New York's Finest Swim Spots

Cool refuges worth the (short) trip out of the city
Staff Writer

While New York City has plenty of great hotel swimming pools with outlandish amenities, we'll wager that the natural pools just a few hours outside of town are even better. If tubing, waterfalls and the great outdoors get you more excited than bottle service, then pack up the car and head to one of these prime swimming holes. 

Esopus Creek
Drive time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Approximate GPS coordinates: Lat: 42.08097, Long: 74.31533
Bring your own tubes and life jackets to this family-friendly spot upstate in Phoenicia, or float the river with a local outfitter like Town Tinker. At low water, it's a languid glide down the river (beware the rocks! your bum will thank you), but regular water releases from an upriver dam can make for a white-knuckle adventure.

Otter Falls
Drive time: 2 hours, 45 minutes
Approximate GPS coordinates: Lat: 42.0314, Long: -74.4201
Only a half mile from the Catskills’ Giant Ledge trailhead parking area, Otter Falls is the perfect cool-off spot following the 7-mile-roundtrip hike. After a somewhat technical descent through hemlock forest, you will emerge to find the picturesque, 8-foot-deep swimming hole at the bottom of 30-foot-high Otter Falls.

Vernooy Kill Falls
Drive time: 2 hours, 30 minutes
Approximate GPS coordinates: Lat 41.87194, Long -74.37083
A two-mile hike with 600 feet of elevation gain will deliver you, at last, to Vernooy Kill Falls. This hidden gem is worth the hike, and its always-cool waters are refreshing no matter how hot the weather is. It's also located inside the Catskill Forest Preserve, so you can camp anywhere nearby (just stay back at least 200 feet from water), should you choose to make a weekend of it.

Corbett Falls
Drive time: 2 hours, 40 minutes
Approximate GPS coordinates: Lat: 42.04144, Long: -74.98947
Corbett Falls is rumored to be one of the best swimming holes in the Catskills, with smooth rocks for sunbathing or sliding and a stream that runs cold throughout the summer. The pool is deep enough that you can jump into it from the falls or the surrounding 15-foot-high cliffs. Be careful to check the bottom for submerged rocks, and heed no trespassing signs, as this spot is located on private property.

Stony Kill Falls
Drive Time: 2 hours, 20 minutes
Approximate GPS coordinates: Lat: 41.72778, Long: -74.30101
The Open Space Institute recently acquired this little gem in the Shawangunks, and the organization’s mission to preserve the area bodes well for swimmers. Above the 87-foot-high falls, you will find a small rock dam and, behind it, a popular clothing-optional swimming hole.

Not a New Yorker? Check out these 7 great American swimming holes around the country to find one near you.

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