handful of short, muddy paths that lead down to the outlet of the falls and the base of the lowest swimming pool.

Split Rock Falls Swimming Hole
Credit: Lucas LaBarre

Are there other must-visit swimming holes in the ADK? If so, we want to hear about them! Let us know what your favorite spot is in the comments below so we can check it out.