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Make the Most of your Spruce Peak Stay by Planning Ahead.

By Brian Mohr and Emily Johnson

The abundance of natural pools is one of Vermont’s most spectacular resources. Many are easily accessible by a walk or short hike, offering a variety of rock features and ledges from which you can jump, picnic, and soak up the sunshine. On summer weekends, they’re lively, popular gathering places.

Others, however, are tucked deep within the forest, guarded by steep walls of rock, slippery boulders, and sparkling cascades and waterfalls. Finding one can feel like stumbling into a fairytale world—replete with mossy banks, sun-dappled glades, and impossibly clear water.

For our family of four, swimming holes are a staple of summertime fun. And on this hot, humid day, we’re bound for a secret, spring-fed pool in the mountains above Stowe. We follow a small stream as we ascend higher and higher, pausing occasionally to cup our hands into the water and splash it on our sweaty faces.

Along the way, a few rocky openings in the forest give us a chance to rest our legs and take in views of the surrounding hillsides and ridgelines. It’s an ambitious hike for a warm day, but soon to be well rewarded.

“Are we almost there?” call our daughters, Lenora, 8, and Maiana, 11. After nearly two hours of hiking, we are very close, and urge the girls to venture through the evergreens ahead.

Just the two of us now, we relish a few minutes of quiet together. There’s a distinct freshness to the mountain air swirling around us and the faint roar of a larger stream in the valley below drifts in and out. We admire one last vista before dipping back into the confines of the trail and following the kids.

The swimming hole is hard to find: tucked away well off our fading trail, below a rocky ledge beyond a thick band of pines, beneath the upper ridge of the mountain still above us. The girls circle back, lost. We give them a few hints for where to search, and the treasure hunt commences.

“I see it, I see it…It’s over here!” cries Lenora, chest deep in vegetation. A short bushwhack, including scrambling over downed trees and a few boulders, leads us to an oasis where spring water collects into a crystal clear, 30-foot wide swimming hole, before continuing its journey down the mountain. It takes some maneuvering for us to reach a comfortable, open spot on the rocks at its edge where we bask in the warm sunshine. 

The water is chilly, but not too cold for us to quickly swim across to where the spring drips over a rocky ledge into the pool. It’s just barely over our heads in depth, and you can see sunken branches and a few rocks across the bottom. The kids fixate on water strider bugs skimming along the surface, while chickadees hop around in the trees nearby.

After warming up again out of the water, they find a couple of natural mossy beds just inside the forest and lay down. “Can we sleep here?” asks Maiana.

While we aren’t prepared to spend the night this time, we file away the idea of camping nearby for another summer night. Swim in, swim out accommodations—why not? But we have dinner plans back home, and with a couple of waterfalls bound to distract us along our return loop down the mountain, we’ll be lucky to make it in time for dessert.  


4 Safety Tips

Water can be wild. Play it safe.

  1. Check weather and water conditions. Avoid swimming holes after heavy rain, which can lead to swollen rivers and strong currents.
  2. Never swim alone.
  3. Don’t swim above or under waterfalls.
  4. Do not dive into water; enter feet first.

Swimming Holes 101

  1. Be gentle with the fragile vegetation found along the edges of streams and ponds, especially at higher elevations. Seek out durable rock surfaces for picnics and when entering the water.
  2. If you’re wild camping, set up camp at least 200 feet away from any water source, and practice “Leave No Trace” ethics.
  3. Bring along extra layers for warmth, sun and rain protection, food and water, and a first aid kit.
  4. A pair of old sneakers, or closed-toe sandals or booties designed for water sports, protect your feet while offering traction on slippery rocks.

Hit Refresh!

Check out these favorite, easy-to-reach local swimming holes.

BINGHAM FALLS • Located below a small, scenic gorge east of Mountain Road, Bingham Falls is a waterfall that pours into a pool offering a classic swimming hole experience. It’s just a half-mile hike from the road, but the trail is exposed to steep dropoffs in some spots, and can be quite slippery, so proceed with great vigilance, especially with kids in tow.

MOSS GLEN FALLS • This striking waterfall with a 100-foot drop is a few miles north of Stowe Village. The trail leads to some nice view points, as well as a few pools below the falls. Like Bingham Falls, it can be quite steep in places, so use caution.

FOSTER’S HOLE • Located a quarter mile up along Notchbrook Road, Foster’s offers pretty cascades, a beautiful pool, and plenty of room to soak up sun from the shore. 

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