9 Massachusetts Swimming Holes To Help Beat the Heat

Posted by
Sarah Lamagna
September 14, 2023
Updated September 21, 2023

A shoreline of a lake with trees and a blue sky
Photo: Sarah Lamagna

Massachusetts might be known for its rowdy sports fans and early American history, but it’s also home to some of the most serene swimming holes in the country.

Despite popular belief, the Bay State has a lot more to offer than the hustle and bustle of Boston. There are countless hiking opportunities just outside the city and even more day trips to wet your whistle. However, there are also plenty of wild areas where you can beat the heat with a cool dip.

Most of western Massachusetts is covered by the Berkshire Mountains and endless forests that hide bountiful rivers and streams. These waterways are home to many swimming holes you can experience if you’re willing to walk a bit to get there. Whether it’s quick jaunt through a cemetery, a 6-mile trek along the Appalachian Trail, or secluded freshwater lake, below you’ll find the best swimming holes of Massachusetts.

1. Bellevue Falls

Nearest town: Adams, MA
Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

This place takes the cake for weirdest place to have a swimming hole; it’s in a cemetery. As a result, mind your manners and remember that you are traipsing about the final resting place of lots of people, and you should be respectful. To get to the parking area, enter Bellevue Cemetery and keep taking right turns. The road isn’t labeled so you’ll just have to keep turning until you reach a small parking area on the right side of the road. There is a short section of white fence; take the path down to the falls.

Bellevue Falls are only six-feet high, but the swimming hole is glorious. Unfortunately, this makes it a popular spot and the falls tend to have a lot of trash. Remember to Leave No Trace no matter where you are adventuring. In fact, bring a reusable trash bag to help leave this place better than you found it.

2. Upper Pecks Falls


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Nearest town: Adams, MA
Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

Swimming might be stretching it when it comes to the pool at the base of the upper falls of Pecks Falls. Although in an idyllic setting, the pool is only a few feet deep and better used for wading. This makes it a great pick for families since the waters are calm and easier to manage for little legs.

There are several more falls along Pecks Brook including a 50-foot plunge from the lower falls. This area takes some scrambling so be cautious, especially after a wet morning. The rocks can easily become very slippery. You can technically swim at the pool at the bottom of the lower falls but getting there is sketchy; we don’t recommend trying.

3. Roaring Brook Falls

a small waterfall in the woods
Photo: Jan Stria

Nearest town: Lenox, MA
Hike to swimming hole: 0.5 mile

The Roaring Brook trail in October Mountain State Forest is a mellow stroll along the valley of the brook. You can hike the entirety of the 2.5-mile trail or stop at Roaring Brook Falls, which are only  a quarter-mile up the trail. The path skirts along the ridge north of the brook. You’ll have to scramble down to the stream to the west of the falls since the trail gets too high the further you go on the trail. Pro tip: You can see the falls from the trail, which makes navigating a breeze.  If you miss the turn, it’s easy to backtrack.

Related Read: 11 Relaxing Swimming Holes in New Hampshire

4. Sages Ravine – Upper Falls


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Nearest town: Mount Washington, MA
Hike to swimming hole: 3 miles

Of the 2,100+ miles of the Appalachian Trail, only 90 of them are in Massachusetts. The trail to the Upper Falls at Sages Ravine traverses the most scenic part of the state and many thru-hikers marvel at the beauty of this section. Technically, the trail starts in Connecticut but around three quarters of a mile, you’ll reach the border of Massachusetts…so we’re claiming it for The Spirit of America.

Soon after the border, you’ll enter the Sages Ravine area where you’ll see a sign that says to stay on marked trails and only camp in designated areas. At the 1.1-mile mark, the trail splits and you’ll stay on the Appalachian trail. Another half-mile will bring you to the falls themselves. This is the premium spot for a quick plunge before heading back to the trailhead.

5. Shannon Beach at Mystic Lakes


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Nearest town: Winchester, MA
Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

Heading out as a family and want to fill your day with fun? Shannon Beach is your answer. Located within Mystic Lakes State Park just west of Boston, you can swim, row, sail, picnic, or grill while spending a day outside. The free parking and the huge lot makes this place a favorite among city dwellers.

