In the Berkshires we like to keep things wild. Driving around you’ll notice very few pools in backyards and parks. Why? With an abundance of lakes, streams and rivers providing cool, clear water to swimmers looking to cool off, the Berkshires are a paradise for those looking to take a dip in a freshwater oasis when the summer heats up. Whether you’re looking for a clear, blue lake to wade into, a lazy river pool with a rope swing, or a cascading mountain stream for the ultimate rush to your senses, the swimming holes of the Berkshires have you covered.
Before we get started, remember swimming in the wild means that there aren’t lifeguards and you swim at your own risk. In rivers and streams the water can be fast-moving and ever-changing, so you should be a strong swimmer and always exercise extreme caution. And never swim alone.
Since relocating to North County, I’ve spent my share of afternoons at Mt. Hope Park. Whether it’s just taking in the quiet riverside corner of Williamstown, or fly fishing up and downstream of the park in the spring, Mt. Hope Park is certainly (for the most part) an undiscovered gem. The town park is adjacent to the historical Mt. Hope Farm, now owned by Williams College, and provides easy access right off of Rte 43. Crossing the one lane bridge on Hopper Road, you’ll get a glimpse of the small stone dam and gentle falls upstream and the cascading waterfall and flume downstream. Take a quick left into the parking area for the park. Grab your towels and beach bag, and walk through the hemlocks towards the northeast corner of the lawn, and down the path to where Hopper Brook meets the Green River. There you’ll find the base of the falls and a number of big rocks to sit on when you’re not swimming in the pockets (some 6+ feet deep) and splashing in the falls. The Green River’s cool waters come off of the flanks of Mt. Greylock and the Taconic Crest, which means that after a rain, the waters can rise particularly quickly and become powerful. So as in any outdoor activity, check the weather forecast and always practice caution.
On the other side of Mt. Greylock you’ll find Bellevue Falls in Adams. One larger and one smaller set of falls highlight this local’s-favorite spot to cool off lies adjacent to the Bellevue Cemetery. On the western side of the cemetery, off of Bellevue Avenue in Adams, you’ll find a small parking area next to a picket fence (when driving into the cemetery, take every right turn until you arrive at the parking spot). A path leads down to the falls from there. On a hot day in Adams, you might find some other folks enjoying the water, but for a smaller swimming hole, there’s enough room to spread out and cool off.
Further south, high on the Berkshire Plateau, the Buck River makes its way southeastward and connects with the Farmington River. While its a little bit of a drive (25 minutes from Great Barrington) the swimming hole near the Sandisfield Town Hall on Rte 57 is well worth a visit on a hot day. From Great Barrington, you’ll enter Sandisfield from the west and pass the town hall on your left. From there the river will be on your right and 200 ft further you’ll see the first one-car pull off and then a second pull off that can fit two cars right before the river crosses back under Rte 57. Closer to the first pull off you’ll step over the guardrail and see where the river cascades over some flat rocks and into a big open pool. The pool is surprisingly deep. In a lower flow last year it was still a good 8 feet deep, which provided enough depth for some feet-first jumping off of the surrounding ledges. My favorite thing to do in this swimming hole is to lay on the flat rocks in the middle of the cascade and let the water flow around me. Cool and relaxing! This isn’t the most private swimming hole, as the road is above you, but I’ve never had to share it with anyone nor seen any other cars parked there when passing.
Wherever you choose to cool off this summer, make sure to first be safe, and second have fun and relax. Swimming in a natural setting is an unbeatable experience and the pristine beauty of the Berkshires enhances the experience even more. So when the days heat up, cool off in a Berkshire swimming hole!
Gear up for swimming hole fun:
- An old pair of sneakers, water shoes, or adventure sandals
- Towel and sunscreen
- Pack a lunch (Pack out your garbage and leave glass bottles at home. Glass is the enemy of swimming holes.)
- Bug spray (shadowed swimming holes can get buggy)