Plus, the fine sand is ideal for anyone who loves making drip castles—a New England specialty! Get some goopy wet sand so that it drips from your hands into awkward mounds of eerily lopsided behemoths. Promise; this isn’t just me. The sand at Shannon Beach is so perfect for drip castles that folks come from all over to showcase their art in the sand.

6. Cascades on Dunbar Brook


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Nearest town: Monroe, MA
Hike to swimming hole: 2.2 miles

I suggest heading out to the Dunbar Brook trail with a backpack full of all your camping needs so you can stay the night and enjoy this wonderful swimming hole. The trail follows Dunbar Brook for 1.1 miles until you reach the Dunbar Brook shelter.

There is a short spur trail that goes between the back side of the shelter and the pit toilet (yes! A toilet!). In classic New England style, you’ll pass by some old ruins on your right but continue down to the water’s edge. The trail turns right when you get closer to the brook. Turn upstream until you can see the lower cascades. The emerald pool at the base of the lower cascades is deep and ideal for a quick plunge after a small hike.

7. Whirley Baths


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Nearest town: Charlemont, MA
Hike to swimming hole: 1 mile

Be careful not to park at the small pull-out area along Route 2 since it says “Live Parking Only” and law police strictly enforce the parking violations here. Instead, drop your group here and then drive about a half-mile west of the pull-out and park next to the bridge going towards Mohawk Trail State Forest.

Due to some damage from Hurricane Irene in 2011, some of the trail down to Whirley Baths can be cumbersome. Take your time and be cautious when traversing downed logs. The small pools along the Cold River are great for relaxing in and for families to enjoy some time together. If these spots are too crowded for your taste, you can also head further west on Route 2 and turn into the Mohawk Trail State Forest Day Use Area. The swimming hole is easily seen from the parking area.

8. Umpachene Falls


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Nearest town: New Marlborough, MA
Hike to swimming hole: Near parking

Named after a Housatonic Indian Chief, Umpachene Falls is one of the best swimming holes in the state. Unfortunately, you also have to be a resident or a guest of a resident in order to park at the trailhead. Sometimes there is a worker there that can allow you access to the parking area so you are welcome to take your chances and try.

The trail to get down to the falls is relatively easy at around a tenth of a mile from the parking lot. The cascades are gradual and fall over a series of layered rocks. The entirety of the cascades plummet around 40 feet. The surrounding rocks are great to lay out your towel and sunbathe before dipping in the cool waters. This area is also great for kids as many of the pools are ideal for wading.

Related Read: 8 Magical Treehouse Rentals in Massachusetts

9. Wellfleet Kettle Ponds


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Nearest town: Wellfleet, MA
Hike to swimming hole: 2 miles

If seclusion is what you’re after, look no further than the many kettle ponds on Cape Cod. While the rest of the tourists are trying to find parking and secure a private spot to lay their towels, you’ll be heading to one of the Cape’s best-held secrets. There are several kettle ponds that are scattered throughout the region. These bodies of water were carved out 18,000 years ago when the ice sheet left chunks of ice behind. These morphed into large holes that eventually created clear and naturally-acidic freshwater pools.

There are around 20 kettle ponds at Cape Cod National Seashore, some of which are easily found with parking nearby. These include Long Pond, Great Pond, Flax Pond, and Gull Pond. However, there are more secret ones that you won’t find with a quick Google search—such as Spectacle Pond. If you’re in it for the solitude, find the unmarked dirt road just east of Long Pond. Happy adventuring.

A Quick Note About Swimming Holes in the Backcountry

Swimming in the backcountry is a bit different than swimming at your local ocean beach. No matter where you swim, the sunscreen and lotions from your skin affect the waterways. Unlike the ocean, backcountry ponds are much smaller in scale. This makes them more susceptible to outside influences—like what you put on your skin. Be mindful of the environment and always wipe yourself down before getting into the water.

This ensures you don’t bring unwanted chemicals that could harm the animals living in the water. This includes bug spray and sunscreen. And, it has to be said: we don’t pee in the pool, so don’t pee in the ponds. No one wants to  swim in your urine.

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